“What counts is not just that we believe we love them unconditionally, but that they feel loved in that way.” ~ Alfie Kohn
“The model of parenting most of us grew up with was authoritarian parenting, which is based on fear. Some of us may have grown up with permissive parenting, which is also based on fear. Authoritarian parenting is based on the child’s fear of losing the parent’s love. Permissive parenting is based on the parent’s fear of losing the child’s love. Connection parenting is based on love instead of fear.” ~ Pam Leo
I realize that this isn’t a parenting blog, but I have had some huge parenting realizations in the past couple of weeks and they’ve led to a significant change in my view of myself, of my daughter, of my role as a mother, and even in my levels of patience and energy. I had to share. Please don’t feel at all judged or threatened if you disagree with me.
My daughter’s intense separation anxiety has returned after leaving for a few months. It’s apparent during the day but we see it most with bedtime’s necessary separation and then those middle-of-the-night wake-ups that turn into hours of struggle for all three of us. But that’s neither here nor there. What I have learned is about parenting the whole child; about addressing the underlying issues rather than the behavior.
I have never believed in time-outs and I’ve always been gentle and respectful with my sweet girl. She has natural consequences, of course, for certain actions that are not acceptable. However, since learning more about unconditional parenting, I’ve learned that positive reinforcement (practically my middle name) can be just as detrimental as punishment because they’re both about short-term control of our kids. I don’t want my daughter to think she has to earn my love or my approval. I want her to know that I love her every moment and for always.
What replaces both discipline techniques is attention. Awareness. Presence. That is what my daughter wants and needs and that’s what I’ve been giving her these past couple of weeks. It has helped me see her as a whole person and learn more about her reasons and fears behind her behavior. It has allowed us to talk more about why certain undesirable behaviors are not accepted. And this is huge… I am able to be authentic in my relationship with her.
I hope that I’m on a path that will help my daughter become intrinsically motivated to be her own person. It has already helped encourage her to play more by herself, which allows me to do more things around the house. I can see that she is becoming empathetic… as much as a 3-year-old can. I have become much less controlling (which I am actually enjoying… whew) with my daughter and a lot more permissive and forgiving with myself (hallelujah!). For once, I’m not too worried about my to-do list.
Most amazingly, I don’t see her as I sometimes did before… as wonderful but also an interruption of what I’d rather be doing, of the cause of my exhaustion and frustration. I see her as a gift. I miss her when we are apart and I enjoy her when we’re together. That’s a huge difference.