21 February 2014

Keeping Parenting Simple

As a parent, and as a person who helps other parents, I sometimes get sucked into the latest parenting trends, or the hottest parenting tips. I want to somehow use someone else’s parenting success that they had with their children on my own. Forgetting that my children and other parents’ children are unique individuals, and what works with one doesn’t necessarily work with another.

My observation with these latest trends and tips is that if you put them into a pot and boil them down to their main ingredients, they relate back to ‘The Attitude’ that Dr. Daniel Hughes uses in his attachment work. ‘The Attitude’ is being a parent who creates a safe environment for a child by being: Playful, Loving, Accepting, Curious and Empathetic; or PLACE.

Being playful with a child means that as a parent you are willing to get down on the ground and engage in the world of your child. But it also means at times disciplining in a playful way. For example, when my daughter is mad and slams her bedroom door, I tell her that it is a three slamming door. She will with rage slam the door again, and again, and by the third time, she is still mad, but has a cheerful smile.

Loving a child is not always easy; especially when they have jammed crackers in the blu-ray player, or spilled juice on your shirt. Showing tenderness and compassion in those moments is important, especially during moments of correction. This is the unconditional love that is often spoken about, which is separate from the love that comes with trust.

Being accepting of your child, is simply just that, accept them. Whatever the situation, whatever their behaviour, accept them. They may be more into arts than you or more into sports than you, accept them. Whatever they do or are, accept them.

This often leads to being curious about your child. If they like something, match their interest with your curiosity about the topic. Or just be curious like they are as they explore their world.

Empathy is being able to understand a child’s current emotions from your own past experience or putting yourself in their shoes, not to be confused with sympathy, which is acknowledging the emotion with support. As an example, this means when a child steps on Lego, instead of saying, “That must have hurt, next time you will remember to pick those up so you don’t get hurt,” you’d say, with empathy, and maybe even at eye level, “That hurts” and share the emotion.

If I may add one more that is being present (which probably would happen on its own if you are using ‘the Attitude’). Sometimes in our society we have to quickly jump to the latest sound or blinking light on our mobile device. When we engage as parents using ‘the Attitude’ of PLACE, be present. If you are putting your child to bed, be there with them. If you are playing a game with them, be there.

Using PLACE is not always easy, but as you practice it, it will come more naturally. The goal is to parent using ‘the Attitude’ more often than not.

Let’s get back to the basics of parenting and keep it simple instead of over complicating it by being: Playful, Loving, Accepting, Curious and Empathetic.