The Galway Parent Network promotes respectful parenting.
This means that we see children as human beings who happen to be young and who need our guidance, support and example to figure out how to operate in the world we live in. Much parenting information and support is focussed on behaviour management, which is about how to get your child to do what you want them to do, using many techniques such as behaviour charts, punishments, consequences, rewards, time outs, removal of items and privileges and ignoring. None of these are part of respectful parenting.
Respectful parenting, at is simplest, is based on two simple ideas. One is asking: Why? It’s asking why a child won’t put on their shoes, why won’t he go to bed, why is she refusing to go to school. Asking ‘why’, being curious, leads us to empathy. Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to see what things look like from their perspective, and is essential for all good relationships.
Then the other part of respectful parenting is connecting. You and your child are always on the same team in this journey of helping them grow up into the amazing people they already are. Connecting is using your behaviour, whether through words, touch, eye contact, sounds, or silence, to let your child know you are there with them. With them, beside them, a team. View the source of conflict as the problem that you are both going to work together to solve.
Here’s a simple example.
My five year old son had a tantrum before school today. If I focussed on behaviour management I could have bribed or rewarded him for going, taken something from him if he wouldn’t go, lifted him and put him in the car and strap him in using my superior power, get someone else to deal with it, let him miss school, or other more severe options that parent programmes don’t recommend but many parents do, such as yell at him or smack him. However what respectful parenting teaches me is to stay calm myself (yes easier said than done I know) and try to figure out why he was distraught. I recalled a conversation yesterday when he thought yesterday was Friday, so he though he didn’t have school today. He is struggling with school right now due to a few things, so I know today feels like having to go to school on a Saturday for him. So instead of trying to out power him, I respected him and connected with him. I sat beside him, allowed him to have his strong feelings and heard him in his distress – because tantrums are distress. Then I said – “hey those are pretty big feelings, what’s going on?” I suggested it was tough remembering there was school today when he thought there wasn’t any. He agreed. There was no magic wand. Once he felt cared about and heard, he calmed down. I asked if he wanted me to help him get dressed and he said no, so he got dressed himself and only slightly later than normal he was downstairs for breakfast.
Yes, it took time. But once that tantrum happened, I was going to spend time resolving it. I could resolve it with behaviour management, which takes time, or respect, which also takes time.
Even if you find a ‘quick’ solution, such as a smack – or a threat of one – you are more likely to spend the time later dealing with problems as a result. As a result of hitting or threatening behaviour by you towards your children you can end up with children who see hitting as a solution, children who are vulnerable to threats from more powerful people such as bullies, or children who see relationships with those of less status than themselves as relationships of control and coercion. You may have heard the phrase “many children’s first bully is their parent”. Bullying, the use of greater perceived or actual power over another person to control or get what you want from them, is at the heart of behaviour management based parenting.
Respectful parenting teaches children the life skills I want my children to develop, like problem solving skills, emotional regulation, decision making, self advocacy, patience, calmness during conflict, kindness, and many others.
Below is a list of excellent resources with ideas and information about parenting children with respect.