How do we get the balance right as parents? If the way you were parented was overly strict, critical or harsh your impulse might be to give your children all of the gentleness, care and praise you longed for but didn’t receive. It is true that children need unconditional love and acceptance and growing our capacity for this is a great practice. However, in our desire to do the best we can for our children it is important that we don’t override our own needs and that we fulfill our role as parents by protecting them from harm. Often negotiations need to take place when people are living closely with each other and the more people are involved the trickier this can be.
In looking for the win win we are maintaining optimism that it is possible to find solutions which will work for everyone.
1. Define the problem
What is it that is bothering you or your child? For example, they stay up late reading then don’t want to get up in the morning or they want to go to a friend’s house but the friend isn’t available. You would like to go for a run but your child doesn’t feel like going out. It is important to do this without using blame language, for example “I would really like to go for a run” is better than “you never let me go out”. Even if we are feeling frustrated, being careful about the way in which we use language can limit the harm we cause to those around us.
2. Find out what need you are each trying to meet
It is important that we acknowledge what each person needs, for example the child who stays up late reading might be having trouble sleeping or be trying to meet a need for independence by carving out some secret alone time. In going to a friends house your child might be looking for excitement or social interaction. Your need might be for exercise or time in nature. If you are not used to thinking about needs this list can be a helpful tool. Your child may require your help to figure out what they need, you can support them by making guesses or waiting quietly while they find the right words to express themselves. Acknowledging the other person’s needs can be very soothing for them. It let’s them know that they matter and that you have respect and compassion for them. It also makes it more likely that they will be open to solution finding.
3. Throw ideas on to the table
Allow your creativity to flow and see if you can think of some interesting ways of meeting everyone’s needs. For example, your child doesn’t feel like going out but might feel like having a kitchen dance party so you can have your need for exercise met or you could agree to put your run on hold until later. In the bedtime reading example, you might agree to start the process of going to bed earlier so that they have time alone to read. Sometimes mind mapping can be helpful if you are a visual thinker, writing ideas on to a big piece of paper, have fun and give permission for odd or unusual ideas to be included.
Finding solutions together is part of creating an atmosphere where everyone’s needs matter, adult’s equally to children. This can really help to establish a family culture of collaboration and care. It is important that ideas which do not work for both of you are put aside. Nobody’s needs should be ignored. Even if there isn’t a perfect answer it is important that the end result is that you each feel understood and a solution which feels good enough has been found.
5. Reflective listening
This can be a great tool to use in this situation. If you are unclear what your child is trying to express you might say something like “I just want to make sure I have understood correctly”. You can then repeat back to them what they have said in slightly different words, they can then either confirm that you have understood them correctly or re-explain their point. A longer article on active and reflective listening is coming soon.
If you would like to talk to me in more depth about finding collaborative solutions in your family you can book a free consultation here.