I often say that one of Greenhouse’s greatest characteristics is its community. While we individually bring a host of diverse backgrounds and experiences to the table, collectively, we share similar values around young children, education and family. Again, this was made crystal clear to me on January 27, when over 60 parents attended Janet Lansbury’s parenting workshop, “A Respectful Approach to Bonding Through Discipline.” On this night, we had the rare opportunity to gather as a community of parents; I was moved by your honesty, openness and willingness to share your struggles with each other.
Janet offered many ideas and suggestions that could aid us as we navigate this parenting journey. Her blog offers even more, concise and helpful advice. Here are some of my take-aways from her talk, as well as links to a few of my favorite blog posts (including the super hero post!) of Janet’s that further illustrate her ideas.
Building a Relationship As we go about parenting, what is our goal? What is the long game? Why are we doing this incredibly difficult job? In every interaction, in every day, we are building a relationship with our child. We are also the model on which they will build every other relationship in their lives.
Our Disposition Our kids need us (and want us!) to be in charge. When they have too much power or too much control it can be very unsettling for them. Be the confident leader your child is seeking. A confident leader communicates expectations with a matter of fact conviction, sets clear, reasonable, consistent limits and communicates them in a comfortable tone. Janet uses the imagery of a CEO to explain how she sees a parent’s role as a confident leader. You are not your child’s friend or peer, you are their leader; in your relationship and communication with your child, channel calm, assertive and confident energy.
Acknowledge, acceptance and hold the boundary. Young children are whole beings with complex thoughts and full emotions. In order to have a full relationship with our child, we need them to know that we can handle (even appreciate and respect) their full range of emotions. Children need to know that all feelings are ok—even the big ones, even the inconveniently timed ones. Our children’s feelings (just like our feelings!) are involuntary and belong solely to them! When we acknowledge and accept their feelings, we are acknowledging and accepting our children. And feeling seen, understood and accepted is a powerful thing!
Acknowledging your child’s feelings doesn’t mean you are being a permissive parent. You can acknowledge the feeling while still maintaining the boundary and expectation. For example, at the end of bath time, your child is refusing to get out: you say (using that CEO tone) “You don’t like when bath time is over. You really want to stay in the bath. It looks like you need my help getting out of the tub.” And you pick up your child and you remove him. Have you ever had to get out of a bath before you felt done? It is annoying, right? Our kids get the right to be annoyed at our time table. They don’t get to change or move that time table. But they get to be annoyed. And we should see it and acknowledge it for them but still continue to hold firmly (and lovingly) to the expectation. In that way, we’ve taught our child that it is perfectly acceptable for them to feel their feeling—even for them to disagree with us—and that we, as their confident leader, can handle their feelings and disagreements and still get us all to where we need to be. When we acknowledge and accept our child’s feelings, they learn that we are not nervous or unsure how to handle their emotions and that we are confident in our role. And it is very comforting and settling to our kids to know that we are in charge (even when they disagree with us!).
We are each on our own personal journey as we move through parenting our children. I hope that our evening with Janet provided some food for thought and that her blog will continue to provoke reflections and provide guidance to you on your way. As I walked out of that evening, I was left wondering what Greenhouse can further do to support you in your role as parents. Lorraine, our consulting psychologist, was the first thing that came to mind. Lorraine observes in our classrooms, talks with teachers and is also available to meet with parents. She is an invaluable source of support, information and guidance. If you would like to meet with her, please reach out to me and I will schedule a time for you to chat with her. I also would be happy to talk with you about your parenting challenges, struggles and questions. While five years ago, I might have felt more like a parenting resource than I do today (after actually having been a parent now for five years!), I am happy to share my insights as an early childhood professional with you and be a support for you as we all find our way. Greenhouse is committed to finding even more ways to support you in your role as a parent.