5 Questions for Mindfully Parenting Independent Children
The day that you create a life or welcome a child as your own, you take birth as a Mother, a Father, and a Nurturer and gradually the bond that was created in the womb develops and matures to last a lifetime. Our lives henceforth become a journey of growth – through the tender warmth of love, the exhausting sleepless nights, the success of achieving milestones, and the joy of experiencing all the firsts.
It is not to be denied that while parenting is an exciting journey, it can present with challenging situations and scenarios. As part of their emotional and physical development children start exploring their motor skills, pushing boundaries to test how far they can go, and start to gain greater independence in mind, body, and spirit which initiates what are commonly known as “power struggles” between parents and children.
According to the Positive Parenting website, “power struggles often feel like someone has to win and someone has to lose… a win-win situation is one in which both parties feel that they got what they wanted”.
Power struggles that leave residual feelings of bitterness, anger, resentment, and failure (to exercise independence) in children (and authority in parents) may introduce dynamics of emotional estrangement in the parent-child relationship. More often than not, power struggles leave the parental unit feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and drained.
With that being said, let us not defy the significance of power struggles as an essential part of the personality development of a child. When we as parents start seeing power struggles as opportunities for our children’s progress towards independence and their attempts at exploration of their individuality that is when we can utilize the power struggles towards the benefit of our children and the strengthening of our bond with them.
While understanding and acknowledging the importance of power struggles it is essential to navigate through them in a balanced manner. Power struggles should not have to lead to “giving in” each time your child demands his or her way. Absence of parental/caregiver authority can leave a child bereft of the structure, control, and predictability that his or her life needs.
Hence, choose your power struggles. And choose them wisely! Here are a few questions that we as parents and caregivers can ask ourselves as part of being mindfully available to our child during his or her attempts to exercise independence.
- Does my child really want to be defiant towards me or is he trying to exercise his newly found skills? (Look for the underlying reasons for your child’s behavior- is your child cranky, tired, or going through negative experiences in social settings like child care, etc.)
- Is what my child demanding worth a power struggle? aka Do I really need to engage in this power struggle right now?
- Is there an alternative way to resolve this situation?
- Is this power struggle going to hurt my child vs is my child going to gain a positive experience out of it?
- Am I really losing control if I give a chance to my child to exercise his independence right now?
As part of mindful parenting, it becomes essential for us as caregivers to understand and be consciously aware that our children feel and experience all the emotions that we do while in a power struggle and may have fewer or unpracticed skills to cope with the unsettling feelings that come along with confronting an authority figure.
Children can hugely benefit from empathy from their parents and caregivers, especially in their moments of distress. So, hug your children, help them identify what they feel, teach them to take ownership of their feelings and to acknowledge positive and negative experiences – their own and that of others. This will be a great lesson learned and exercised by them as they grow to identify that their thoughts, abilities, and opinions matter as do those of people around them.