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135: 5 reasons respectful parenting is so hard
2nd May 2021 • Your Parenting Mojo - Respectful, research-based parenting ideas to help kids thrive • Jen Lumanlan
00:00:00 00:26:32

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This episode grew out of a post that long-time friend of the podcast, Dr. Laura Froyen, published in a respectful parenting group that we both work in as admins.  In the post she asked people to share how they felt before and after they discovered respectful parenting, and then she created a word cloud of the results.
The words in the 'before' cloud were perhaps predictable - things like 'worried,' 'overwhelmed,' 'resentful,' and 'guilty.'
And the most common word in the 'after respectful parenting' word cloud?
What on earth is going on here?
In this episode I explore five important reasons why respectful parenting is so hard - and what to do about each of them.

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Jump to highlights:

  • (01:00) Why we find parenting so hard
  • (01:18) Most prominent words before parents discovered respectful parenting
  • (01:58) Five reasons respectful parenting can be hard
  • (03:03) 1st reason: Our needs that our parents just didn’t see despite doing the best they could
  • (05:22) The trauma of unmet needs
  • (06:09) 2nd reason: The long game that is respectful parenting
  • (08:54) Our culture trains us to want results
  • (09:56) 3rd reason: Our values and what we want to do in an ideal world
  • (10:39) Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting
  • (13:38) Our child's behavior brings up old trauma
  • (14:10) Shifting the way we see our children
  • (15:12) 4th reason: When we see these values that we want to live
  • (16:37) The tendency to engage in negative self-talk
  • (17:58) Self compassion and mindfulness
  • (19:11) The last (and perhaps not the last) reason
  • (24:47) Super short summary information.
    [accordion] [accordion-item title="Click here to read the full transcript"] Jen  00:03 Hi, I'm Jen and I host the Your Parenting Mojo podcast. We all want our children to lead fulfilling lives. But it can be so hard to keep up with the latest scientific research on child development and figure out whether and how to incorporate it into our own approach to parenting. Here at Your Parenting Mojo, I do the work for you by critically examining strategies and tools related to parenting and child development that are grounded in scientific research on principles of respectful parenting. If you'd like to be notified when new episodes are released, and get a FREE Guide called 13 Reasons Why Your Child Won't listen To You and What To Do About Each One, just head on over to your ou can also continue the conversation about the show with other listeners in the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group. I do hope you'll join us.   Jen  00:53 Hello, and welcome to the Your Parenting Mojo Podcast. In this episode, I want to talk about something that's been bothering me for a while, which is why we find respectful parenting so hard. And this idea actually came from a poll that Dr. Laura Froyen ran in an online parenting group that we both help to moderate where she asked people to describe how they felt about parenting before and after they discovered respectful parenting. And then she made the responses into a word cloud. The most prominent words in the word cloud from before parents discovered respectful parenting were worried, overwhelmed, resentful, and guilty. And some of the most prominent words in the word cloud from after parents discovered respectful parenting, we're confident, loving, empowered, calm, hopeful and relieved. But the most prominent word was exhausted.   Jen  01:39 And I just thought, "What's UP with that?!", and then "Does it HAVE to be this way?." And that was almost a year ago. And that idea has been percolating in my brain since then. And every once in a while I would jot down ideas about why this was the case. And I'd like to walk through those, and also give us some ideas for how to move forward. Because I think there are five reasons respectful parenting can be hard, but I don't believe it has to be hard.   Jen  02:04 Let's look at the first of the five reasons why respectful parenting can be exhausting, which is that we're essentially trying to reparent ourselves while we're trying to raise our children differently from the way we were raised.   Jen  02:15 Most of us were raised in mainstream homes with parents who were doing the best they could with the tools that they had, some of our parents were physically abusive, because that's the way they were raised, or they were dealing with their own crises. And we challenged them in some way. And they had no idea how else to deal with us. Some of them provided for our physical needs food and shelter, but simply couldn't connect with us emotionally because they'd experienced trauma, or they hadn't had any models themselves for what it's like to connect emotionally with another person, or they had so much going on with just trying to survive, and they just couldn't do it with us. And because our own parents didn't do this with us, we then don't know how to do this with our own children.   Jen  02:52 Even if our parents weren't traumatized and did a decent job by mainstream standards, it's highly likely that we still ended up with what I call the Trauma of Unmet Needs. I see there being three levels to this. The first is when our parents were really doing the best they could, but we had needs that they just didn't see. Maybe we had a lot of siblings or a sibling with medical difficulties, or they were very focused on a demanding career or their marriage had a lot of challenges. Maybe we made ourselves into the problem child to get their attention. Or perhaps we became the peacemaker who always needed to fix everything that was going on around us to make sure the boat didn't get rocked too much. But either way, our needs were not met, even though our parents probably thought they had done a pretty good job.   