Being a parent can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. As a parent, you want to raise your child to be a kind and respectful member of society. However, it's not always easy to find the right balance between being kind and firm. In this blog post, we'll explore what it means to hold boundaries AND give choices.
Firstly, what does it mean to be a kind AND firm parent?
Actually, a balancing act isn't the right image. The image you might want to have in your head is that of two train tracks - they need to run in parallel, all the time. In the same way, we want to have one foot firmly planted in kind, and the other one firmly planted in firm, all the time.
It isn't easy, because we tend to switch from one to another. We wake up in the morning, and want to be 'kind', but as we go through the day, life and kids' behaviour get in the way, at some point we flip into only 'firm' - we shout/scream/lose the plot. And then we feel guilty, and switch into 'only kind'.. overcompensating, instead of simply fixing things with our kids.
So, what does it look like ideally? Essentially, being kind AND firm at the same time means setting clear boundaries for your child's behaviour and holding them accountable for their actions while also showing them love and compassion. It's a delicate balance, but it's important to find it in order to raise confident and well-adjusted children.
Choices within a framework
One way to achieve this balance is to give your child choices, within the framework that you have set. Children often feel frustrated when they are told what to do all the time without any input or control. By giving them choices, they feel empowered and are more likely to cooperate. For example, instead of telling your child what to wear, you first set out the framework (shorts when it's above 10°C, shorts under dresses on school days are two of ours) and then give them the freedom to choose their own clothes (you might want to start with giving them a choice between two outfits, or getting them to pick out the sweater they want to wear). This not only gives them some control but also helps develop their decision-making skills.
It is important, when setting boundaries, to stick to them. Children need structure and rules in order to feel safe and secure. As a parent, it's your job to enforce those boundaries in a kind and firm way. So you might decide that bed/light's out time for your 8 year old is 20:30, and that you have 10 minutes of story time before that. Then you have given them the freedom to choose the order of things they do to be ready for bed. However, if they are not ready for story-time, then it's not actually helpful to push back bedtime. Instead, we hold the boundary and allow our child to experience the consequences of the choice.
Of course, it's not as simple as that, and we want to ensure that it is done in a mutually respectful way. If you're wondering how on earth you can do that, you might want to get in touch, and we can have a one-off parent coaching call.
Positive Parenting tips for being kind AND firm
So, how can we be a kind and firm parent? Here are five quick tips to help you get started in being kind AND firm at the same time.
Be clear and consistent: Set clear expectations for your child's behaviour and stick to them. Make sure your child knows what is expected of them and remind them as often as needed.
Listen and empathise: When your child is upset or misbehaving, take the time to listen to their concerns and show empathy. Let them know that you understand how they feel and that you are there to support them.
Use positive language: Instead of focusing on what your child did wrong, focus on what they did right. In positive parenting, our words matter. Let your child know that you appreciate their efforts (use encouragement, rather than praise).
Stay calm: When your child is misbehaving, it's easy to get frustrated and lose your cool. However, it's important to stay calm and respond in a positive, constructive way. This sets a good example for your child and helps them learn to regulate their own emotions.
Model positive behaviour: Finally, remember that your child learns by watching you. Model the kind of behaviour you want them to exhibit, including kindness, respect, and self-control.
Incorporating these tips into your parenting style can help you be a kind and firm parent. It's not always easy, and you may make mistakes along the way, but by staying consistent, listening to your child, and modelling positive behaviour, you can raise confident, respectful, and resilient children. As Jane Nelsen, the author of Positive Discipline, once said, "Kindness can be expressed with firmness, and firmness can be expressed with kindness."
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*As a parenting coach, my work draws from many threads. This article looks at a concept from the Positive Discipline programme, by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott.