Gifts should not be conditional

It is Christmas time again. Santa and the elf is making it’s yearly return. There is magic and excitement in the air. I am all here for this. It is supposed to be magical, the season of joy. Yet some parent as if it is the season of compliance. Good behaviour = gifts/love. Some treat Christmas and gifts as a points reward system, where as long as their children comply to what they want them to do, the kids can earn their gifts from Santa. They use this as a parenting tool and do not realise the long lasting impact this have on children and adults.

Let’s look at it from a different perspective.

As an adult, ask ourselves the following questions:

Why do we always feel overwhelmed when we receive an expensive or very special gift from someone?

When we receive a gift and it is not our birthday or a special occasion, why do we ask the giver “What have I done to deserve this?”

Why do we have such a deep emotional response to the type of gift we receive from others?

When someone gifts you something you do not like, why do we experience it as a statement about our own value and worth?

Why can an abuser smooth over the harm they have done with gifts?

Why

The long and short is, we were raised that gifts is something that is conditional. Gifts cannot just be freely given, it has to be earned. You had to do something right to deserve to receive a gift. The time where that narrative on how life works is written, is during the fragile period of development age 0 to 8/9.

The “magic believing” age is 0 to about 8/9 years of age. The most critical brain developmental age is 0 to age 8/9 years. During this stage, kids learn how the world works. What love is and how to treat others. Yet here we are during this time creating conditions on things that should be unconditional. So by using this strategy, kids are being set up to believe that gifts are solely conditional and that manipulation for compliance can be achieved with the promise of gifts.

Gifts falls within the realm of love languages and should never be used as a means to get compliance from any person. If it is used as a means of getting compliance, it is no longer a gift, but a reward system that can be altered or taken away at any time.

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The fear and shame of punitive parenting – Parenting the parent

We were hit as children when we did wrong and I can spot the adult who was raised that way from a mile away.


How you may ask…

Hitting or hurting someone for mistakes they have made, teaches them fear and shame. The tactic works so well, that even a hint of wrong doing fills them with enough fear to feel shamed when we discuss matters on child rearing.

I see the shame you feel and the defenses coming up, because as a child you were never treated as a whole human being.

We were raised to associate anything that may be outside “how your were raised” to do things as controversial, problematic and therefore saying that we are not just making a mistake, but that is some way or form, we are failing.

We still function within the lopsided power structure of parent-child relationship, spanking created. There is a mix up in our minds between fear and respect. We are trained to see fear and respect as the same thing, and we get uncomfortable with the idea that just maybe they are not the same thing.

The fear of being told that what you are doing now, may be damaging, it creates a knee-jerk reaction and release that fear and shame in your heart. The wanting to keep defending yourself, because you were raised to believe that hitting a child is the right way of doing things. We were raised to believe that our parents were never wrong, because they beat that belief into our very souls.

So often I am told that I am parent shaming, when I talk about how damaging spanking or hitting is to a psyche.

I am not shaming anyone, I am trying to have a conversation with you as the parent and with the child that feels so shamed and hurt inside of you. I am trying to help you, help your child to never feel what you are feeling right now.

I don’t want you to feel shame and fear for something you never intentionally did wrong, but I want you to be able to see it for what it is. New information to give you tools to raise a healthy child with less pain, shame and fear.

The fear and shame you feel is so deeply rooted within the expectations your parents had for you and how they enforced those expectations on you. Let us work together in breaking this fear and shame cycle. It starts with us. We do not have to continue

#c3parenting#kidsarewholehumanbeings#stop#listenwithyourheart#knowwhy

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Genitals does not make the child

Dear mother and father of a boisterous child, I think of you in the chaos of everyday life. I see your exhausted eyes and uncomfortable smile as your child once again were the one who created havoc in the shops, or at home or at a friends house. I see the flicker of amusement and pride when they do something that you know is not socially acceptable, but darn they executed it so well. I see the fear when they push their bodies beyond the limit of your comfort zone. I see you. 

Dear mother and father of the cautious child. I see your worry when you have social engagements and our child does not want to engage with others. I see the exhaustion when social conformity does not seem to be of any relevance to them. I see the caution in your eyes when people ask why your kid is not joining in the activity.

I feel your frustration when you see social media posts that label gender according to behaviour and your child is just not that. I feel the fear and worry you have, because your child just does not fit the box. The what ifs of the future and wanting for your child to fit in, for their own happiness.

I see you.

Here is the reality though. Gender is fluid and boisterous and caution is part personality and part taught behaviour. Sexuality has nothing to do with interest in activities and just because a child is born with certain anatomy, does not mean they have to behave a certain way. A penis does not equal broken bones and wrestling and a vagina does not equal nurture and sas. 

So why is there this stereotype? Because it gets socialised into children, here is a link to a video that just shows us how much we use anatomy to socialise our children click here

Due to human nature that is genetically programmed to want to fit in (we are geared for survival and that means if we are part of a pack our chances of surviving exponentially improves). So at anytime our kids does not fit the “social construct” of their genitals we start to panic. We start to fear. That fear tires us out and we feel like we are failing our children.