Jen  03:35 The second reason our needs might not have been met is because they were ignored. Perhaps our parents did see our needs, but they disregarded them. Maybe our gender or some other expression of ourselves didn't match up to their expectations of us. And they saw this and they chose to ignore it because it was easier and more convenient for them, or because they couldn't cope with what meeting our need might mean for them.   Jen  03:55 And the third reason our needs might not have been met is our parents had some kind of project to 'break' us. Now I've heard of cases where parents explicitly stated they were trying to do this, which is obviously an extreme example, but it does happen. But I think it actually happens quite a lot. When we think about children who are what we think of as difficult to manage. We see their behavior as being so outside the realm of what's considered remotely socially acceptable. And it's a reflection on us and our parenting abilities. And it may even be threatening to us physically or emotionally and we just need it to stop. And we could potentially do something to change ourselves. But that's really hard. And before we learn about respectful parenting, we might not even consider this as a potential option. We see the behavior needs to change and we focus on changing it. And inadvertently when we do that, we can also break the child, we might not see the child's needs under all that difficult behavior because the behavior is so hard for us to deal with. And so we focus on that thing that's hardest for us and we may even be successful at changing that. But if we don't see and address the needs that were underneath it then we've missed our chance to connect with the child.   Jen  05:00 I work with hundreds of parents at a time in my taming your triggers workshop, and many of them have experienced trauma in their lives that they hadn't previously recognized as being connected to their triggered feelings. And still others can trace the traumas that their parents experienced into how they were raised. But a good number of parents say, "I didn't really experience trauma, but I still feel flooded when my children misbehave. And then when they get to the module on the trauma of unmet needs, and suddenly they say", Aha. Now, it makes sense." It's almost like we're car mechanics. And somebody comes to us and says, I'm sick. And we say, I'm a car mechanic, not a doctor. But there's nobody else available to help. Not only has nobody taught us how to help the sick person, but we've never even watched anyone else treat a sick person and our frame of reference, which is how cars work is completely useless in our current situation, we might even try to use some misguided ideas about how cars work to help the sixth person. But since they aren't a car, it either has no effecter actually hurts them. We're finding that all of these years of training on being a car mechanic and by extension, and mainstream parenting isn't really helping us with the task at hand, which is raising children in a way that's aligned with our values.   Jen  06:09 The second reason respectful parenting can be so exhausting is that we're in it for the long game. So much parenting advice is based on tips and tricks or hacks that are designed to get your child to comply with your wishes. And the best of these have the benefit of getting them to think that it was their idea in the first place rather than something that you coerce them into doing.   Jen  06:28 When you're in something for the long game, you recognize that the fastest or the easiest path isn't always the best one. I know I can get bread to rise faster if I add more yeast to the recipe. But the bread won't taste as good as if I put less yeast in and left it to rise for longer. And I could probably get the new seeds we planted in the garden to grow faster if I doused them with fertilizer, but most of that fertilizer would run off into the creek and that runs down the side of our house. And that would have negative impacts on the ecosystems downstream from us.   Jen  06:56 And that's the thing with traditional approaches to raising children in the short term, they're faster, they're easier. It isn't difficult to say stop arguing. Don't hit your sibling. Oh, it's just a little scrape. You're okay, there's no need to cry. It looks like the bread is rising faster. So it seems like we're doing a good job. But what ultimately matters with bread isn't how fast it rises, but what it tastes like. And it seems like these methods don't have side effects like fertilizer running off into the stream, but they do we know what the side effects of mainstream parenting are. Because we're living with them. We're struggling with them every day in our own lives.   Jen  07:30 Because we were taught when we were children that our needs didn't matter, we have a hard time understanding our needs today, nevermind articulating them to others. I work with parents who get completely overwhelmed as soon as their toddler starts crying because it feels like they have to fix whatever is wrong with the child right now. Their own parents told them for years that what was important was getting good grades, going to a good college getting a good job, and many of them are now highly accomplished in those good jobs. And that whatever needs and opinions and ideas they had about their own lives were essentially irrelevant. And now they come completely undone every time their child cries. They might conceptually believe that they parents have needs and that their needs should be met. But they don't even know where to start identifying those needs, because their needs have been trampled on throughout their lives.   Jen  08:16 And in these moments, when we're feeling completely overwhelmed by our children's behavior, we're supposed to stay calm. Remember our values, remember how to translate those values into action, step in and do that while allowing everybody else in the situation to express their emotions. I mean, when you put it like that, is it any wonder that it seems exhausting and that sometimes we fall back on adding a bit more yeast and fertilizer because they get the job done right now?.   