Couples & Parenting
Counselling for Parents
Heather Kempton at Optimal Life in Coquitlam offers a cognitive behavioural therapy approach to teaching individuals highly effective parenting skills. Children and teenagers naturally search for a sense of belonging, love, acceptance and approval, as well as, a need to form a sense of self, that nurtures independence. Parenting is one of the most fulfilling, yet difficult adventures in life you will ever have the pleasure of embarking on. There will be times you feel lost, frustrated and overwhelmed. You will question your abilities as a parent and run the risk of burnout. Are you searching for ways to create a family environment where your children are engaged and thriving? Below I will discuss a 7-step plan for creating an engaged family.
Creating an Engaged Family
Step 1: Parenting with Purpose
As a parent, you can develop a communication style that fosters openness, trust and connection. You can help your child to define age-appropriate goals that will provide them with a sense of purpose that brings them the experience of mastering their world as they achieve the designated benchmarks in life. The key to this is learning how to listen to your child so that you can understand their personal interests, skills and abilities, not just your own. Socialization and authenticity are two possible goals to consider. As a parent you want to socialize your child to become a responsible citizen, learning how to function in harmony with others, to develop intimate and trusting relationships, while being able to set healthy boundaries in their relationships. Authenticity flows naturally when the goals that you choose match your child’s abilities, talents and interests. One of the most amazing gifts you have as a parent is to teach your child how to form a life of authenticity so that they can live a life of purpose and passion. So many children today complain of boredom, which will lead to a heightened possibility of negative self-destructive behaviour.
Step 2: Parenting with Clarity
By choosing to parent with clarity you are teaching your child how to respectfully develop their voice within the framework of the boundaries that you have created in your family. The primary way to promote a feeling of connection, self-esteem and power within your child is to give them your full, undivided attention and weigh very carefully what they are seeking to convey. Providing an environment where your child feels that he has a voice and is being heard is key. Like adults, children want to be heard and know that their feelings are being considered, that they know that they can earn certain rights and privileges if they do what is expected of them. Children want a perception of having some power and the ability to create what they want but also crave structure and constructive boundaries.
Step 3: Parenting by Negotiation
Negotiation is a key skill to learn as a parent. It is important to gain an understanding of the type of parenting style that you engage in most often (authoritarian, equalitarian, permissive), as well as identifying your child’s personality (passive, cooperative, rebellious) in order to choose the most effective negotiating style. For instance, if you have a highly rebellious child, who engages in power struggles, you will less likely want to approach a negotiation in a heavy-handed way. In teaching your child the basics of negotiation you need to make sure your child is able to predict the consequences of their actions so they have a sense of responsibility for the outcomes generated. Five critical steps to successful negotiations are 1) narrow the area of dispute, 2) find out what it is they really want, 3) work to find a middle ground, 4) be specific in your agreement and the negotiation’s outcome, and 5) make negotiated agreements, shorter term in the beginning.
Step 4: Parenting with Currency
It is important to have developed standards for the type of behaviours you want to see in your child. Often parents fall trap to complaining and reacting to their child’s behaviour as a result of focusing on undesirable behaviours. When your focus turns to developing the positive behaviours in your child, the negative behaviours will become less overwhelming. By determining your child’s currency, you are able to encourage and promote healthy behaviour. Currency is anything that when presented during or immediately after a target behaviour will increase the likelihood of that behaviour occurring again.
Currencies can vary depending on the age of your child. This can be things such as toys, television, sleepovers, computer or video game privileges. Once you understand what your child places value on you can use that to help mould and shape their behaviour. It is also effective to sit down with your child and create a written contract that outlines what you expect of your child and what the consequences will be if they do not abide by it.
Step 5: Parenting through Change
You must be willing to make a commitment to do what it takes as the future of your child may be at stake if they are partaking in risk taking behaviour. You will be creating what we call a “disequilibrium” because it results in a redefinition of roles and a major shift of power that will impact those who are used to running the show and having their way. Some ways to create this are by developing a communication system, developing a support system, writing an expression of commitment and anticipating resistance.
