Updated: Jan 24, 2022
If you could wave your parenting magic wand and instantly stop yelling, nagging, bribing, or having power struggles and time outs, would you use it?
Here is the wand.... Stop telling your kids what to do.
Live your life alongside your children, include them in daily tasks, encourage them to find their own solutions to problems, and above all else, trust your children.
Trust your children's ability to learn and figure things out. Trust they want to do the right things. Trust they want to help and contribute to family life. Trust they will learn from their mistakes if you give them the space and time to figure things out.
For her groundbreaking best seller, Hunt, Gather, Parent, author Michaeleen Doucleffy traveled the world and found other cultures parenting very differently from the way we parent in the US. She came up with the T E A M approach to parenting:
Togetherness Encouragement Autonomy Minimal Interference
Togetherness - I believe the most important thing we can do as parents to have a positive impact on our children is to genuinely enjoy the time we spend with them. Light up whenever your child walks in the room. Invite them to do things with you. Spend time together doing what they enjoy. I promise if you spend more time enjoying your children and less time bossing them around, you will feel incredible shifts in your relationship with them. If you spend less time worrying about them and more time laughing with them, there WILL be less yelling, fewer tantrums, less negotiating, more joy and ease.
Encouragement - When we encourage our children, we let them know we believe they are capable human beings. Of course parents need to set limits and have good, healthy boundaries, but that doesn't mean we need to make all our children's decisions. A good rule of thumb I learned in college is "Never do anything for a child they can do for themselves. Never make a decision for a child they can make for themselves." As Alfie Kohn says, "Children learn to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions." One key for making this work is we have to really believe inside that our children are capable of making good decisions and capable of learning from mistakes when their decisions don't work out. Encouragement is the opposite of "I told you so" thinking.
Autonomy - The main thing that keeps parents from giving their children autonomy is fear. Of course we worry about our kids AND the reality is, we cannot keep them safe from the world. Our children WILL experience pain, regret, loss, disappointments and sadness. In their wonderful book The Self-driven Child, William Stixrud and Ned Johnson remind us, "Experience is a better teacher than words. Your kids need practice managing and taking nonlethal risks. Learning how to recognize and manage risk is part of growing up. Remind your children that you are not always watching them and that your cannot always keep them safe, so they will take some of that responsibility on themselves." When it comes to supporting our kids' autonomy, the most important thing to remember is that the way we talk to our kids becomes their inner voice. "You got this!" is way more powerful for our kids' sense of autonomy than "I'm worried if you ____, ____ will happen."
Minimal Interference - This is such a tough concept for many US parents today. If we trust our children and we worry less about them, we will naturally interfere less in their daily lives. Try this exercise: For one hour, notice how many times you give your child a direction or tell them what to do or how to do something. Anthropologist Sheina Lew-Levy found that parents in hunter gatherer cultures verbally instruct or tell their children what to do an average of 3 times an hour. How many times an hour do you find yourself instructing your children and telling them what to do?
Starting today, try using your magic wand of not telling your kids what to do and see how that impacts your relationship with them. If you want to stop yelling, negotiating, bribing and nagging, sign up for a one-on-one transformational parent coaching session with me. The work we do WILL be a game changer for you as a parent.