7 Powerful Shifts Towards Respectful Parenting

Parenting respectfully requires more than a change in action, it is about assessing our motivations and assumptions. For me, it has always been far less about the practical things that we do and far more about the ideals that are driving those choices.

Most of us appreciate that wanting to be respectful is not going to be enough to make it a reality but even choosing respectful actions can fall short; what we do is easily corrupted by why we are doing it.

If you’re still trying to pursue respect from a conventional perspective then it isn’t going to translate. And if you’re trying to pursue respect as a technique to generate a particular outcome then that isn’t respect, it’s manipulation.

If you’re wanting to actually be respectful towards your children then you don’t need to follow a to-do list, you need to process towards understanding these perspective shifts;

Children are people

This one may seem too obvious; don’t we all know that children are people? But there are many ways in which mainstream culture denies children their personhood. One is the idea that children are adults in training, another is that children are an extension of ourselves. When we see children as our project or as our accessories, then we stop seeing them and we start seeing them through the lens of the expectations they must meet to suit our needs. Having an agenda of who we need a child to be because we see them as reflection of us will always create conflict with who they are. And not seeing our child as a complete human, allows us to justify treatment of them that is dehumanising.

Children are less developed and less mature than adults, making them naturally dependent. But being dependent does not equate to being subordinate… Children are people in their own right, with their own minds and bodies, deserving of equality and respect. — We Need to Talk About Childism; Happiness is here

Autonomy is a human right

Autonomy is the right to make decisions relating to ones time, body, mind and property. Everybody deserves agency of their own existence; after all, you only get one! Everybody has a finite amount of time and energy and should be the one responsible for spending it. Autonomy is not something somebody needs to earn by way of proving their capability or needs to pay for by meeting somebody else’s expectations. Autonomy exists for each human as standard. Autonomy is not conditional, it is not dependent on how it is used.

It is not within my scope to let my children do anything as long as it doesn’t infringe on another person’s ability to live autonomously too — I’m Not a “Permissive” Parent

Behaviour is communication

The things that we say and do provide insight about how we are thinking and feeling; not about our acceptability or the core of who we are as a person. How conventional parenting invites us to react to behaviour does not honour this reality. Instead it indicates very clearly that certain behaviour makes us unworthy and deserving of the withdrawal of our rights and certain behaviour makes us more worthy and deserving of being gifted our rights as privileges. Whilst the choices we make can be hurtful, it does not mean that we are hurtful and appreciating this helps us approach a person from a place of connection rather than correction.

When the focus becomes what is driving the behaviour, rather than the behaviour itself, that’s where connection begins. — ‘Misbehaviour’ should be a signal, not an offence; Racheous

Feelings are valid

The things that we feel are always valid and not up for debate nor deserving of judgement. This does not mean that every way in which we respond to our feelings is reasonable but what one needs in these moments is acknowledgement and support to find ways to process their feelings that do not harm themselves or others, not ways to stop feeling the things that they are feeling. All feelings are welcome and all feelings are felt until the person feeling them is satisfied (which is true even when we are successful in shutting down a person’s external expression of them).

Just because a child’s feelings may seem trivial to someone with greater life experience, that does not make them any less valid for the person experiencing it. — What if Tantrums Don’t Actually Exist; Happiness is here

Your default reaction is information

Your initial pull to react to your child’s behaviour and/or emotions is information about you and your triggers, not your child. It could indicate that you have unresolved feelings of your own that require processing, it could mean that you have fears that you have not acknowledged, it could mean that you have shame that you wish to protect yourself from (unfortunately often through projecting it towards somebody else), it could simply be insight into your own values and priorities which are not always in alignment with our children. Before acting upon our impulse, one should explore critically where it originates and the motivations driving it so that we can act with intention, rather than react with the shadow of our own unhealed hurts.

You’re NOT having a reaction because your child is behaving a certain way. You’re having a reaction because of what that behaviour means to you and that is triggered from your own past experiences! — Parenting Respectfully When Triggered; Racheous

Everybody’s needs can be met, concurrently

Conventional parenting focuses on enforcing the distribution of what people do and don’t “deserve” but needs are not in competition with each other. Meeting our children’s needs does not need to come at the expense of our own or of their siblings or of people within the wider community. All of our needs deserve to be fulfilled and can be. When we look at meeting needs as an act of honouring each individual, rather than a division of a limited allowance then we are open to collaborative resolutions.

We aren’t working towards a universally correct outcome but towards a solution that works for the people involved. You do not need to think it is fair or right, the people involved need to feel content with the resolution. It isn’t about meeting objective expectations, it is about meeting subjective needs. — Navigating Sibling Disagreements

This moment is now

What happens in this moment is not a life sentence. We make our most intentional decisions when we focus on what is necessary in the present, based on the people right in front of us today; not what was most convenient about the past or what we fear of the future. When we recognise that this moment we have with our children is the only reality that actually exists, we begin to appreciate it in a completely new light.

It is incredible how powerful it is when we shift from enduring a moment with someone to choosing one with them. — When Parenting Feels Hard

Ultimately respectfully parenting is about meeting our children from a place of equality, it is about living alongside our children and that requires seeing them; not our hurt, not our fears, not against the yardstick of society’s expectations, not as a reflection of us and not as their behaviour. When we can detach these barriers from our perspective, we can begin to intuitively feel what actions will contribute to our connection. The how flows from appreciating the why.

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  1. I am trying hard to ‘do’ it this way with my son (2,5). But I can’t help that sometimes I become so angry and yell at him. In situations where he does something I really don’t want to and he doesn’t react when I explain that. Afterwards I feel sorry and I apologise to him. But I should want to know how I can act more respectfull, even in challenging situations like this. Do you have advice?

    1. I would look at each instance separately rather than how to stop being angry and yelling, what does my anger indicate I’m needing in this moment? What is it specifically triggering me and how can I resolve that without yelling? And sometimes if you can’t change the circumstances, you can help yourself through reality with some self-empathy “I’m finding this really hard, this is frustrating me, I feel overwhelmed” and just acknowledge those feelings ❤️

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