Ask Dr. Zoe – How Can I Parent Positively When My Kids Drive Me Crazy?

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Dr. Zoe Shaw, A Year of Self-Care

‘Kim’ Asked:

How can I parent with positivity? My kids drive me crazy. They refuse to help me or are mean to each other way too often. I find myself complaining to them and about them.

Dr. Zoe Answered:

You and every other mother who cares about her parenting have asked a question just like this. Not only is parenting the hardest job ever, it requires you to assume a different job description with each child. That’s enough to send you to the crazy bin just when you thought you had it all figured out.

I can see why you are drawn to positive parenting, though. It sounds really nice. Like a calm, happy, agreeable family all smiling at each other in harmony. But positive parenting may not always feel positive and that’s okay.

The basis of positive parenting is the belief that “children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect” (Alfred Adler). I don’t think any modern parent would argue with that, but unfortunately, it was a new concept in the early 1900s.

Alfred Adler was a psychologist who first coined the term. He also cautioned parents not to swing the pendulum in the complete opposite direction and over coddle or indulge their children because this creates a whole slew of problems that are potentially worse.

Basically, positive parenting encourages parents to be both compassionate and firm.

A child refusing to help you when asked—assuming he is physically capable of whatever you are asking him to do—is unacceptable. Mostly because it isn’t working for either of you.

Sometimes kids don’t cooperate because they just don’t feel like it and they want to see what they can get away with. We’ve all been there, right? But sometimes acting out is an expression of pain or anger that needs to be recognized and explored.

Get your guide!

A kid who is misbehaving regularly is a discouraged kid who is trying to get your attention.

Before you start feeling badly about yourself, no mama is perfect. I have to apologize to my children regularly. This reminds them that I am a beautifully flawed human, as are they.

Your job is to dole out necessary consequences firmly and consistently while still being interested in why your child didn’t want to listen in the first place and making them feel respected in your family. And yes, you can do both. Discipline can be yielded in a quiet, positive way. It doesn’t have to be disrespectful, hurtful, or damaging.

I fired my 8-year-old daughter from dish duty last week, which also means she lost her paycheck (allowance). When I fired her—yes, I used those words—she was angry and told me that it wasn’t fair. I calmly explained to her that my response was a direct result of her not getting the work done that we had verbally contracted that she would do. I explained to her that whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur, you will get fired if you don’t deliver. It’s a tough, painful lesson, but not damaging. There is a difference.

Your child needs to learn how to function in the greater world and the greater world does have consequences.

But it’s important to note that none of the firm consequences work if you your child’s other needs aren’t being met. A child’s main drive is to feel a sense of belonging and significance in their family. Blind obedience should never be the goal in parenting because you are losing the care and relationship aspect. A child feels a sense of belonging, significance, and empowerment when you show an interest and desire to understand their motivations and feelings and meet their needs. If you are complaining to your child about them, they might not feel respected and may even wonder if they are too much for you. The acting out and the arguing could be a result of some of those feelings.

After firing my daughter, I attempted to connect with her by talking to her about what was keeping her from getting the dishes done and what she could do to possibly earn her job back. This helped turn this negative interaction into one of growth.

As you aim for positive parenting, it’s important to try to have more positive interactions than perceived negative ones in your parenting journey. The simplest way to do this is to write down 3 to 5 positive qualities you see in your child and find ways to encourage your child in that area, daily. An easy rule of thumb is for every negative interaction, purposely create 3 positive interactions.

Aiming to spend 15 minutes a day of undivided attention time with your child goes a long way. 15 minutes might seem like nothing, but often our time is divided between other children or tasks. You will be surprised what just 15 minutes a day will do.

Consistency is also key. It’s important to consequence every rule violation, but don’t consequence negative feelings, pouting, or emotions. Instead, explore them with your child.

And it’s okay to vent. Please do! Vent away to your healthy friends or your therapist, who can provide support. Not to your kids. They don’t need to hear your parenting problems—especially since they are the cause of it.

We weren’t made to do this massive job of raising humans by ourselves. So keep seeking support.

If you are on Instagram, I suggest that you follow parenting expert and clinical psychologist, @dr.annlouise.Lockhart for daily encouragement for parenting with purpose and grace.

You’ve got this, mama! It just takes a little grit and grace!

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