Welcome to the Beyond Discipline: 10 Building Blocks for Positive Parenting Series.
This is the 8th post in a series of 10 on the Building Blocks for positive parenting.
Building Block #8
Often parents are told to be consistent so that children may know what to expect. While predictability is wonderful for children, consistency sometimes turns into rigidity and control.
Flexibility on the other hand means being open to new possibilities, to viewing situations from many perspectives and proceeding in a way that is considerate to the needs of everyone involved, not just what’s best for the child or best for the parent.
It’s truly amazing what flexibility can do to the parent-child relationship!
When we are faced with behavior that is not acceptable, when our child does something we disagree with or when our child insists on doing something their way, we can dig our heels and stand firm, we can battle just to be right….OR we can step back, take a breath, gain perspective and exercise some flexibility.
Choosing to exercise flexibility in parenting does not mean giving in to our child’s every whim and desire. It’s about a give and take– like an elastic or a swing – it cannot be pulled too much in any one direction because it will Snap! But if we work together, we go much further!
Fear leads to control and frustration, flexibility can return us to a state of mindfulness and calm.
In parenting, very often we let fear take over, and fear leads to controlling anything we can. The fear and the control leads to a lot of frustration and conflict. This cycle is often based on a lack of trust in our children’s abilities, an inability to consider alternatives due to stress, auto-pilot parenting and sometimes our own refusal to be flexible.
Consistency can be naturally comforting as it gives us a sense of predictability and steadiness. The thing is, within that consistency if we build in some flexibility we gain not just that predictability, we also find peace, we calm our fears and experience enjoyment and an ability to understand and potentially meet everyone’s needs.
Why is flexibility important?
Our children are growing and changing and what they needed two weeks ago, or even two hours ago may not be the same that they need right now! If things aren’t working well, it may be time to stop, think it through and see if there is something that needs to change.
Suggesting we build flexibility into our parenting isn’t a recommendation to become permissive, but rather, to have an openness to re-evaluate decisions when things are not working well.
How can we build flexibility into every day parenting?
- Involve children in making decisions when possible.
- Inventory the current needs to make a decision based on the present moment.
- don’t get stuck on musts and should’s if something is not working don’t be afraid to change it.
- Trust children to do things for themselves, even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly or quite how you wished it would.
- Have routines for predictability not as a means to reward, punish or control.
- Plan on extra time whenever possible so that special moments don’t have to be lost or abandoned all the time.
- Ask questions and welcome cooperation instead of making demands.
- Take time to care for yourself – you can only give as much love and care to others as you have for yourself! (That’s the elastic thing again – when we give too much we SNAP!)
- Accept your child’s feelings as authentic expression, not something you must control or squash.
- Dare to do things differently, be ridiculous and cultivate laughter – this will help you relax and let go!
- Say YES when you can and say NO with kindness.
Will there be times when consistency is important? Absolutely, but being flexible does not take away your ability to be consistent. Positive parenting is flexible and amazing because you can be flexible and consistent. You can be consistently open to new ideas and re-evaluation, consistently kind, mindful and committed to parenting well!
Questions for reflection:
In which ways may you be using consistency as a crutch for control or rigidity?
How do you build flexibility into your every day routines?
Peace and Be Well,