Do we need to protect our children? Yes we have a responsibility to protect our children, but not in the way you may think we have to. Life is hard, life is tough and it is hardly ever kind to anyone. We will never be able to protect our children from the dangers of living life within the pack we choose to live in. There is always danger, but we can protect our children from ourselves. We can step back and allow our children to be safe to be who they are in our homes and in our company.

We can support them when they climb the highest tree or read the thickest book. We have a responsibility to protect them from arbitrary social expectations that is connected to their assumed gender. We do not have to fear our children being who they are, they will find their space and the less we insert our own expectations of who their true self is, the stronger and more resilient they will be.

Authentic people do not get blown around by the wind, they do not fear the social rejection, because they know who they are, believe in who they are, and they do so, because you as the parent embraced their authentic being. They will find their space and where they belong. They will find their pack and they will not just survive they will thrive.

So NO, Boys do not get broken bones or stitches because they are boys, and girls do not get sassy or hyper emotional because they are girls. Some kids are far more adventurous than others regardless of their genitals and  some are far more cautious and sensitive regardless of their genitals. It is called being human. The sooner we realise and embrace this, the sooner we will start raising healthy authentic human beings.

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The art of our children’s hearts

There has been this big reaction about a young matriculant and his art. I am not going to share the video of the person who shared it for various reasons.
What I want to address is the way a parent handled this situation, mostly because we tend to parent this way and don’t even realise it…

Photo credit Photo by Jonas Smith on Unsplash

Just for those who missed the whole debacle, here is what you need to know as it pertains towards this specific incident.

An adult man, saw art pieces done by a matriculant (child) and felt deeply offended and upset and on the surface one could understand why he felt this way. He jumped to a conclusion, and disrespected the child’s work by making a video of it and basically shamed the matric for what he has done. He touched the art work and showed deep disrespect for the art itself.

In the video one can see that there is actually rationales added with each artwork as the theme is controversial.

The matriculant did artwork that is deeply researched and explained in the rationale. His artwork is displayed in an area where there is limited access to it and there was specific warnings put up. He has done everything right.
Art is subjective and usually tells the story of how the artist sees the world, or the subject matter. It is a journey and has to be seen as commentary about the world the artist finds themself immersed in.

So what does this have to do with parenting you may ask?

As an adult we tend to jump to “superior conclusions” when we deal with something a Child has done. We tend to do what the man in the video did.

There is a sign stating this content is controversial – Our kids put signs up with their behaviour or just the tone of their voice. It warns us as parents to tread carefully, mindfully and be ready to actually hear what is going on.

Our kids give us their rationale – yet we tell them to stop back chatting, fall in line and that their thinking isn’t as superior as ours. “Mother/Father knows best”

They share their lived experience with us, how it shaped them – and we dismiss their feelings and experiences. We tell them what they have to feel, think and that if only they would get with the program, they will see it our way.

They ask us to not share, touch or just respect them – and we make “videos” and share it with the world. We make it all about us and forget about them

That painful controversial art in the hearts of our children are being battered and abused by us, because we think we know best. We do not listen, we share their stories without their context and the hurt they suffer, ripples to others.

We wonder why our kids stop trusting us. Reactions like this, that is why. Why should our children trust us, when we negatively label their lives and jump to conclusions?
We as adults can do better. Our kids are thinking, living, experiencing human beings. If they open the hidden corner of their life to you, the best you can do is, keep quiet and listen and learn. Adults do not always know best

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Parenting the parent – Concourt and breaking the cycle

Many South African parents are now struggling with the idea that they are not allowed to hit/spank their children. To them discipline = a spanking. It has always been done this way. There is a deep seated struggle for all of these parents. The main reason for this struggle is that the constitutional court has finally ruled that one may not hit a child to chastise them as it is not deemed reasonable and infringes on the rights of the child. Hitting a child will now be viewed as abuse, the same way hitting an adult is deemed abuse in the eyes of our laws.

Photo by Mimi Di Cianni on Unsplash


The struggle for parents now is two fold. Firstly, they are now called abusers and it does not equate with their views of themselves and secondly they are at a loss as to what they may then do to teach and discipline their children. (I am aware of the elephant in the room regarding religious beliefs, however that should be afforded a discussion of its own)

Let us chat about the first

If someone is a parent that has never read the studies or attended workshops and training that explained the damage hitting/spanking does to a child, it can feel extremely hurtful and demeaning to all of a sudden fall within the category of abuser. Most parents did not know better, or they have been following what they have been raised to do when a child misbehaves. 

It makes the parents feel as if there is now a belief that they do not love their children and do not care for their children. Which in most, if not all circumstances is not the truth. They do love their kids. They only want the best for their kids. They want their kids to grow up and have respect for others and be able to adhere to the rules and most of all, they don’t want their children to end up in jail or dead due to bad life choices. All in all they are doing the best job at parenting they know how to do.

If parents raised in punitive homes view acknowledgment that spanking/hitting a child as wrong, they inadvertently acknowledge that they have made a mistake. Mistakes in punitive homes are not usually tolerated, or assisted, but rather punished and at times lots of feelings of shame step into the conversation. 

Punitive households often struggle with the idea that adults and parents should apologise and change what they do when they make a mistake, because of an outdated belief that it will interfere with their authority and control within their home. 

In punitive homes admitting a mistake is often viewed as a character statement regarding that person’s morals and values and no one wants to see themselves as a horrible person and much less that their actions may inadvertently have been abusive.

That is how people raised in punitive homes view the world. Step out of line, you deserve punishment. Many will have anecdotal stories to tell of when they grew up and their parents heard they were in trouble at school, they will be punished at home, regardless of whether they have already been punished for their actions at school.

So taking responsibility for your missteps in life, usually meant that you will be punished some or other way. You are fearful of being honest about your mistakes, because we all know, you surely then deserve to be punished or hurt and most of all you bring shame to the family. 

As someone who broke the cycle myself, I struggle almost daily with this reasoning, this fear of making a mistake, owning my missteps and understanding that my authority and value as a person is not undermined by being authentic about being human.

The second is where the chaos comes in. Parents who practice corporal punishment honestly and whole heartedly believe that this is the only means to discipline. No spanking to them = non-parenting and will then have the opposite outcome for which they aim. They have been raised in homes where they were spanked/hit and they truly believe that they did turn out fine or okay. So they are wholly unequipped to start parenting in a different way. 

So now the expectation is that parents need to stop hitting their children and find other means to discipline their children. Where do they start? How do they get the necessary tools to instil discipline in their homes and children, when the only tool in their parenting toolbox has always been spanking? There are blogs and books and people like C3 Parenting that will gladly support and help parents to break this cycle of hitting children as a means of discipline. However you will have to start somewhere. The first place to start may have to be, to admit to yourself that in your heart, you never really felt at ease with spanking your child in the first place. Owning that reality and then reaching out and asking for help.

Changing the way we parent will take time. It will take education of parents and helping them in a proactive way. It is changing the way we engage with the topic while remaining within the scientific proof of what styles of parenting is effective without the detrimental effects that spanking has on children. 

If someone is a parent that has never read the studies or attended workshops and training that explained the damage hitting/spanking does to a child, it can feel extremely hurtful and demeaning to all of a sudden fall within the category of abuser. Most parents did not know better, or they have been following what they have been raised to do when a child misbehaves. 

It makes the parents feel as if there is now a belief that they do not love their children and do not care for their children. Which in most if not all circumstances is not the truth. They do love their kids. They only want the best for their kids. They want their kids to grow up and have respect for others and be able to adhere to the rules and most of all, they don’t want their children to end up in jail or dead due to bad life choices. All in all they are doing the best job at parenting they know how to do.

If parents raised in punitive homes views acknowledgment that spanking/hitting a child as wrong, they inadvertently acknowledge that they have made a mistake. Mistakes in punitive homes is not usually tolerated, or assisted, but rather punished and at times lots of feelings of shame steps into the conversation. 

Punitive households often struggle with the idea that adults and parents should apologise and change what they do when they make a mistake, because of an outdated belief that it will interfere with their authority and control within their home. 

In punitive homes admitting a mistake is often viewed as a character statement regarding that person’s morals and values and no one wants to see themselves as a horrible person and much less that their actions may inadvertently have been abusive.

That is how people raised in punitive homes view the world. Step out of line, you deserve punishment. Many will have anecdotal stories to tell of when they grew up and their parents heard they were in trouble at school, they will be punished at home, regardless of whether they have already been punished for their actions at school.

So taking responsibility for your missteps in life, usually meant that you will be punished some or other way. You are fearful of being honest about your mistakes, because we all know, you surely then deserve to be punished or hurt and most of all you bring shame to the family. 

As someone who broke the cycle myself, I struggle almost daily with this reasoning, this fear of making a mistake, owning my missteps and understanding that my authority and value as a person is not undermined by being authentic about being human.

Let’s talk about the second

The second is where the chaos comes in. Parents who practice corporal punishment honestly and whole heartedly believe that this is the only means to discipline. No spanking to them = non-parenting and will then have the opposite outcome for which they aim. They have been raised in homes where they were spanked/hit and they truly believe that they did turn out fine or okay. So they are wholly un-equip to start parenting in a different way. 

So now the expectation is that parents need to stop hitting their children and find other means to discipline their children. Where do they start? How do they get the necessary tools to instill discipline in their homes and children, when the only tool in their parenting toolbox has always been spanking? There are blogs and books and people like C3 Parenting that will gladly support and help parents to break this cycle of hitting children as a means of discipline. However you will have to start somewhere. The first somewhere may have to be, to admit to yourself that in your heart, you never really felt at ease with spanking your child in the first place. Owning that reality and then reaching out and ask for help.

Changing the way we parent will take time. It will take education of parents and helping them in a proactive way. It is changing the way we engage with the topic while remaining within the scientific proof of what styles of parenting is effective without the detrimental effects that spanking has on children. 

 2,917 total views

Parenting the Parent

“I was spanked and I turned out okay. Kids these days needs to be disciplined more, by discipline we mean spanking, hitting, smacking or removal of things that matter to them.” At least that is what we are told. “A child without punishment, becomes a child who sits in jail or ends up dead because of drug abuse. Without punitive parenting kids have become disrespectful and a social ill”… These are just some of the claims so often made by society. Unfortunately these claims are also so far from the truth. The reality is that punitive parenting leads to social ills and creates a fear driven society.

Living a life with social media has opened the floodgates for parents to ask other parents about parenting. Today we are going to look at some of those questions and reasons as to why these questions are being asked. 

Photo by Alex Azabache on Unsplash

“I did not want to give my child solids yet. Research has shown that before a certain age it is not good for them. Now my mom said that we were given solids at x amount of weeks and nothing went wrong with us. Should I give my child solids now? How do I tell my mother/father or in-laws that I am not going to follow their advice?”

“We are recently married. We wanted to buy a couch set. My parents said we shouldn’t. We bought the set and now my folks are angry at us.”

“We don’t want children. My parents are angry at us for not wanting children. Should we just give in and have some?”

“My boy child wants long hair. I want to respect it, but I have loads of pressure from my family to cut his hair.”

“My mother cut my child’s hair without my or their permission. What now?”

“We decided to school our child differently, now my parents are angry because we did not consult them.”

These are the type of questions asked so often. The sense of powerlessness these parents feel comes across so clearly! These adults, fear their own parents, still! They fear going against their parents’ wishes. Some grandparents will even overstep the boundaries of parenting and do as they see fit with their grandchildren even when it goes against the wishes of their own children. The adult child then struggles to find appropriate boundaries or even fails to address their parents about the lack of respect, out of fear. Where does this fear stem from? 

I have often wondered why parents struggle to say no to their own parents when it comes to living their lives. Why do adults struggle to stand up for their own life choices when they are in the company of their own parents and often even someone who is older than them? So often we see that an adult becomes like a child in the company of their parents. Partly because of relationship dynamics, but the larger elephant in the room is the power dynamics between parent and child, no matter their age.

As a parent of a small child, we as parents have the executive power over most of their life choices. What they eat and wear, who they visit, when and how. We try to manage their relationships platonic and romantic. We are the “boss”. (No wonder children who feel powerless often state “You are not the boss of me”) We have control and as they grow older we are supposed to slowly let go of that control, but the ability to do so becomes a minefield. 

We are scared of letting go. We tell ourselves that it is because we love them and we only want the best for them. However, the reality is, it is because we are scared of losing our power and control over them. We are afraid that if we do not have the final say, they will make choices that we disagree with or cannot live with. We say we want them to be safe, but we only want them to remain in the spaces we deem as safe. We measure safety according to our own life experiences and feel threatened when they venture on paths we have not tread or do life differently than we have done. We know our own pains and mistakes and want to control their lives in a way that will prevent them from making the same mistakes we have made. We are running scared, so we try to maintain control the way we were raised to maintain control, we do it with punishment, threats and violence. Yes you read that right, violence.

So often we believe we respect our parents, however we were raised to conflate respect and fear. Respect is accepting someone’s intrinsic humanity, punitive respect is fear of punishment for not toeing the line. 

How often as a parent have you had a discussion about your child with your own parents or a parental figure in your life. Your parents make a “suggestion” on how to do things and you almost feel bullied into having to do it their way? You know in your heart you don’t want to do it their way, but you have this fear in your heart that if you do not do it their way, you will upset them? That isn’t respect, that is fear. Not being able to make decisions as an adult that go against your parents wishes, especially if you know that the choice you want to make is the best choice for you and your family, is a fear that was created by punitive parenting.

An adult should never be afraid to make their own decisions and live with the consequences of their decisions. They should never feel that they cannot disregard advice given by their parents. For an adult to be able to embrace this, they need to be able to learn from a young age that their voice and choices will be respected.

How do we change the cycle? It starts when children are young. Allowing them to make their own choices and be part of the decisions that impact their day to day lives. From what they wear, to who they engage with. How they engage with others and respecting their boundaries. It is not a free for all and age will always play a role, but we as parents will have to start giving over executive power to our children as they grow up. BUT we as parents also have to deal with and address our views of children. How we engage with them. Where do we place them in their role in society? Are they to be seen, have to be obedient and not heard? Or do they have a voice, a mind and a personhood of their own.

We need to stop punishing our children for being human and being themselves. Punitive parenting or fear driven parenting creates the idea that love is conditional. If you toe the line, you are accepted and deemed worthy. If you do what I tell you to do, you are accepted and part of the family. If not… Well you will be punished and love will be withheld. You will experience isolation, humiliation and pain. Now think again why it is so difficult to say no to your own parents. It is not because of respect, it is because you fear that they will stop loving you.

