A Parent-Centric Philosophy
My philosophy boils down to what I call a Parent-Centric approach to parenting. I believe parents hold the power to effect real change in a family. Like an anchor tethers a boat, even when it thrashes on the waves or blows in the wind, parents are the source of stability. Therefore, I focus on supporting and empowering them to be the best they can be.
Imagine your child is like a barometer. They tell you the weather around them, but they are not the weather. The weather is the stress in their environment. Their behavior is their response to that stress. The barometer can’t change the weather, but the weather can change the barometer. The parent has the most power to influence and change the environment.
A Parent-Centric approach places the keys to change in the parent’s hands. It’s rooted in ‘understanding what your child’s behavior is telling you’ so you can respond effectively and nurture a relationship that’ll take you through the teens and beyond.
Child-Centric approaches place the keys to change in the child’s hands. They’re rooted in ‘trying to get your kid to do what you want them to do’ and often use techniques that utilize rewards and consequences to motivate a child’s behavior, without taking into account the stress-sensitivity or self-regulation skills of the child.
In other words, it’s better for your child that you stay anchored. Jumping in the boat with them just means you’ll both get caught in the storm!
Signs & symptoms of a Parent-Centric vs. a Child-Centric approach.
Being in control
Breaking the cycle
Being the anchor
Winning the battles
Walking on eggshells
A quick fix
I believe the following 7 principles guide a Parent-Centric approach.
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1. Connection matters more than perfection.
2. The better you do, the better your child does.
3. Your child wants to please you
4. Behavior is an SOS, not an attack.
5. Small changes lead to big results
6. What you focus on increases
7. Families are dynamic systems where all members
affect each other.
Melanie came to me because she was at her wit’s end with her 8 year old son who seemed determined to make everything more difficult. He was oppositional to the point of sometimes hiding under his bed curled up in a ball when he had to go somewhere. He would goad his younger brothers into fights and disrupt meal time by seeking constant attention.
After 2 months of working together she sent me an email in which she said, “I have the best relationship I’ve had with my son his whole life.”
Here’s my take on how that kind of profound change is possible. There’s a quote from Wayne Dyer that goes, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” I believe that sums it up. As this mom began to have a new understanding of her son’s behavior as an SOS and not an attack, it allowed her to respond more openly to him.
Brain science tells us that over 80% of communication is nonverbal. Therefore, as she responded differently, he felt the change and began to respond differently back to her. The long standing negative feedback loop between them began to fall away. A new, more positive relationship began to develop, initiated by her.
It was not a quick fix, nor was it a magic technique. They still had a lot of work ahead of them. However/And yet, she had changed the direction they were heading and that allowed for a different result going forward.
© 2018 Kathy Whitham, RN, Parenting Beyond Words