Battling with your kids? Nicole Telfer, our parenting coach and the founder of EmpoweredKidsTV is sharing some of her tips with you. She has picked three core skills for any parent either wishing to stop a recurring conflict or simply to further improve their already good relationship with their children. Pen and paper everyone, this is going to be helpful!
We all hold our babies for the first time, thinking of the love we have and will develop for this tiny beautiful being of perfection. Our goal is to love unconditionally and spend our days filled with postcard moments filled with joy and laughter.
Few first-time parents understand the extent to the exhaustion, the irritability that comes with lack of sleep and the feeling of being lost, as we spend every waking moment taking care of someone else’s needs, most of the time to the sacrifice of our own. Yet, we power through, still determine to love above all else.
As our kids move from babyhood to toddlerhood, we seem to enter a world where our emotions are no longer our own to control. In one instant your heart can feel like it’s about to burst open from all the love and then as if from nowhere, you feel the urge to rip your hair out in disbelief at the behaviour of your toddler.
It is from this phase that the tone of a family is set. How will you deal with behaviour when it conflicts with your desires, with your own values? How will you manage disagreements and work out differences of opinions? How will you respond when your children cross the boundaries that you have mentally set? While we can label this phase as the terrible twos, in the hope it goes away quickly, it is the phase the begins to define the dynamic of our parent-child relationship for years to come.
After 10 years of studying successful families, family coaching and counselling there are 3 core skills that once mastered can support any family to not only succeed but to thrive. What’s best is that you can begin to adopt these from where you are now and make the changes you need in your family.
The first of the power skills is your ability as individuals, as well as a family to connect. Let’s get clear about what connection is, as this term is quickly becoming a buzzword, stripped of its original meaning. To connect means to unite or to bind together. When I refer to mastering the skill of connection, I’m referring to your ability to unite your conscious mind to your soul or your inner being. Without getting religious or spiritual (I have no intention of telling anyone what they should believe here) connecting with yourself is about understanding that there is a peak state version of you that has an opinion and a perspective about everything. When you bring your present conscious mind in alignment with that version of yourself you are connected. This is when you feel most at peace, most certain and enthusiastic for life. You’re playful and joyous and time seems to stop. Can you remember any of those moments? You were connected to yourself then.
The same is true for you and your kids. When you connect with your kids you are united, bound together, sharing the same energy of love and joy.
This skill is a must for parents to master if they are to be great at influencing (not controlling or coercing) their kids throughout all the phases of life. While control tactics of an old parenting paradigm may seem to work to elicit short-term compliance, it erodes your ability to influence further and leaves your kids without the guidance they need. As they move through preteen and teen years, your control will be less effective.
Like newly hatched leatherback turtles, moving through the sand to the sea in just seconds after birth on their survival instinct, our kids were given the instinct to help them stay safe, it is called counter-will. Without the deep feeling of connection that should accompany the parent-child relationship the child’s counter-will is activated, and they do the opposite of what they are told. This ensures that they remain safe and only follow adults to which they are attached. The trouble is we’ve lost the ability to create and maintain the deep connects needed within the parent-child relationship and along with it, the ability to influence our kids from toddlers to teens.
Learning how to master the skill of connecting with yourself and your kids is the first critical step to a thriving family.
To support great connection, successful families also learn how to master their emotions. Once you realise and accept that all your emotions are a product of your thoughts your ability to connect shifts dramatically. This is challenging for many people because we were raised by parents that told us they were angry, happy or proud based on our actions. We internalised that the source of our emotions lies external to us. Breaking this myth will give you a sense of freedom like no other.
You then realise that your emotions, all of them, make up a guidance system that is always showing how far or close you are to your peak state. You can begin to use your emotions to help you connect with yourself and with others. Your emotions were never meant to consume your life or control you. Far from it, it’s a tool to help you live life at your best. At peak state you have access to greater clarity, greater creativity, your problem-solving skills are filled with the power of intuition and insight. From here, your actions and responses are fuelled by love and joy.
This second skill, mastering emotions, is two-fold. You’ll learn that to master your emotions really means to master your thoughts as they govern how you use your emotions.
Families that master this area understand how to get control of their own emotions and use their peak state to influence the peak state of each other. These are not families that are always happy (they don’t exist) but rather, these are families that know that if they give of their best selves, together they can overcome any challenge.
The third skill to master is negotiating. Many of us never learned how to communicate effectively or how to negotiate. As with most life skills, we simply do what we saw at home when we were growing up. For many communication, training meant learning how to create win-win situations or getting to a yes.
Win-Win and a “yes for you” approach, doesn’t support peak state within a family. Win-win is mediocre at best because it trains the brain to think of winning over the other while giving up some of what do you want. Great communication is based on the knowledge that every individual, no matter their age, has two primitive needs, the need to be heard and the need to be in control of themselves.
Whether you are negotiating with a toddle to get up off the supermarket floor or with a teen about the curfew, your influence within an environment of connection will be maintained by your ability communicate like a master negotiator. When you can listen until the other person feels totally understood and validated, when they turn to you and yes that’s it, that’s right, you’ve earned the access to influence.
Many parents attempt to give well-meaning guidance to their kids without first connecting and then without listening for the “that’s right”. In the process, they lose the opportunity to influence and guide their kids when they need it most. This is why so many of us still rely on punishment and imposed consequences. Without the ability to naturally influence our kids we feel like the only other option is to control them. Control comes with its limits and a whole host of lifelong impacts that our kids will need to recover from.
If you want to give your kids the best life possible (and I know you do) focus less on the things you can give them and more on the skills, you can help them, master. Mastering their ability to connect, to control their emotions and their ability to negotiate will ensure they have the ability to face every life challenge and thrive. Do this together and you will turn your family into an unstoppable team.