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I opened my mouth and out came the parent I never wanted to be!

I was so angry, fuming! Close to losing the plot completely. I opened my mouth and out she came, the parent I did not want to be. I screamed and ranted, threatened and had to use all my will power not to pick him up and give him a good smack. I found myself reaching over to him and at that very moment I caught sight of the look in his eyes, it wasn’t defiance, it was fear. He was scared of me! The anger drained out of me and regret set in. I never wanted my child to look at me that way, but there we stood, me a grown adult facing down with a toddler over a car seat. I dropped my arm and went down on my knees, my face filled with sorrow, regret and probably my own fear reflected. I was scared that I had reached the point of no-return.

That this was the moment the trust finally was blown to smithereens, but thankfully it wasn’t. I apologised for my reaction and for losing control. After a few minutes of hugging it out and mending our broken hearts, he got in the car seat and off we went. We have had a few more moments like this since then, moments where the parent I don’t want to be, suddenly slips out of my mouth. It happens and it happens because my focus is on the wrong goal.


We often have moments in parenting where we are the opposite of who we want to be. We often as parents have regrets of how we handled a situation. We see the mistakes our parents made and the mistakes others made and we vow not to make those same mistakes. Then in a blink of built up frustration, exhaustion and loss of control, we become what we vowed we will never be. Why does this happen? Why can we not break this cycle?

It all lies within the triggers of our own pain (experiences) and where our focus is.

The pain, is the things we were taught while growing up. The way we were raised to see the role and place of a child in society. Most parents were raised in the belief that kids are ‘lesser than’, that kids are the property of their family. Children are expected to jump at every command, because “well mother/father knows best”. Their identity is shaped by how well they fit into the family, they are expected to adjust and deal and understand far beyond their years and even beyond what is ever expected of adults when they have to accommodate themselves. The “do as I say and not do as I do”, mantra echoed through many a childhood, and here we stand as a result. Looking at our own children, clambering for control over them and struggling to see past the boundary between humans and objects to find an almost blind obedience.

So often it is stated that before having kids, “you may as well talk to the wall”, that is the best way to get used to being blatantly ignored. Ironically they are not ignoring you, they are distracted and probably not really even hearing you in the first place.

Oh, but then what about when they are looking into your eyes and not doing as was told. Surely that must be blatant disobedience, tendering for punishment. Blatant disobedience has to be punished right? Not at all. Before you stop reading, please, indulge me for a few more paragraphs.

Blatant disobedience is a sign that your kid is feeling insecure. Yes, you read that right. They are feeling insecure, and disconnected. They are trying to see if you actually, really care. Contrary to popular belief, they are not testing your resolve, they are measuring your level of care. If you explode and punish, they will be scared of you and not feel connected, actually quite the opposite. Punishment is experienced and interpreted by the brain as an attack, thus they go into fight, flight or freeze, or otherwise stated survival mode. The physiological reactions here actually close the ear canal as it shuts down their brain. So no, they learn nothing except fear and disconnection from the whole ordeal. Blatant disobedience is a cry for connection that has been missing in action for a while.

How do we parent it without punishment? Will they then learn that they can do what they want and never face the consequences of their actions? Not at all. We can parent blatant disobedience with connection. A person who feels connected will be open for correction.

Here lies the challenge for us as parents. It has to come from us. We have to parent ourselves first and we have to work on our own expectations and perceptions.

  • We expect our children to respond immediately when we address them – yet we don’t respond immediately when they talk.
  • We want our children to listen attentively when we ask them something – yet often we have glazed over eyes or tell them to hurry up when they engage us.
  • We expect our children to be honest – yet we love telling them little “white” lies because we feel out of our depth engaging with them.
  • We want our kids to answer us immediately – yet we need time to think and process and expect them to give us that space.
  • We expect our children to respect our time and what we are busy with – yet we make plans without their input and expect them to drop everything immediately and do what we want them to do on our own timeline.

We cannot expect our children to do life differently than us, they model what they see, hear and experience. They do not exist in a vacuum of orders, commands and jumping through hoops. They think, breathe, work, listen, play, do and watch everything we do, they have to, because that is how they survive life.

The reality of these moments, especially blatant disobedience, is that they feel invisible to their parents. They feel like they do not matter and as though they have lost a part of their humanity in the process. Blatant disobedience is a child asking if you still care. Do you still see them? Do they still matter?

When our children do not respond the way we want them to, we lose ‘control’. We experience that loss of control in a defensive way. We feel they are the adversary and we are being attacked, questioned and downright disrespected. We believe that we are in crisis, so we respond as such. We shout and scream, we dole out punishments and make idle, unrealistic and shaming threats. We become the parent we never wanted to be. We think the control we lost was over our child, but that is not the reality. Firstly because children are not objects to be controlled, you will never have control over a person. Secondly the control we lost, was the control over our own emotions and rational thoughts. We were raised to believe that adults control children and when we cannot control our own children, we feel like we have failed and that spins us into even further into the downward spiral. This is the pain of our own childhoods that rears its ugly head.

