Parenting: Your youngsters are listening, watching greater than you recognize | Life-style
The behavior you see from your child is the behavior they learn from you.
“Do what I say, not what I do” was a regular phrase for my generation. Generation X grew up in a world where our parents told us what to do while doing the opposite.
It never made sense to us because we would get in trouble for doing what our parents did. If they did or said certain things, we were fine too. To the right? Not in the opinion of many parents of the boomer generation.
I never understood where or when this sentence started (and still not). But this kind of upbringing stayed with me and I carried it into my adulthood and into my “first” family life. I say first family because my husband and I raised our twin grandchildren between the ages of 3 and 7 after we raised our children.
Now I see Millennials and Generation Z alike as parenting because they learned this from us who learned it from our parents in this never-ending, cross-generational punitive parenting cycle.
The “do what I say, not what I do” approach did not work well with my children, just as it did not go down well with me. And there is a reason. Children learn from what they see.
You observe how you deal with stress, how you treat other people, how you perform essential functions in daily life and how you deal with your emotions. It’s called Social Learning Theory and Modeling and was introduced by psychologist Albert Bandura.
I highly recommend you look this up because it shows a fascinating theory that children mimic what they see, be it positive or negative. Bandura conducted Bobo doll experiments in which children observed how adults behave passively or aggressively with the doll. The results were remarkable.
If the children observed that an adult with the Bobo doll behaved aggressively, they behaved aggressively. The same was true of passive behavior. Bandura found that children learn social behavior through observation and thus shape their interaction with others and the world.
If you have children at home, then take care. You are surrounded by astute watchers who watch everything you do and hear everything you say (and how you say it). If you tell your child to do one thing while you do the other or behave in a certain way, but punish your child for the same behavior, what do they learn from you? And how does that affect you in the long term? Good questions, indeed, and worth thinking about if you haven’t already.
Whatever unwanted behavior you experience is potentially learned behavior, that repetitive cycle of punitive, authoritarian parenting that we had as children. Like many of you, I struggle with it. The second time I had to take a different path of parenting because, as so often, I recognized my mistakes with my children afterwards.
To be honest, I didn’t have much of a choice. My grandchildren have many special needs ranging from autism spectrum disorders and disruptive mood disorders to severe ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, sensory processing disorders, anxiety, and depression. Helping them regulate their emotions has been one of the biggest challenges we have faced. Traditional, authoritative, punitive parenting with them was like throwing gasoline on a campfire.
They wouldn’t learn to regulate their emotions if we couldn’t handle ours. Controlling my emotions when I was dealing with the sudden change in parenting was an even bigger problem because it set the tone for our entire family.
Ever heard the saying, “If mom is not happy, then nobody is happy?” I experienced everything from grief and resentment to depression and anxiety several times a day, for weeks and months, when we first took her home. Over the next few years, we learned more effective parenting strategies and styles that led to fantastic success.
It’s called conscious parenting, which has emerged in recent years after decades of studying family dynamics, children’s behavioral patterns, and the increase in mental disorders, violence, and crime. Conscious parenting means being proactive rather than reactive.
It means being aware of the choices you make and the behaviors that you model for your child. It’s about taking the time to think before reacting with your child and being aware of yourself. As you become a conscious parent, look inside yourself and work your way through the programming from your childhood.
As you do this, you begin to change your thinking. You will learn to let go of the limiting beliefs and judgments of your childhood so that you don’t impose them on your child. Instead, you are giving your children the space to grow and be their unique selves without trying to “fix” them or raise a “mini me” version of yourself.
In our family, too, we combine this educational approach with networked upbringing. This mix of parenting styles fosters connection with your child prior to correction and uses empathy, understanding, and compassion as a foundation when we discipline. There are many other versions of this type of parenting – collaborative parenting, gentle parenting, positive parenting, relationship-based parenting, to name a few.
The point is that the conscious, networked approach to parenting is the opposite of the fear-based, punitive parenting that many of us know from childhood and the currently accepted norm. That doesn’t mean I canceled this parent gig. I still have tough days and moments like any parent. It is easy to fall into depression or failure from yelling at your child or not handling a situation as well as you would have liked.
It’s okay for your kids to see all of your parts. It helps them see that you are human, and it’s okay to be angry, sad, happy, and all the emotions in between. If you’ve been angry, stressed, frustrated, tense, and noticed similar behaviors in your children, it’s never too late to model calm, positive actions. The opportunity to practice is in the next moment, and the next and the next … well, you get the picture.
– Dawn-Renée Rice is a Conscious Connection Parenting Guide, Writer, and Columnist based in the East Texas area. She and her husband have been married for 23 years and share three children, six grandchildren and a furbaby. To follow Dawn-Renée, sign up for email updates, or connect on social media, visit her online at linktr.ee/dawnreneerice.