He was sitting in time-out again, tears streaming down his face, his eyes cast downward, and his chin quivering. His body was only feet away from me, but his heart was completely out of reach. I had won the battle, but at what cost? I wielded my parental authority and he knew I had power over him. He sat in the chair, defeated. I wasn’t celebrating my victory, though. I’d come out on top of another power struggle, but our relationship was suffering, and both of us sat there with broken hearts. To be truthful, victory felt terrible. I longed to have the bond that we once had, my sweet baby boy and I. Oh, how I missed the joy.
And I know he missed it, too.
I had fallen into a trap. Caught in the net of societal expectations, I surrendered my inner voice. Rather than doing what I felt in my heart was right, I did what magazines, family members, and experts told me was right. Yet, it always felt so wrong. After months of daily power struggles and dampening my pillow with tears many nights, I made a decision.
This is not our story.
I looked back on the simple joy I felt when he was first placed in my arms, and I wished it wasn’t so hard to reach now. I recalled his eyes, the trust and attachment reflected in them in those early months, and I noticed how his eyes had changed – now dimmed with caution and misunderstanding. My sweet, sensitive boy, have I lost your heart? The answer was yes, to a certain degree I had.
But not forever. There was still hope. There was still time to make things right.
I began searching. I knew there had to be a better way for us, and the positive parenting philosophy was the spark of hope I needed. I followed it, researching, practicing, and sharing what I was learning along the way.
The change was remarkable.
My hope is for all parents and children to experience heart-to-heart connection. Here are my top 5 tips to end the power struggles and reconnect.
1. Go into their world and stay a while. We are always pushing our rushed adult agendas on our children, so let’s be mindful to pause for a beat and enter their worlds. This is where connection takes place. For small children, get down on the floor and play. Build forts or blocks. Put on a (pillowcase) cape and grab a paper towel tube sword. Play video games or watch their favorite show with them. The key is to be undistracted and to let them lead the play. Let them tell you their biggest worries and wildest dreams. Race down the slide and swing side by side. Consider adding “special time” in your nightly routine, where you lie down with each child individually and really listen.
2. Show your unwavering adoration. Kids make mistakes. Yes, even the most connected child will sometimes make a poor choice, but they need to know that nothing changes the positive view we have of them. Of course, for this to be true, they must first believe we have a positive view of them, and this requires us to be mindful of our language and tone. As Dr. Gordon Neufeld says, “Children do not experience our intentions, no matter how heartfelt. They experience what we manifest in tone and behavior.” Even during discipline, we should make it known that our love is steadfast. The message should be “I don’t like what you did, but I love you always and I believe in you.”
Even though I felt love for my child when we were in a cycle of constant time-outs, even though my love didn’t waver, what he experienced was isolation and withdrawal of attention and warmth, and to a child, that doesn’t exactly say “I love you.” Yes, let them know when they are out of line. Express disappointment in their choice. Teach them how to do better. Just be aware of what they are experiencing when you’re disciplining them.
Other ways to show unwavering adoration:
- Show delight in them when they enter the room with a warm greeting and a smile, rather than giving an immediate demand or asking a question.
- Notice the positive things they do and point them out.
- Be the one who always sees their light and reflects it back to them.
- Praise effort, not outcome. He/she may have struck out on the field, but he/she showed up and played. Acknowledge the showing up.
- Give them the gift of undivided attention.
3. Look for the reasons behind the behavior. There was a time when I was so focused on my child’s behavior, judging whether it was something that needed praised or punished, that I wasn’t seeing clearly the little person behind the behavior. I missed his experience, his point of view, his feelings, and his heart. When we focus so intently on behavior modification, we can’t see the whole child. Look beyond behavior to the heart of the child.
4. Offer affirming words often.
- I believe in you.
- You can do it.
- I’m so glad you’re mine.
- I’m proud of you.
- You really put a lot of effort into that.
- You’re doing so well.
- I noticed how you ____. I appreciate that.
- You are my sunshine!
- You’re fun to be around. You always make me laugh.
- That was so responsible of you!
They wanted their joy back.
Over the last 3 years, I’ve been working on a book that will address all of these issues. Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide is not just another discipline book. It’s a book about building connected families from the ground up. It’s a big-picture parenting book, because parenting is about so much more than discipline.
Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide
To order in the USA: http://bit.ly/22ezDFN…
Here’s what people are saying about Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide:
“As I soaked up the wisdom contained in this book, two words kept coming to mind: positive pathways. No matter how challenging your family situation is or how long you’ve been going down a negative road, this book offers pathways to peace, connection, and true happiness. Through practical examples, detailed steps, and soul-stirring questions, Rebecca Eanes shows us how to reach our fullest potential as parents, partners, and human beings. Let Positive Parenting set you on a path to rewriting your story in all aspects of life, in the most positive way possible.”
–Rachel Macy Stafford, New York Times-bestselling author of Hands Free Mama and Hands Free Life
“Rebecca Eanes has a deep understanding of what can hold mothers and fathers back from being the parents they want to be. Positive Parenting provides concrete tools to grow the self-discipline, connection, empathy, and techniques that will help parents (and their kids!) be their best.”
–Andrea Nair, M.A., CCC Psychotherapist, parenting educator. Creator of the Taming Tantrums App
“Watch out: Eanes’ book will transform your parenting, especially if you pause to do the self-work exercises.”
–Tracy Cutchlow, author of Zero to Five
“In our always connected world of social media and Google searches there is a never-ending flow of “new and better” parenting information. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of “best practices.” The focus is often on changing kids’ behavior or all the reasons you are ruining your kids. The problem is that so much of what we read seems to conflict and leaves us feeling powerless rather than truly supporting parents and families. Rebecca’s new book Positive Parenting emphasizes that parenting is far more than simply making kids comply. It’s about real lives, relationships, and people; It’s about real moms’, dads’ and kids’ stories and how to make those stories incredible. This book gives the reader timeless, foundational principles and practices that help to build the parent, the child and the family as a whole from the inside out.”
–Andy Smithson, www.truparenting.net
“Positive Parenting beautifully illustrates the choices that modern-day parents have to raise healthy and successful children through nurturing, empathetic relationships. Bolstered by research in neuroscience and human development, Eanes shows how parents must grow alongside their children, and how this parallel journey helps young people reach their full potential. This is a must-read book for all who care enough about their children to reflect deeply on themselves as parents.”
–Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD, Author of Tomorrow’s Change Makers
“In this one-of-a-kind book, Rebecca Eanes goes beyond just discipline to look at the big picture of parenting. If you’re longing for more in your parenting journey — more joy, more peace, more cooperation — I recommend Positive Parenting!”
–Jessica Alexander, co-author of The Danish Way of Parenting
“In this valuable contribution to parenting, Rebecca Eanes provides insightful, effective and practical solutions to end family conflict and build loving connections. Her masterful approach allows parents to implement powerful strategies with ease and grace, forever transforming their family life. This is a must-read for every family that yearns to create peace and harmony.”
–Dr. Shefali Tsabary, New York Times-bestselling author of The Conscious Parent
“With a belief that each parent knows their own child best and that raising children should be enjoyable, not stressful, Rebecca Eanes helps parents develop their own positive parenting blueprints to create happy, loving families. Positive Parenting helps parents work through the difficult feelings that naturally occur throughout the parenting journey and provides strategies to help raise positive thinkers.”
–Katie Hurley, LCSW, author of The Happy Kid Handbook