Our focus. In life when we focus intently on something that is where we will end up. Any biker will tell you that when you go through a bend on the road, you do not look at the bend, but instead you look at the end of the bend while leaning into the turn. Why? Because you will go where you look. So looking straight into the bend guarantees an accident. In the same way, when we start focussing so much on who we don’t want to be as a parent, we accidentally become that parent.

Where we invest our energy is where the output will come from. If we focus on who we do not want to be, we will become that person, because we are not investing energy and time into the person we do not want to be. The irony of this is, that if we focus so much on who we don’t want to be, we struggle to bounce back and move past the mistakes we made. That mistake starts to look like a mountain and this makes us feel even more ashamed and scared. This fear then becomes the driving force within your relationship with your child. This is when you start to fear every tear your child will shed when they do not get what they want. This fear will drive you to become a permissive and extremely punitive parent, because you will start to feel abused by your child’s behaviour and responsiveness to your input into their lives.

Parenting with the focus on who you want to be as a parent, opens you up to invite your child in. It opens up how we look at our children’s behaviour, it becomes easier to ‘read between the lines’ and respond in the way that matters to them. It opens us up to respond with connection first and correction second. It creates opportunities for us to have WOW moments with our kids. Most of all, it opens up the door for us as parents to break the generational cycle of guilt, shame, fear and punishment.

In Course 1 we spend time on how we were raised to view the role and place of a child and how to heal that. Contact us for more information regarding this course.

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Trust is developed not earned

One of the more difficult concepts when raising children is the concept of trusting our children. It doesn’t really come easy, does it? We’ve had to do everything for our children from infancy, we had to trust our own judgement and we all know how under developed a child’s ability to think rationally is. We have all done the “Have you brushed your teeth? Come here let me check” mantra. We have to do it, because they are still learning, easily distracted and some kids just really hate doing certain tasks, like brushing teeth. So we as parents have to check them.

Photo credit: Kwhame Photography

The problem is, that our children start with a deficit of trust from parents, at least that is how they experience and view it. We do not take them at their word from the get go. I am fully aware that there is the belief that trust is earned and not just given, and we want our children to earn our trust. Well what if today we challenged that belief? What if from today you give trust to your child from the get go? No, I am not saying don’t check up on things as they learn how to do certain tasks, what I am saying is, always give them the benefit of trust until proven otherwise.

“Oh, but that is not how life works.” I hear you say. However it is how life works in reality. Think about it in these adult terms: You are looking for a job. You send your CV to a company. The person who reads your CV has to trust that what you wrote on your CV is in fact correct. For them to actually want to do a check on your qualifications and experience, they first had to trust the information you gave them. They do the checks – well some do, some don’t, you never know – if you were truthful, the checks will confirm their trust in the information you gave them is correct. Now you finally earned some more trust. However it started with you trusting that they will look at your CV and them trusting the information given. That small step of trust sets the foundation to earn further trust.

Trust is usually shown in the small things we do. If we feel the need to check up on our children to see if they followed through on something then either we thrust responsibility upon them before they were ready, or, we have unresolved trust issues of our own. Yes, I said it!

The last mentioned, heralds the need for deep introspection, it goes to how you were raised. Did your parents patiently show through how they treated you that they trust you or was your childhood littered with phrases like, “Let me check” or “Ï trust you, but not your friends or the outside world”. The problem with these phrases, as innocent as they may seem, is it always reflects back to the idea that you are not trustworthy and the mistakes you have made count against you. “Let me check” says: I do not take you by your word, you have let me down before, so why should I believe you now? I don’t trust your ability to be honest, thorough or capable. I know, when they are young, they experiment with lies and boundaries, and it never stops until the day we die. I also know they need support while spreading their wings, developing their independence and decision making skills. Starting from the foundation of trust, it is easier to guide them and help them manage the journey.

“I trust you, but…” the ‘but’ nullifies the trust and the belief that you are trusted. If you don’t trust my friends, then you don’t trust my ability to make valuable friends and build positive relationships. If you don’t trust the world, then you don’t trust that I will be able to care for myself in this world. That means you feel I cannot be trusted to make good choices when you are not around. This typically happens in the teenage years. Yes, I know, we don’t really trust the world or that weird friend our kid brought home. Our child’s ability to make good choices is not fully developed yet, so of course the trust is difficult.

They are our kids and we mean well. We want to set them up for success. How do we encourage independence, honesty and good decision making, if we do not set up boundaries and check up on them?

Trust, like connection works with a bank account. When baby is born, we don’t need to earn their trust. They trust implicitly that we will meet their needs. They trust us to listen to them and protect them and love them. We trust them too, to let us know when they need something, whether by cooing, looking at us, making small gestures or even crying. The relationship starts with trust.

In infancy our relationship with our children either deposits trust into the account or withdraws trust from the trust account. Every time baby signals their need and we respond, it deposits not just connection but trust into the bank. When we miss a cue, we withdraw from both accounts. In infancy, a healthy relationship between parent and child creates a positive relational bank account in connection and trust.

