Over the years we have often talked about the key ingredients of therapeutic parenting. During this time of COVID-19, when the usual social supports are largely absent, and you are contending with completely new home routines, caring for a child with an attachment disorder may feel especially challenging
With that in mind, it seems more important than ever, to go back to the basics of how we can create healthy and healing relationships with our children, despite all the stressors of living in a pandemic.
The 10 Cs of Loving Leadership, which are parenting practices that blend compassionate care, appropriate structure and mutual respect to help address a child’s unique needs. At the root of these practices is accepting that you cannot control your child’s behavior or demand your child’s obedience through the use of physical or psychological coercion or force. Discipline is not just about responding to “bad” behavior. It’s about encouraging your child’s total development–mind, body, emotions, relationships and values. And, it depends on building the right relationship with your child.
Practice your Cs
The 10 Cs provide guidelines for fostering the kind of relationship that will support effective discipline and lead to positive change:
Connecting with children involves empathy, support, nurturance, structure, and love. The ability to form and maintain positive connections is essential for healthy childhood development. Parents who successfully connect with their children are emotionally available, actively involved in their lives, and model respect and compassion. Children are most influenced by those with whom they feel the deepest respect and strongest connections.
To be calm is synonymous with being levelheaded, peaceful, patient, and composed. The only effective way to positively influence children is to gain their trust, and a calm and consistent approach works best. Parents can teach children to be calm by providing an example of calmness, which reduces the “alarm reaction” (fight, flight, freeze), and allows them to feel safe and secure enough to trust, think rationally and learn.
Commitment is a promise and a pledge to be available to a child through thick and thin; a moral obligation to take certain actions and respond in certain ways, which leads to safety, security and trust. Parents must commit to the following: keeping their child safe; truly knowing their child; providing appropriate structure; having compassion for their child; being a positive role model; and supporting their child’s growth and development.
Consistent and appropriate structure—rules, limits, boundaries and consequences—enables children to depend on a reliable caregiver, whom they begin to respect and then trust. Providing structure engenders feelings of safety and security in children, anchoring them for the rest of their lives.
To communicate is to connect. Sensitive and attuned communication creates the conditions in which a child is more likely to confide and connect. Realizing that so much of communication is nonverbal (eyes, facial expressions, tone of voice, touch), a parent’s style of delivery is often more important than the words. Messages register in the emotional region of the child’s brain (limbic system) and affect learning, trust, stress response, memory, and development.
CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES
One of the most important jobs as a parent is to prepare children for the real world. To accomplish this, children must learn to accept and learn from the consequences of their choices. This leads to the development of responsibility, accountability and maturity. There is a difference between consequences and punishment. The goal in giving a consequence is to teach a lesson, not to cause suffering. This encourages a child’s self-examination, acceptance of responsibility for actions, and the ability to learn from mistakes.
Confident parents have trust in what they are doing to help their children. Children feel safe with confident parents, whom they view as capable and dependable. Parents need information, skills, support, self-awareness, and hope to develop confidence. Learning constructive parenting skills leads to success, and success builds confidence.
Children need opportunities to learn about the give and take of relationships, including cooperation, empathy and reciprocity. Parents who are attuned to the feelings, needs and mindsets of their children are more likely to have children who are motivated to cooperate. Parents must model cooperative attitudes and behaviors with children, spouse, extended kin, friends, and others. Children learn by watching what we do, not what we say.
Creativity – using imagination to bring something new into existence – is the language of childhood. It is also an important approach in parenting. If something doesn’t work, be flexible and use your imagination to try something different, not more of the same. Being creative interrupts negative patterns and leads to positive change.
A coach is a mentor who guides, teaches, supports, motivates and inspires positive values and characteristics in children. Parents are role models and coaches and set an example of who to be and how to behave. Children learn more from modeling than by any other way. Coaches teach life skills, including self -awareness, self-control, conflict resolution, communication, and cooperation. Coaches encourage the development of positive traits such as tolerance, integrity and perseverance. We all need coaches.