Jen  08:39 Part of being in it for the long game means that we don't always see results in the short term. Our culture trains us to want results. Even the scientific method does this we're looking to manipulate one variable and expect the other variable to change immediately. We put a in and we expect to get be out. But people don't work like this. relationships don't work like this. I know I've been in therapy and it feels like I'm not really making much progress. And why am I even bothering to do this. And then all of a sudden something shifts. And I see that all the stuff I've been doing for months was the groundwork that was needed for this shift. And if I hadn't done that the shift wouldn't have been possible. The same thing happens in relationships. Sometimes we're growing and changing and we're ready for the other person to meet us. But they aren't ready yet. Something has to shift for them to be ready. And they might not like our yeast or need a different blend of nutrients in their fertilizer. The good news for us is that most of the time our children are actually ahead of us on these things. They still know what their needs are. And they really aren't shy about sharing this. They know how they want to be in truly authentic unconditionally loving relationships with us. Rather than thinking that our children need to learn the right way of meeting our needs. We can move toward the possibility that we can actually learn from them and that together we can meet both of our needs.   Jen  09:56 The third reason respectful parenting is so hard is that We might know our values and what we want to do in an ideal world, but then have a really hard time actually translating that into action. And of course, this is linked to those values and actions being very different from the ones we were raised with.   Jen  10:12 We might know that we value collaboration, and that we want our children to participate and work around the house because they value collaboration as well. But when our children dig their heels in and say they don't want to tidy up, where do we go from there? We might know that we don't want to punish our child for not helping us or for disrespecting us. But if the child doesn't willingly help, and we know we don't want cleaning up to be entirely our responsibility, what do we do? In addition, there's the issue that Alfie Kohn raises in his excellent book Unconditional Parenting, which is that we parents assume the request we're making is reasonable simply because we're the parents. Yes, there are some requests that we're going to make, like not letting a child run out into traffic that really aren't open to debate. But when we insist that the child does pretty much everything, our way, we're missing a huge opportunity to not just understand our child better, but to understand ourselves better as well.   Jen  11:07 As we discussed when we had Alfie Kohn on the show to look at whether we actually should use rewards to get our child to do what we want them to do, it's possible the reward will get them to comply. In the short term, we probably assume our desire to get the child to put the dirty clothes in the hamper at the end of the day is a valid request. But we only ever consider it from our perspective. What is the child's perspective here? Why don't they want to put their clothes in the hamper. And at the end of the day, putting the clothes in the hamper isn't really the thing that we want, we might have needs that are related to cooperation and collaboration and feeling like our family is part of a team, we might also need rest and time for ourselves. Getting our child to put their clothes in the hamper is one way of working towards those goals. But there are plenty of other ways to achieve them too. If we only ever focus on that individual action that we want to get them to do, we miss the opportunity to find ways to meet our needs for collaboration and rest that also meets their needs.   Jen  12:03 If we've heard about using this problem solving method, we might even have tried using it. But then maybe we stopped because it " and " doesn't work. Some of the main problems I see when parents start out using problem solving is that they can't help but to use judgmental language. They might say something like, well, what's going on for you when you refuse to tidy up? Whenever I'm thinking about the language I use with my daughter, I imagined my husband saying it to me. And if my husband did say that to me, I'd immediately have my backup. And I probably wouldn't be interested in looking for solutions that work for both of us.   Jen  12:37 The second problem parents often faces they jumped straight from acknowledging feelings to looking for solutions to problems without considering the underlying needs. So they remember they're not supposed to use judgmental language and they're supposed to acknowledge the child's feelings. Yes, yes, you felt frustrated. And then they go right into potential solutions, because they see that as the meat of the problem.   Jen  12:56 But if we don't understand everyone's needs, we can't possibly propose solutions that will work for both of us. If I have a need for rest, the kind of solution that works for me will be entirely different from one that works if I need a sense of collaboration. And the same goes for our children. When we jump straight to solutions, our child recognizes that sharing their feelings doesn't end up impacting the situation in any way, we're going to steamroll them into a solution that works for us. Is it any wonder that they then resist sharing their feelings or they say things like, "I don't caaaaare!?".   Jen  13:29 And then finally, we get back to the issue of being flooded in response to our child's behavior, we're trying to remember all the things we're supposed to do when our brain is essentially non functional. Because our child's behavior brings up old...





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