Posted in Uncategorized

When Parenting Styles Differ

We all have friends and family that parent differently than we do. We have different children, who have varied temperaments and we have different home environments. Sometimes it can become difficult to engage with one another with children involved, because of parental variations. With a wide array of values and expectations held by us parents, discussing this topic can bring tension. In our world today with a “right/wrong” mentality, we often try to categorize each other as negligent, irresponsible or too strict and overly involved.

However, it is okay for parenting styles and expectations to be diverse. How we approach the world varies and therefore our approaches to parenting will carry the same variety. It is not necessary to always agree. It is actually okay to have different expectations for your children while being with other kids that have other rules. You will find, the way to adjust to these situations has more to do with you and your family than convincing someone else to change. As we often say in therapy, “The only person you have control over, is you.”

KNOW YOU EXPECTATIONS AND THE WHY BEHIND THEM

This may seem silly. However, most parents are not aware of the expectations they have for their children until the situation arises. By knowing your individual values and allowing that to direct your expectations, you can navigate an unexpected circumstance with more clarity. The awareness of where you stand, and the reason you hold to that rule, can drive your action.

Your child may need a certain schedule to manage their behavior, or you may be able to have a more flexible schedule due to your child’s personality. Neither are wrong. However, you need to know what your child needs and understand why your child has those needs. As a result, you do not need to get defensive when someone else has different plans. You know what you need to do and you know why you need to do it. You will be less likely to be swayed by outside influences.

BE CONSISTENT

It can be tempting to alter our expectations depending on the environment. However, this can be very confusing for our children. They can jump on the couch at Mimi’s house, but not your house. That’s not going to translate for them. It can cause them some anxiety due to not understanding the rules or cause them to become defiant because they get confused.

To maintain exceptions everywhere sets us up for more challenges. It takes more management, more interventions, more attention. However, being consistent will eventually make it easier for you to enforce rules and for your children to follow them. They cannot read your mind. If we change our approaches based on our environment, they may attempt to read our mind (anxiety) or treat our expectations as suggestions. They may draw the conclusion that Mom obviously does not know what she wants (not that they’ll consciously think that).

If you are a parent/caregiver watching someone else’s child, it is important to know their rules. It is important to try and adhere to their rules whether you agree with them or not. This might be enforcing a no screen time rule that you feel is ridiculous or you allow your children to jump on the couch – even if you think he should be allowed to. However, it can be more confusing for the kid to have different rules. Allow the consistency to prevail. Once again, this is if the rules are not harming anyone.

BE VOCAL

Your children need reinforcement. They need reminders. This is especially true, the younger they are. Have a phrase you use for each expectation and repeat it. This could be “please keep your voice down when we are inside” or “remember, we only sit on furniture.” Stating the behavior you wish for them to model, is more helpful for them.

It is also helpful for those around you to know what you expect from your children. It does not mean that they need to comply. It is okay for parents to have contrasting rules. It does not mean one is right and one is wrong. You are each parenting individuals. Each child comes with their own needs. There is no reason to feel insecure about your expectations. There is no need to feel insecure over someone else’s expectations as long as everyone is being respectful to one another and the property of other.

ACKNOWLEDGE THE DIFFERENCE

It is okay to recognize the varied expectations–not only with the other parent, but with your child. You can tell your child that “other people have different rules, but you need to follow Mommy/ Daddy/Caregiver’s rules.” This acknowledges to the child that you are aware, and that your expectations have not shifted with varying circumstances.

In the end, ignoring the inconsistencies can be more confusing. It will not cause more tension or suddenly cause your child to notice the differences. Children are way more observant than we give them credit for, and more observant than we’d like them to be sometimes.

Parenting can be a struggle. When you add other people and their kids, it can create a bit of chaos. Chaos isn’t bad. Chaos can add a little bit of diversity in your life. However, you can set up skills that allow you to parent how you parent, regardless of your environment.

As we identify our own values in conjunction with our child’s unique personality, we can communicate our expectations to our children with confidence and clarity. And if you think about it, this may actually teach them to hold strong to their own values later in life when others go a different way.

Parenting differently,

Allyson

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to be a replacement for counseling or medical services. The information on this site is intended for general and educational purposes only. Before taking action based on the information you find in this blog, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. The use or reliance on any information found on this site is solely at your own risk. You are welcome to contact us in response to this post. We will not provide online counseling services via our contact form. We encourage you to seek counseling services of your own if you are looking for more support, help, and advice. If you are in crisis or have a mental health emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Posted in comfortzone, coronavirus, counseling, emotion regulation, goals, grief, isolation, motherhood, parenting, relationships, social distancing, therapy, trauma, values

Hitting Reset

None are excused from the challenges of this season.  The wealthy, the healthy, the married, the single, the successful, and the impoverished are collectively walking through one of, if not the most challenging time in a generation.  Increased weight lays on the shoulders of those in leadership positions as they seek to determine the best course for those in their sphere.  For those special people that call themselves educators; grief, uncertainty, and adaptability demand their attention.  For those medical personnel that are the very ones that fight this pandemic daily; anxiety, exhaustion, and caregiver burnout run thick in their presence.  For the parents that can’t find a moment to themselves and are struggling to meet the umpteen needs that arise within an hour, the mundane, insecurity, and human weakness call for one to expend every last drop of energy and patience. For the single person at home, face-to-face human connection has ceased altogether.  Though in many different forms, this pandemic has brought a halt to our preferences and routines that once helped us lead the life we desired and valued.

Just four and a half months ago we walked into 2020, pondering, discussing, and naming what he hoped or expected the year would have in store for us.  Some of us chose a specific word, goals, and desires for how we hoped this year would look different.  We identified some ways we wanted to take initiative in our lives and shape our lives to align with our values, priorities, and desires.

