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Negative Parents = Kids that Misbehave

That seems pretty confronting.. unfortunately, the research has shown that it looks to be true.  According to a study done by the UK Government which was conducted after last years riots in England, kids that are brought up in a negative/harsh environment where inconsistent parenting approaches, physical discipline and inadequate supervision where more likely to raise kids with behaviour problems.  This was true regardless of the social and economical factors we normally blame for these problems.  You can be rich and have lots of friends but your kids can still become that rebel teenager you dread.

This rings true to me on many levels.  Being a counsellor for Adolescents I knew it didn’t matter if the parents were well off or not, from a specific culture or outstanding members of the community.  It was their parenting style , how consistent they were and how negative they were that mattered.  Kids brought up in a negative environment believe negative things about themselves.

I knew this myself personally as I was subjected to a negative authoritarian parenting approach and turned into a rebel myself!  Sneaking out of home, running off with boys, drinking under age and so forth and ended up being a single mum at the age of 19.  My parents were middle class, still together, from good back grounds, social drinkers and yet we didn’t communicate, I didn’t listen and things got rocky for both them and me.  They had four daughters and all of them did things behind their backs that they were desperately trying to avoid by threatening them.  They did their best but they struggled.  Like so many parents do.  But at the end of the day, they also didn’t take the time to actually get to understand me.

“Parents are Persons, not Gods” (Dr Thomas Gordon)

While I believe that we are not gods in a biblical sense, we are Creators… we’ve created our children, our families and our lives as they are today.  Do we want to create positive people or negative people?  We, as parents, show them the way right up until they figure it out for themselves.  God hasn’t had a hand in what is in my life right now, I made the decisions that have led to where I am at. This started from the moment I began the process of growing into an adult and moving away from seeing my parents as having all the answers.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the positive approach to learn from, I stubbled my way through.  Thankfully, I learned the valuable lessons of positive and peaceful parenting and avoiding re-creating the pattern in my family.  I healed myself using therapy, EFT and a variety of other energy Psychology methods. I became fascinated as to what went wrong, how I could improve myself and released old beliefs and conclusions I had made of myself.  I observed myself and other parents too..

When people become parents something weird seems to take over them.  They assume the role of parent… they act it out… without any script or teaching to go by… only recreating what they experienced themselves and sometimes struggling to change that into something better (that is undefined).  They try to act in certain ways because they believe that this is how parents should be (i.e I’m going to scare the pants off of them so they’ll never misbehave, or I’m going to love them unconditionally so they will never want to hurt me).  They get frustrated when it doesn’t work.  They explode from fearing failure and feeling helpless.  It’s unfortunate that this happens!  If my parents would have been real with me, shown me their real concerns and their human-ness, then perhaps I would have understood the dangers of what I was doing more.  In fact, on the few times they did show their real feelings of desperation (because I drove them over the edge) it was some of our best growth moments as individuals.

So if negative parenting (meaning inconsistent approach, authoritarian, threat based, physical or mental punishment and being a fake actor with your children) doesn’t work, then what does? Well the study indicates that positive parenting does.  They term this as consistent use of praise and rewards (this one I cringe at a bit) and a high level of involvement with your children’s every day lives.

I’m all for helping my children feel good and valued, but I do this from a place of not owning or being responsible for it (see my last blog).  I want them to reward themselves.  I tend to get them to recognise their sense of worth from inside of themselves and not be reliant on others to validate them.  I’m also quick to point out what I see as their strengths and I voice these to them (as I do for others).  My son is a great communicator, he listens and this shows because his friends like to share their worries with him.  My daughter is a great problem solver and negotiator.  She’s good at finding solutions and helping her friends overcome conflict.  I encourage them by reflecting on their strengths which helps them to realise just how capable they are.

I do believe you have to have a high level of involvement with your children’s lives and I know that some working parents struggle with this.  I would encourage you to think of quality and not quantity.  Find time to do it.  Especially if something feels “off” with them.  They play up, they’re difficult, moody etc.. Here are some ways:

  • Have a cuddle at the end of their day and/or spend that time to walk through the day with them or to bring up that you noticed a mood change (open the door to a conversation).
  • Have a chat in the car on the way to school or home from sport practice.
  • Take 20 mins on the weekend to have  drink with them before you get stuck into the shopping.
  • Have them help you with dinner and start a conversation.

When you show an interest (no an interrogation please) in their problems and a respect for their feelings, beliefs and need for privacy too, (just as you would for anyone else you respected), then they are more likely to open up to you.  It may take some time as trust needs to be built… yes… they need to trust you not to judge them, shame them, ridicule them, laugh at them … before they are willing to share with you their concerns and before you can become a influential person again.  You would do the same if you needed to get something off your chest.  Being that helping person requires that you be real and you talk about your mistakes and your knowledge or lack of in a particular area and you help them find a solution (not dictate one).

Positive parenting is more than just being happy.  It’s about having a positive influence, teaching kids empathy by displaying it yourself, helping them to find solutions and being available to them. It’s helping them Create a positive future by showing them they are positive and worthwhile people.

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