Kind and Firm Parenting

By Carol Dores

I remember when our kids were young, giving in to their begging.  We both worked more than full time outside the home, so I often felt guilty about not spending enough time with them.  When they would want things, I would give in. When they misbehaved, I would yell, threaten, and never follow through. “Wait till your father gets home” was often used when I was really fed up.  I’ll never forget when I threatened our younger son, and the older son said, “don’t worry. She will never do that.” I realized just how much of a pushover parent I was. When I got tired of being a doormat, I would get strict, and try to punish our children.  Then, when I couldn’t stand myself anymore, I’d go back to giving in?

Sound familiar? So many of us do the too kind – too firm dance.  While we are trying to do our best, we end up confusing our children.  They often don’t know what to expect. And, neither permissive parenting nor authoritarian parenting is best for our children.

Being kind and firm at the same time is the loving structure that can help children thrive.  Begin by validating feelings and/or showing understanding. Offer a choice when possible. Here are some examples:

“I know you want to play videogames, AND it is time for homework.  Do you want to turn it off or should I?”

“I understand you don’t want to brush your teeth, AND we can do it together.”

“It seems like you want to continue playing, AND it is time for bed.  Do you want to pick out the story, or would you like me to? You choose.”

At the beginning, it may feel uncomfortable or forced to say things this way.  Once you get in to the habit of kind and firm parenting, it becomes more natural.  

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