Want to create a stronger bond with your kids? First relinquish control : Life KitIt may sound counterintuitive, but if you want to take charge as a parent, stop trying to control your child, says psychologist and author Shefali Tsabary. Her new book, "The Parenting Map," lays out a step-by-step guide for creating conscious parent-child relationships.
Shefali Tsabary is a psychologist and the author of The Parenting Map: Step-by-Step Solutions to Consciously Create the Ultimate Parent-Child Relationship.
Left: Zayyir; Right: HarperOne
Left: Zayyir; Right: HarperOne
It may sound counterintuitive, but if you want to take charge as a parent, stop trying to control your child, says psychologist and author Shefali Tsabary.
Her book, The Parenting Map, outlines how to create conscious parent-child relationships by focusing on the reactions you have to your child's behavior rather than the behavior itself. "We keep expecting the child to change and keep trying to micromanage the child," says Shefali.
"All the while, we never look at ourselves. And most of the time, it's only 10 percent what the child is doing and 90 percent what the parent is doing."
Tsabary warns that 'conscious parenting' doesn't come naturally. "No one is born a conscious parent. It's so easy to yell at your kids. It's very difficult to be patient, regulated, and aware."
Too often, says Tsabary, parents get caught up in unnecessary power struggles with their children, fighting to be right rather than trying to connect with or understand them.
Here are some tips from Tsabary on how to be a more intentional parent:
Move away from shame and blame
The first step to conscious parenting is recognizing that "shame and blame do not work," says Tsabary.
A parenting model based on fear and punishment not only prevents you from connecting with your child but also prevents your child from connecting with their sense of inner security and worth, says Tsabary. Instead of trying to control your child, Tsabary recommends viewing the parent-child relationship as a "mutual, reciprocal partnership."
"Your children are here to live their lives, not yours," says Tsabary. It's easy as a parent to believe you always know best, but that mindset can often lead to recreating unhealthy dynamics from your own childhood.
For example, if you were told that playing the piano leads to success, you might sign your child up for lessons even if they voice wanting to pursue other instruments or hobbies.
Instead, Tsabary says to strive to make choices aligned with your child's wants and needs rather than arbitrary success metrics. "You can be their guide and their usher, but you do not get to micromanage their well-being [and] their growth."
When your child refuses to eat carrots or clean their room, it's easy to view this behavior as disrespectful, says Tsabary. "We parents can make anything look like disrespect. We have to look at it in a different way. The child is not trying to disrespect you. The child is just being a child."
Tsabary says that what you view as disrespectful often has more to do with your own feelings and experiences than your child's behavior.
For example, if you get upset about a bad grade, that reaction might speak to your own past insecurities as a student. "It's not about the child. It's about what's coming up inside you that is causing you to have an issue. First, clean that up, and then you can help the child manage their feelings or their grades."
Tsabary says parents can unknowingly write scripts for their children about how they should behave and how their lives should look. To consciously parent, you must recognize these fantasies first, says Tsabary. Next, ask yourself, 'Who would I be without this fantasy?'
The stories you hold about your children can often reveal your own desires and hurts, says Tsabary. "Why are you needing this fantasy to come true? Why do you need your child to be a successful A-student? Is it really just for the child? Or is it also a little bit for you?"
Be in charge, not in control
The distinction between being in control versus being in charge means managing your child's environment instead of trying to control the child's every action, says Tsabary.
For example, if you want your child to eat fewer sweets, Tsabary recommends not keeping sugar in the house rather than repeatedly scolding your child for eating cookies.
Tsabary also recommends expecting pushback or upset from overstimulated children. "Many parents take their children to Target or Disney World, for example, then we get upset with them [when they act out]."
Instead, Tsabary says to manage your expectations beforehand. "When you go there, they're going to want all the toys, and then there's going to be a meltdown." Being aware of your child's surroundings can better set you both up for success and understanding.