Step 6: Parenting in Harmony
As a parent, you do not have to compete for your child’s attention with distractions such as cell phones, video games, TV, or instant messaging. The best way to create an environment that encourages respectful communication and harmony is to complete an environmental cleanup. You can start by creating a list of your family’s top ten priorities next to the top ten things that waste time in your household. Take time to compare the two lists and decide whether or not the way your family is living and investing their time is congruent. If you find your top priorities and values are at the bottom of your time allocation list, you need to reestablish your time and energy commitments in such a way as to put what you know to be important back on centre stage.
Step 7: Parenting by Example
The same gender parent is the most powerful role model in a child’s life. Children learn vicariously by observing the behaviour of others and the consequences of their own actions. As a child, they observe what happens to other family members when they experience success of failure and those become a reference for how they live. Therefore, the power of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviour will have a profound affect on directing your children to where you want them to go. In order to show your child how to be happy, well balanced, adjusted and fulfilled adults it is essential to do a personal inventory and recognize how are you engaging in life on a daily basis. Are you feeling stressed all of the time? Possess a negative attitude? Engaging in self-destructive behavioural patterns? Struggling with interpersonal relationships? If you answer yes to any of the above it is time to create a life where you feel capable, and happy living with fulfilment. If you are barely getting by on a day-to-day basis, your children will also feel the effects. You owe it to yourself and your children to make a commitment to creating an engaged family environment.
PARENTING – TEENAGER
If you are struggling with your teenager’s behaviour read through the following four key points that outline how to gain an understanding of what they need and what you can do to help.
Taking a look back
Negative events that take place prior to the age of 7 help to shape a child’s personality, forming their view of self and their place in the World. A child’s primary caregiver has the most profound effect on development in the early years. Gaining an understanding of your child’s environment during this time will provide valuable information in identifying how your teenager has learned to express and manage their emotions. If a child was never taught how to identify emotions and provided with healthy options to express and manage them, then their ability to self-regulate their emotions as a teenager will be challenged and their behaviour may reflect the potential for lasting and harmful consequences.
Identify the cause
If you recognize a change in your teenager’s behaviour it is important to pay attention to the possible cause related to this change. Extreme changes in personality do not develop as a result of nothing thus, it is essential as a parent to identify what is going on. It may be a recent event, or something more deep-rooted.
With technology becoming so advanced, easy access to drugs, as well as the growing increase in demands and stress placed on parents to provide for their child today, teenagers have become more susceptible to make unhealthy decisions than ever before. Your teenager will become exposed to so many types of influences that it is essential that as a parent that you remain a positive, and reliable individual that creates an environment where your child can speak to you without being judged. By providing an environment where your child feels approved, valued, loved and understood at home, your child is less likely to turn elsewhere to search for the sense of acceptance they so deeply need.
Be a parent, not a friend
A relationship full of love, compassion, and acceptance is ideal, but it is important to remember that you are providing guidance for your child’s survival and that your goal is not to form a friendship, but to be a parent. Your responsibility is to ensure the well-being and safety of your child’s emotional and physical safety. Intervening in a dangerous situation such as substance abuse; emotional, physical, sexual abuse; or truancy, might make your child dislike you, but it will also save his or her life. Don’t turn a blind eye or go along in order to feel accepted and loved by your child, do what is in the best interest of your child.
The power of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviour will have a profound affect on directing your teenager to where you want them to go. In order to show your teenager how to be happy, well balanced, adjusted and fulfilled adults it is essential to do a personal inventory and recognize how are you engaging in life on a daily basis. Are you feeling stressed all of the time? Possess a negative attitude or fixed mindset? Engaging in self-destructive behavioural patterns? If you answer yes to any of the above it is time to create a life where you feel capable, fulfilled and able to embrace healthy relationships with self and others. If you are barely getting by on a day to day basis, your children will also feel the effects. If you are at a loss on how to connect with your teenager and are watching things spiral out of control, it is time to do something different than what is currently not working.