Parenting – what’s really important

Parents often come to me with concern of their child being defiant, not listening, not following instructions, being aggressive towards siblings, and having a hard time to find their place. Common questions I get from such parents include: “how do I discipline my child? How do I set consequences? What should I do when my child avoids their responsibility? Etc.”

And my answer to such parents is: “You got to start in the beginning. Your problem is not how to solve the problem but that you’re actually having a problem at all!”

And what do I mean? Let me explain.

There are many things that both adults and children assume about life. For example, when I get home one day and I have an argument with my wife, I assume that she knows that I love her, so I don’t bother to tell this to tell. However, although it’s true that I love her and although it’s true that she knows this, saying it to her at the end of the argument is extremely therapeutic and healing for our relationship following an argument. In the same manner, there are many things that we assume to happen for our children that we don’t bother to do. These things are the areas of life that we take for granted, as either completed, or “already done and known.” These things on the parents side include providing: Empathy, Attention and Involvement, Play, Problem Solving Skills, Listening, and Talking. These areas which I’m sure some of which you exercise sometimes, have to be continuously reinforced and practiced to a master level by the parent.

Take a look at this pyramid (taken from: the incredible years book):

You’ll notice that the skills that I just wrote about are at the foundation of the pyramid. Once you master these and deliver them on a regular basis, your child will naturally develop problem-solving skills, cooperation with you and other adults, self-esteem, and healthy attachment. These skills and qualities will create a personality that will not be disobedient, and events of conflict and aggression will be the exception and not the norm. Learning as a parent how to master these skills is not necessarily easy. For some people it is easy to play with a child, for some it is very hard. I had to learn. I also had to learn how to teach my 3 year-old son problem solving. Those are the elements that I will guide my parents client and teach them.

Once you mastered that foundation it is time to move on to the next level. Learn how to praise, how to coach, how to reward, etc. And so on and on. Thus, my work with my parents client will focus on these domains and will only touch how to establish consequences and redirect at later stages.

I want to emphasize the importance of mindfulness in this process. In order for any of this to work you need to be mindful of your child. Be able to read their feelings, their needs, listen to them for god sake when they are talking to you and put your phone down! Talk back to them, look them in the eye and really LOOK at them, give them unconditional love, and tell them that you love them. Don’t assume that they know this. They don’t! or they forget, or they get strange ideas in their head and think that you perhaps stopped loving them. Being mindful will give you the foundation to provide this.

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