The current pandemic infuses our homes with tension and our hearts with grief. But for those willing to see, this time brings with it the gift of perspective. It is a magnifying glass for our lives, so to speak, to help us better appraise what is most dear to us, what is most challenging to us, and what is creeping in unwarranted and stealing precious moments from us.  Insight that we did not have just a few months ago has been given.  Complacency and busyness no longer plague our society and hinder our growth.  Our busyness has ceased, our culture has shifted, and we have this small moment in time to evaluate our values and priorities and implement some necessary changes to lead the intentional, value-driven life we desire to lead.  In assessing our different areas of development (physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and relational), what are the areas that need evaluation with your newly gifted magnifying glass?

Have you found yourself in a cycle of over-eating, emotion-eating, slothfulness, or maybe just a few too many alcoholic beverages?  Do you have a sense that your emotional health and strategies for coping could improve?  Have you put off spiritual disciplines or seeking Christ altogether because of a past hurt or because it’s just not convenient?  Have you had a hard time taking control of your spending, Starbucks attendance, or seeking therapy in retail?  Have you noticed that your relationships are rocky, your friendships are surface-level, or your parenting could use some attention?  

Yeah? Me too.  Never has your social calendar been so free that you can focus more on your exercise routine.  Never has your insight been so clear on what flusters you the most.  Rarely is it so apparent that the world offers little and Christ is the only hope.  There are few opportunities to curb your shopping and eating out habits.  And there is no better time to commit to authenticity, break through the painful patterns, and create beautiful community.

This season brings, along with it’s pain and grief, an opportunity to hit the reset button.  It won’t be easy to align your days to how you imagined and desired them to be long ago when you chose the path that you are currently on.  Mamas, in the midst of the trials, grief, and fear, I challenge you to use this opportunity to improve in the areas you long to be stronger.

Walking the path and pressing “reset” with you,

Tiffany Raley, M.A.

Posted in coparenting, counseling, divorce, home, parenting, values

Separately and Together

Those of you, who are single, separated, or divorced, we see you. We know that your parenting journey is likely complex. Your friends that are raising kids in a home with both parents may be supportive but cannot completely understand what you are going through. You have likely been through or are on an emotional roller coaster over the care of your children. Though it is impossible to cover every circumstance or situation when you are co-parenting with your child’s parent who you are not living with, it is possible to encourage you in a few areas for the benefit of you and your child.

Behind the Scenes Parenting

Communication is key to co-parenting from different homes so that your child is not placed in the role of the liaison between parents. If your child currently is the liaison, I would encourage you to remove him or her from this role as it can be so stressful on the child. If communication with your child’s other parent is less than ideal, I would encourage behind the scenes communication as much as possible so that the child is not experiencing heated conflict between parents. Communication between both parents can help a child feel connected to both parents and felt taken care of as they know both parents have knowledge of his or her needs and what is important to him or her.

When possible, it is great if both parents can be on the communication lists for school, extracurricular activities, appointments, and important events so that both parents are in the loop and the child knows this. Find a communication method that works best for you. Sometimes it seems like each text message, email, phone call or face to face interaction with the other produces a range of negative emotions. When this is occurring, take some time to regroup by yourself so you are not relaying this to your child.

Cut the Criticism

I preach this, and I know it is so hard! Please do not put down your child’s other parent in front of them. Children do not want to hear bad things about either parent even if it is true. That other parent is part of your child. Often times what one parent says about the other gets back to the other parent via the child, and this does nothing to help effective co-parenting.

I write this humbly as I am sure there are layers and layers of hurt and frustration behind those comments that are critical in nature. “Hurt people hurt people,” and I know you do not want to further hurt your child with the comments about his or her other parent. Please take the high road. This is a great area to work on with a counselor so that you do have a place to process all of that hurt and say those comments!

In the event that your child’s other parent is not in the picture because of abuse, neglect, or addiction, having an age appropriate conversation with your about the other parent’s choices/illness may be necessary. I would encourage you to seek the advice of a professional here.

Letting Go

It can be very difficult to have your child being parented in a way that is not your choice. If the way he or she is being parented at the other parent’s home is causing them distress, is abusive, is unsafe, or something is blatantly wrong, of course it is time to speak up. In some cases a mediator or attorney may be needed.  Generally speaking communication is needed to discuss values that you would like to see for your child in each home. Realistically, you cannot control the way the other parent parents, and you may do things completely different.

For the everyday things that you cannot control at the other home, like bedtime, dinner choice, screen time, and routine, I encourage you to let it go. Your mental health will be better for it. I know it is difficult, but consider letting one thing go this week. In the same fashion, stop yourself before reprimanding your child for not putting himself to bed a decent time if you know the other parent does not enforce a bedtime. You can encourage good choices, but it is never a good feeling for a child to get in trouble for something the other parent allows, like bedtime or screen time.

Advertise What You Agree On

Savor what you agree on with your child’s other parent. Be thankful for it! As it takes five positive interactions to cancel out one negative interaction, each time you can agree and make a joint decision, you are putting coins in the positive co-parenting bank.

Advertise what you agree on to your child. Knowing both parents are for and behind him/her can strengthen a child’s resiliency and enhance confidence. Here are some examples of advertising what you agree on.

“Your dad and I are so proud of your hard work at school this nine weeks.”

“Your mom and I support your decision to focus on more on baseball and not play basketball this year.”

“Mom and I were talking today about what good choices you have been making.”

“Dad and I are both seeing that you haven’t been yourself lately. We wanted to check in.”

I would encourage you to continue to run this race with perseverance leaning on the necessary supports: faith, family, friends, and hopefully a therapist. You are seen and your journey matters. Please remember that each day is a new day, and your relationship with your child is irreplaceable.

With kindness and humility,

Andrea