After infancy, we withdraw often from this bank account. When baby starts to walk and explore, but instead of trusting them to be able to learn how to trust their own body, we keep telling them how to do it. We keep on stepping in and thereby interfering in the learning curve. The more we helicopter their movements – I am not saying let them tumble down head first down a flight of stairs – the more we create a deficit in the bank of trust. There is a difference between standing close by and waiting to catch them when they fall, and providing supportive commentary like “I see your hands need a place to hold onto” and holding on to their bodies as they try to manage climbing down the stairs. In the first scenario, we trust that they will find a safe way to climb the stairs, while we show them they can trust us to catch them if they stumble or fall. But with the second scenario we hinder them learning to trust their own bodies and skills. Do they fall and get hurt, yes they do, however allowing them to fall and get hurt their brain learns how their bodies feel when off balance. They learn to trust themselves.

At certain ages we hand over specific reigns of responsibility to our children. We stop brushing their teeth and they start doing it themselves. We stop feeding them and they start feeding themselves. There is still a learning curve involved here. Yes, you have been brushing your child’s teeth for 2 years, we would hope they have learned by now how to do it properly. They did not! They learn through doing. For the next two to three years, brush teeth side by side, prompting the next place or step in the routine. Eventually, you will brush side by side and you will see them brushing every tooth the way they learned how to. Now you can slowly extract yourself from their tooth brushing process. You remind them that it is time to brush teeth and send them off to do so. How do you know if they did it? Initially you can walk with them to the bathroom and see them off at the sink. Over time, you see them off at the door and finally you reach the point where you don’t walk with them. It is a gradual process and you can follow your child’s lead, they will show you and tell you to let them be, when they are ready. Never ask them to show you if they brushed their teeth. You will soon enough discover if they did not. That goodbye hug or kiss will tell you if they did not. Don’t scold them when you smell the stinky breath. Just hug and whisper, “I can smell your teeth are not brushed, quickly go and do it please.” and leave it there. If there is no time or the situation does not allow for going back and brushing, when they are younger than 8, have some breath freshener with you, just to help them out until there is time to brush teeth. If they are older, natural consequences is the way to go.

Brushing teeth is just a small example of how to maintain and build on the trust relationship. We need to apply this to all things they do, learn and have a responsibility for.

Steps for checking whilst keeping the trust relationship in the positive:

1 – Do it for the child

2 – Let the child do it with you

3 – Slowly step aside and give them space to do it on their own

4 – Be their back up, remember they are still learning this thing called responsibility – You are always a team

5 – Ask if they did what they needed to do, believe their answers

6 – If they did not do what they needed to do, and it isn’t life threatening, let them live out the consequences of their actions

7 – NEVER SAY – Let me check.

8 – If they have not taken proper responsibility for something go back one step and support them without condemnation i.e. let’s brush our teeth together today. That way you give them support without stating that you don’t trust them.

There is no incentive for a child to be honest if we constantly check up on them after they have stated that they have completed a task. There is only incentive for honesty if they get positive reinforcement and support when they make mistakes. Protecting our children from the consequences of their choices and actions while they are still learning responsibility, teaches them nothing. Punishing them for not doing what they said they did, will just increase the likelihood that they will rather do it behind our backs and develop better skills at being sneaky.

You can have a conversation about honesty and trust with your child. Have these conversations when you are calm and not angry. You can say things like “I am feeling disappointed that you did not brush your teeth like you said you did. Honesty and trust is important for us to be able to function as a family. I want to be able to trust you. So let us find a solution together to get your teeth brushed in the morning.”

This invites your child into a conversation and it will be a clear indicator of whether you have thrust a responsibility onto your child, before they were ready to bear it. Remember, each child is different and even though there are all these guidelines of at what age a child ‘should’ be able to take proper responsibility for a task, not every child will be ready at that age and your child is not failing if they need support for a little bit longer than others.

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Raising respectful children does not mean what you think it means

Respect. What a difficult word to narrow down. We know what we believe it looks like, but what does it mean when we bring the word respect into the conversation with children.

We have so many cultural and societal teachings that revolve around respect. Respect is good, and we should teach it to our children, however, we need to narrow our understanding of respect and how we teach it. Respect is treating someone with dignity. The dictionary defines respect as follows:

Cambridge definition

A – Politeness, honour, and care shown towards someone or something that is considered important: You should treat your parents with more respect. / They have no respect for other people’s property.

B – A feeling that something is right or important and you should not attempt to change it or harm it: In their senseless killing of innocent people, the terrorists have shown their lack of respect for human life. / They did not have respect for the law.

C – The feeling you show when you accept that different customs or cultures are different from your own and behave towards them in a way that would not cause offence: They teach students to have respect for different races and appreciate diversity of other cultures

D – Formal respect: polite and formal greetings

Looking at the above, respect in a nutshell is how we treat each other and ourselves. In society today there are other ideologies connected to respect that are damaging to society as a whole. These ideologies balance on the tightrope of expectations, acceptance and power.

