“Raising Human Beings”, the title of Dr. Ross Greene’s most recent book, is centered on the ideas that as we raise our children, we are also modeling good relationships, teaching positive communication, and promoting independence and self-worth. What it boils down to is our enduring quest to find a balance between our expectations as adults and our child’s developing personality, character, strengths, skills, preferences, beliefs and goals. As the older and wiser human (who, let’s face it, has learned from mistakes more times than we want to admit) are you molding your child into who you want her to be? Or are you helping her become her best self? Where’s the balance?
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about raising human beings. Quite an undertaking, isn’t it? Many of you are right in the thick of it—facing both small and big decisions every day, constantly presented with choices that will make some kind of imprint on those smaller human beings. It’s like working a job with no written job description, no formal training, and no annual review. But perhaps the most valuable aspect that does come with the job is the infinite room for growth.
We love those smaller humans so much, and in our effort to shape them into the vision we’ve imagined, it’s common for that balance to tip. Actually, most friction between parents and kids happens when the balance is off. While parents of particularly challenging or defiant children often seek specific parenting interventions, there really isn’t much of a difference between chronically challenging kids and those that just need some support here and there if we’re talking about how to help. Maintaining that balance requires a key common ingredient—the magic word, if you will: Collaboration.
Collaborating with Your Child
Collaborating with a child through a process of empathy, active listening, validation, and ultimately a welcoming of the child’s input in addressing concerns opens up a whole world of possibility and growth in terms of the role you will play in your child’s life. You’ll also find that with this mindset, you notice more of your child’s subtle strengths.
Taking an authoritative, controlling, rigid, punitive or adversarial approach limits your role to a behavior manager. When fear, disappointment, embarrassment and impatience start to tip the scale, you clock in overtime as the rule enforcer, controller, supervisor, manual writer, or corrector.
Collaboration in Schools
The same is true in schools. I visited a school today and met with administrators who had invited Dr. Greene in to train its educators. To say that my experience collaborating with the teachers and administrators there to help a particular student was pleasant would be an understatement of mammoth proportions. When collaboration, flexibility, and creativity are the norm, kids have a safety net and support network both in and outside of the home that envelops them like a permanent hug.
I’ve been working with families using this approach for about 4 years now and I consistently see first-hand its effectiveness. Often, I’ll spend time with parents at the beginning of the process addressing very common—and understandable—concerns or objections to giving up the authoritative role we’re used to as parents. When I present the idea that things like defiance, refusal, and repeated shortcomings do not need to be assigned a consequence in order to be solved, or that parents do not need to award stickers or have behavior charts to see improvements at home, it’s not uncommon get some push-back. Once we get through the initial learning curve, my favorite part of the process is noticing that the content of our conversations begins to shift dramatically.
Collaboration = Confidence
When children are brought into the problem-solving conversation, their confidence starts to build. Skills start to emerge, and a new world opens up. Given kindness, curiosity, empathy and support, a child’s true strengths and character will shine through. Families start to show up for our sessions excited to talk about strengths they never noticed in their child. They share experiences they are now able to enjoy with their child or now do together as a family that they thought would never be possible for their child. Moments like these remind me of how lucky I am to do what I do every day.
As you’re raising those sweet little (or not so little anymore) human beings, don’t forget to take moments here and there to notice and enjoy who they are becoming.
For an in-depth look into Dr. Green’s approach to solving problems collaboratively with kids, check out Katie’s upcoming workshop….