First, I address the subject of doing what works. Some of us can continue to do things that aren’t working because we believe it’s the right way to parent, that it SHOULD work, or that maybe it is somehow secretly working.
Common approaches that often don’t work are: nagging, repeating, yelling, criticizing, and sometimes even the punishment and reward approach. Instead, we want to stop the ineffective approaches, so we can become open to more effective strategies in the future.
I also talk about putting the relationship first and practicing healthy relationship behaviors even when it’s really difficult. I recommend assessing the nature of the relationship by looking at how well YOU are doing at healthy behavior as a parent, rather than the child’s behavior or success (in grades, accomplishments, etc).
Think about your influence - long term. We are sowing seeds that we may not see fruit of until the child is 30 years old. So, sow the right seeds by optimizing influence.
How do you actually influence your child? Digging a little deeper than punishment and reward (aka “token economy”) which can tend to only highlight who is compliant and able to follow directives, real influence utilizes: teaching lessons, having healthy boundaries, modeling, offering resources, and loving on your child.
“Lessons” are when we clearly and calmly communicate wisdom about life. Your child might not respond immediately to your lessons, but later they may. So, you don’t have to repeat lessons until you see the change; it may come later in life.
Next, healthy boundaries are boundaries that have follow-through, are not set in crisis, and are not about changing the other person. Since the goal is to assess yourself based on healthy parenting practices, rather than your child’s current behavior, boundaries can be measured solely on your end, not by the child’s subsequent behavior or responses to them.
As parents, we also need to model our morals, values, and good habits. Our children will see what we’re living out and whether there are discrepancies in what we preach, and what we practice in day-to-day life.
Offering resources can change a child’s life, whether it’s offering to take them to counseling, a recovery group, etc - but remember never to give more than you can give gladly, with no expectations of specific results. If you give more than you can, resentment will set in. Try to consistently offer realistic resources without jamming them down their throat.
If your child refuses resources like therapy, start working on you. And later, inviting them into a session about you may be a good strategy to introduce them to the experience of therapy.
Loving your child is different than loving ON them. Finding ways to love ON a child can be hard when they reject our efforts, but regardless of the child’s reaction, we can always ask ourselves: who do I want to be as a parent, and how do I want to act? Change one behavior (of YOURS) at a time, and brainstorm on what will likely make the child feel loved.
Then, I shared about the importance of parents finding their own happiness. If your child doesn’t view you as a happy parent, they’re going to reject the things they value because they don’t want to duplicate your situation. They may seek happiness by totally different means. It’s not about being upbeat every moment, but overall, are you living a content life?