For the sake of this discussion, we will be breaking the concept of respect up into three categories

1 – Authoritarian respect

2 – Natural respect

3 – Earned respect

Authoritarian respect

This is an ideology of what “respect” is that isn’t really respect. It is the enforcement of authority that silences the voices of people and children. Authoritarian respect is the idea that when someone is older or in a position of authority (whether given, gained or culturally enforced), they have respect and they are not allowed to be questioned or challenged. Their word is law and even when they are in the wrong, it is disrespectful to point it out to them. You have to do what they say or suffer some form of punishment. Authoritarian respect is fear mongering disguised as a position of importance and power.

Natural respect

Natural respect is a cultivated intuitive respect for people’s needs and ideas. The ability to recognise that each person is different and needs to be accommodated and supported. The best example will be seeing an older person who is frail and cannot stand very long and offering up your seat if you are able to stand for longer. It is respecting a child’s body as their own and not expecting them to hug or kiss people they do not want to. It is understanding that some people have invisible disabilities and creating space and accommodating their needs. It is accepting and including people into your community without judgement.

Earned respect

This is respect that is given to someone, based on their behaviour and knowledge. Earned respect can be challenged and questioned. It also falls within selected categories. We can respect someone’s knowledge, without respecting their actions. We can respect someone’s role in society, but we don’t have to respect or agree with their world views. For example I can respect that someone is a president of the country (thus respecting their position) but I do not have to respect their actions.

Authoritarian respect is usually the form of respect expected from children towards society. They have to obey and not question. They have to do on demand and they may not have any opinions of their own. They always have to speak in respectful tones of voice and never disagree. They have to allow people in authority (all people older than them) to do as they please and they have to keep those in authority happy. We often see it when an older person complains about not getting a hug when they want one, or when a parent complains about back chatting. We see it when people grumble about the “children of today”, what is it they are grumbling about? A child is dared not to toe the line or stand up for themselves. They demand that a child give up their seat, assuming that they have the right to that seat, just because they are older than the child. We see it daily when people grumble that a crying child is disrespectful to the people around them, because the child is audibly expressing their needs and upset. We see it in the narrative regarding breastfeeding in public. Authoritative respect demands that their needs and authority is of a higher order than anyone else’s.

Natural and earned respect is more inclusive. By practicing, guiding and teaching our children this type of respect, respect becomes internalised and easier to manage. I want my children to respect people, but I want them to respect all people as whole human beings. I want them to understand that age does not equal respect, that one can and should always ask questions even when you respect someone. I want them to learn how to question respectfully. I want them to learn that trusting their voice does not equal being disrespectful, but that the way they use their voice must be respectful. I want them to learn that in society respect is a two way street and that sometimes doing the right thing may be viewed as disrespectful and that is okay. I want them to value being questioned without them feeling that they have ever earned the right not to be questioned.

How do we teach our children Natural and Earned respect?

1 – Respecting their voice. Listen to them, not with an ear of correction, but an ear of engagement.

2 – Respecting their body. It is theirs, they get to decide what they do with it. They should be able to say no and stop, regardless of the situation.

3 – Discuss with them the challenges some people may face. Think in the lines of differently abled people, younger people and older people and racial disparities of the past and the here and now.

4 – Teach them how to question and disagree – This is why back chatting is so important. Read our blog on this. here

5 – Teach them to take care of their belongings and respect others belongings.

6 – Treat them with the same respect you want them to treat you. Kids always mirror the way we behave. This is how they learn. If we treat them like robots and not whole human beings, then we should not be surprised if they treat us the same way.

7 – Model respect to others. The way you treat the others, will be the way your child learns to treat others.

Throughout life we all face the challenge of having to disagree with someone who is older, or in a position more senior than us. We all face the challenge of having to engage someone in a position of knowledgeable authority, we struggle to do so, because we were raised to view fear as respect. Let us not make that our children’s legacy.

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One of those awkward parenting conversations

Often parents make the statement “It is my child, and I am the parent.” The heart of the statement is that it is meant in love and responsibility.

Unfortunately, in the majority of the time the statement is made in context of ownership and control. We may be the parents of our children, but they are not our property.

We don’t even realise we view our kids that way. That view has subtle ways of showing itself. When our children insists on doing things their way, or when they do their job as a child by pushing a boundary. It awkwardly steps into the conversation of discipline when laws are put into place to protect children from harm. The most common way it steps into the conversation is when we step into a power struggle with our kids.

If we as parents have to enforce the idea that we are the adults and in control to our kids, we have already lost our authority.

Children are whole human beings who does not need to be controlled, or shown who is the person in control. Parenting becomes increasingly more difficult if the aim is to control the child and their behaviour. Seeing a child as a human being needing guidance first and foremost, will eliminate the need to control their actions.

TO learn more about this join us in Course 1, click on the web link below for more information and the dates when our next course will start.
http://www.c3parenting.com/courses-and-workshops/

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