*Make sure to read Choice Theory Parenting before reading this blog*
It’s a huge responsibility for a parent to bring a child into this world, and as a result, you feel responsible for what they do, say, think, and feel. All these societal expectations might lead you to believe you need to control every aspect of your child’s life. The irony of this is that you’ve probably tried to do so and it went completely, and utterly wrong. Controlling others, even your children, is only a façade.
I know your controlling efforts are of the best intentions, wanting them to be happy and healthy; you want what is best for them. So, let’s take a step back and truly understand the psychology of control and how it affects our children.
Behavior modification, how we stop negative behaviors, is a huge component in the field of psychology. And behavior modification is often seen being used with individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, especially for those children who are opposed to doing some things, such as making their bed. We often believe that using reward and punishment will get the behaviors we want from our children, however, this might not always be the case.
Choice Parenting Beliefs
- Children choose their own behaviors
- External pressure always exacts a cost
- Children want to learn from their mistakes
- We’re all responsible for own happiness
Sculpting Versus Gardening
Richard Primason wrote a book called ‘Choice Parenting’ that uses a beautiful analogy on the difference between preparing your children versus controlling your children.
If you are to sculpt your children, you have to have an image in mind of how you want them to act, dress, and respond. By sculpting your child, you can mold and maneuver your child to fit into the image you have created. This is the essence of control psychology; that if you continue to mold and mend your child, they will meet those expectations you originally held.
The difference with gardening is that you have an image in mind, but you know you can’t control the outcome. You can’t force the plants to grow a certain way, or even at all. “A good gardener understands that she chooses her behavior, and her plants choose their own”. Understanding that your child is their own person is one of the most rewarding but challenging aspects of parenthood.
Julie struggled in school and she doesn’t want her child to go through the same. She has strict rules about completing homework and doesn’t allow any leeway. Her daughter asked to hangout with a friend after school before coming home to do homework. Julie did not allow her daughter to do so, stating, “trust me, I know what is best for you”.
Julie is trying to sculpt her daughter’s life.
Samuel has been getting picked on at school lately. Today he told his dad what has been going on. Initially Samuel’s dad, Steve, wanted to call the school and demand action but then he decided to ask his son what he thought about the situation. Samuel wondered if he should talk to the teacher about it but asked Robert if that would make him a snitch. Robert’s dad told Samuel, “you don’t normally tell on people, so I don’t think you’re a snitch. Sometimes talking to your teacher is the best choice. Figuring out what feels right to you is really important.’
Steve uses gardening techniques.
Being a gardener or “choice parent” is still full of enrichment, compassion and support. It is also a way to teach your children to recognize their responsibilities but also know when they need to ask for help. A choice parent is involved in their child’s life, helping the child create their ideal self, not necessarily the ideal self the parent wants for the child. Continuing to try and control your children will only add to the barrier that inhibits the growth of your relationship with your child.
Self-reflection is a huge component of becoming a choice parent. You may ask yourself while handling situations with your child, “am I sculpting or gardening with my child right now?”
There is no better time than the present to start applying choice parenting skills, so here are some reflection questions you may ask yourself to ignite the spark.
- When have you parented more like a sculptor than a gardener?
- When have you done some of your best parent gardening?
Written By: Hannah Slattery