Parenting with Strategy
By Diane Levy
If only they’d do as they are told… I’d be a much nicer parent!
Although, I’ve been counselling and coaching parents for the last thirty years, this week has been a challenge-in-the-field. I, together with their grandfather, have been looking after our grandchildren for an eight-day week while their parents have a well-deserved break. Not only a challenge and a pleasure, but the best possible professional refresher course.
We have become reacquainted with getting up and dressed in the dark, school lunches, early school buses, homework, Hebrew homework, speech preparation, spelling lists, maths, swimming, soccer, Sports’ Day (and all the associated gear) and the making and filling of Succot baskets… and so far we are up to Tuesday!!
So why is it that Grandpa and I are still smiling? Because, essentially, these are good, well-mannered children who do as they are told, while still being full of spirit, a sense of fun and a strong sense of their own feelings and thoughts – and their grandparents are 100% biased in their favour.
As I was raising my own children, how often did I, as a parent of three lively, strong-willed children and then teens, bleat “If only you’d do as you are told… I’d be a much nicer parent!”? How often would I lecture them that,” If only you would co-operate more, I would be the nicest parent in the whole, wide world? “If only you’d do it properly the first time, it wouldn’t have to be done all over again!”
I had it all the wrong way around. I kept forgetting that children like being good. When a child is “getting it right” according to the norms of their family and their community, they often feel much better about themselves and about the world around them. Whenever I tightened up on my own organisation, remembered the rules I had created, followed through on what I had promised to do – whether a service or a consequence – the result was much happier children who were much nicer to be around.
And then there is the other side of parenting. Our children need our support to help them cope with their angry and upset feelings. In this over-busy, over-stimulating and over-challenging world that our children and teens inhabit, they are often living in “overwhelm”. In order for them to be able to cope with the strong feelings that flood them, they need to know that Mum and/or Dad “get it”. They need us to respond to their feelings in such a way that they can calm down and let their brain start working in a logical and strategic mode, so that they can work out what to do next.
Most of the strategies to get a relatively pleasant, cooperative child or teen living under our roofs are not rocket science, but it takes a calm parent having got control of their own feelings and then engaging their own logical brains, to effect the changes necessary to have “Shalom Bayit” instead of “World War III.”
Thirty years later and still going strong, as a Family Therapist, I continue to be surprised and grateful that, when parents go off armed with strategies to support their children’s and teen’s feelings and to put in strong boundaries, they return to say, “It is amazing! We have been so much meaner and they seem so much happier. They are so much more pleasant to be around.”
Diane Levy is known in New Zealand as “Super-granny”, Family Therapist, Author and Speaker. She is the Author of bestseller “Of course I love you…NOW GO TO YOUR ROOM!”, “They look so lovely when they are asleep” and “Time Out for tots, teen and everyone in between”.
Join her to laugh and learn at Limmud Oz.
- Supporting our Children’s Angry and Upset Feelings on Sunday 9 June at 1700 in Farrell Room
- Getting Our Children to Do As They Are Told on Monday 10 June at 1330 in Ronald Room
- Personalities Unravelled on Monday 10 June at 1545 in Farrell Room