Within, the world of youth mental health there is a tremendous push towards changing and improving access to mental health services. To be clear, I believe getting help for kids and their families is of utmost importance. To do this, we need improved services and prevention models that include a radical improvement of k-12 psycho-education.
“When children grow up knowing they can live through sadness and frustration, they become capable of tremendous resourcefulness and resolve”. – Susan Stiffelman
Today, this quote speaks to me loud and clear. I am at a point where my wife and I are carving out boundaries for our three-year-old son to learn that life is not always easy, and mommy and daddy are not always going to solve his problems. For the most part, we’ve done a good job, but in some areas we have not. We are in the midst of caring for our second child and daughter of 5.5 months; we’ve slipped a little in allowing our son to learn how to care for himself in appropriate ways for a three-year-old. Things like getting himself dressed and general daily disciplines that are important in developing character, self-care, and responsibility for one’s life. In one of the most famous parenting books that I am aware of, and one that I loved reading, “Kids Are Worth It – giving your child the gift of inner discipline” by Barbara Coloroso, she mentions the importance of not doing for your kids what they can do for themselves. I am proud of the way my wife and I have mindfully taken responsibility for our part in our son’s behaviours and focused on what we can do to help him and for our family to enjoy a more harmonious and joyful home.
One thing I’ve learnt and thoroughly enjoyed in my recovery from mental health problems, and in developing well-being and emotional resilience is; I am always %100 responsible for my thoughts, behaviours, and emotions. In this context, when my son is misbehaving, the way I respond to him is always my responsibility. When he has a meltdown over not getting a treat, or what Eckhart Tolle refers to as “thwarted wanting.” How I help him through those moments is my responsibility as a parent. I occasionally will get caught up in the… “Oliver, you are frustrating me”, or “if you’d just do this instead of that, then I would not be irritated right now”. The famous one I often catch myself saying “STOP” doing that.
The language I’ve learnt to be most effective through honest self-appraisal, research and extensive reading on parenting is along the lines of
“Oliver you are choosing not to get dressed, I’ve asked you twice already. It is not helpful for mommy and daddy when you are not a good team player”.
The parenting experts I’ve learnt from suggest stating facts, or descriptions of the situation rather than personalising or blaming our kids for what’s happening. I’ve found it helpful to put the responsibility in his hands. When I feel he is capable of handling it himself, I try my best to give him the “gift of inner discipline” and allow him to learn that he possesses the abilities to take care of his situation.
I see way too many parents trying to save their kids from the simplest of frustrations or bumps and bruises in the park. Allowing our kids to experience discomfort, pain, and irritation is crucial for them to develop resilience and character. From my experience, the excitement is in the strength and confidence I gain from being mindful that pain is temporary and remembering I always come out the other side better off. Building these skills is essential for our kids and will enable them to get off to a good start in their mental health and lifestyle habits.
I challenge you to be honest with yourself. See if you can be mindful of the moments where you are either blaming your kids or telling them “NO” or to “STOP” doing what they are doing. I am not saying that we should not say “NO” or “STOP”. I am saying that we use them too often and don’t take the time to learn more effective ways of addressing the moments we pull them out to quickly.
Can you respond in a helpful manner? Can you be creative in your approach to those situations? Can you be open to interpreting the moment differently?
Check out Barbara Coloroso http://www.kidsareworthit.com/
Check out Susan Stiffelman https://susanstiffelman.com/
Quote above from her book “Parenting Without Power Struggles” Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Calm, Cool and Connected.