Let's be real- sometimes the hardest part of parenting is your co-parent. When you're working with the Positive Parenthood approach, it can be challenging to have one parent totally on board with a positive, gentle approach when the other just isn't. And many of you have been asking....in this situation, what do I do?
If this is your experience, we encourage you to sign up for our free online workshop Parenting Together with Dr. Robin Hauge and Dr. Chelsey Hauge on Friday, January 17th at 8pm PST. We'll be sharing some resources for slowly bringing your partner on board and discussing the best tools to experiment with. There will be a replay available through the weekend for those of you who can't make it, but it's so much better to be able to be there and ask questions and participate int he conversation. You can sign up here (limited seats so we can do Q&A)- and for now, read on!
First of all, we acknowledge how hard it can be to use a relationship based approach without your partner's support, and that a completely different approach may undermine your efforts or confuse your children. For many parents who face big challenges or are raising really tricky, defiant, or creatively challenging children, it can be hard to believe that being more gentle and positive and kind is going to actually get children to cooperate. Often, we have very skeptical parents who have come through our courses move towards relationship based parenting, and we work with them until they come to understand and more than understand, feel how this approach works. Most of them use intuitively by the end of our work together, often because they're able to connect with a deeper part of themselves. We've put together this list of tips and tricks for working with someone wherever they are in their parenting journey, and supporting them to make even the smallest shifts towards a relationship-based approach.
1. Meet them wherever they are. It can be challenging to meet your partner where they are, especially if you want them to be parenting your child in a different way. Try to empathize with where they are coming from, and know that people can only make shifts when they are truly ready to make the shift. In our work with parents, we often highlight the importance of joining a child in their activity and feelings if they are upset, and before requesting an action or moving through a transition.
2. Praise & notice small shifts. The very first parenting tool we teach is praise. Praise works wonders to guide children towards cooperation, but it also works for grown-ups. Let's be honest- we are all human beings and all of us need a little extra love. We need to be noticed. We need our spouses to witness what we are doing, and it's meaningful to know that someone else knows and is witnessing us. At times, parents tell us that their child has such a hard time that they have nothing to praise, and we typically counter with "praise the shards." Shards are the itty bitty moments that are going well: the one second of waiting before the child melts down or a single step towards the shoe basket after being asked to get ready to go. Likewise, when you catch your co-parent doing something sweet, praise that thing! We are trying to build towards more of the things that are already working well. And if you must, find the shards. However I caution you, you must be authentic, or this will backfire gigantically. Be real. Be sweet. Be kind. Be authentic.
3. Agree to experiment with a single tool for a determined period of time. Keep your own mind open- this may be a tool that works and you may need to try something different. Decide to apply the tool to a behavior, routine, or moment that is just a wee bit challenging (as in, pick getting ready to go to the park which is sometimes slightly chaotic and could go better instead of something during your kids' witching hour. When you're selecting what you'd like to go better, stay away from hot button issues- for your child and for the parents. During our free workshop Parenting Together, we will discuss our top pick for the first tool to experiment with- Positive Opposites. Most skeptics like a good, research based, easy to to implement tool that yields success pretty fast- Positive Opposites checks all those boxes. But whatever you pick, remember to be playful with it and keep things light. Want to join us for that workshop on January 17, 2020? Sign up here to save your spot!
4. Sit down and define family values. Just like we might sit down and write out annual or quarterly goals at work, it's good to get clear on what you as a family believe, how you want your children to grow up, and what the related parenting techniques you want to employ are. We like to do this by brainstorming, with the question "What is the most important thing we want to nurture in our children?" written on a poster. Then we turn on some good music and each of us takes a couple of minutes to answer the question on post-its. We put one answer per post it, and stick it on the poster. When you're done, organize the post-its and try to synthesize. Do you agree? How can you mesh the things that are most important to you together? Once you've done this, see if you can come up with a statement about your parenting values, or a list of values, that feels representative and true to you both. As you shift things in your parenting, come back to this statement or list- we'd encourage you to put it on your fridge!
5. It is true that there are many ways to parent. This is only one. If a parent is struggling or pushing back on positive, relationship based approaches, it might be time to inquire whether what the parent is already doing is working for them. If it is working, there's really no reason to make a shift. For example, for a long time it worked for my children to all sleep in my bed. But as they grew, they started waking me a lot and my 2.5 year old started sleeping on my belly and waking up to trace tiny circles with her finger on my skin. It had worked for a long time, but now I wasn't getting enough sleep- it was time for a change. When I asked myself the question "is it working?" the answer was no. Typically, when skeptical parents argue that this approach is too hard, too much, or not going to work.... what we say is... "OK. Is what you're doing working?" Invariably, it is not. And so we quietly wonder together, by joining the parent in their frustration, what we might do differently?