We’ve all seen it. The toddler lying in a supermarket aisle, executing full meltdown mode. A frazzled parent standing by, attempting to wrestle control of the situation and trying to ignore the judgmental stares of onlookers. That’s an extreme and very public example, but what about everyday battles to get your child to co-operate, such as getting dressed and during mealtimes? Why do these simple requests often end up with someone yelling?
Mindful Parenting expert Suzie Brown of Feed the Parent, says we’ve got it all wrong.
“Many parents are still using old-style, authoritarian discipline methods like shouting, threats or removing the child to a time-out, usually based on their own childhood experience. The trouble with this approach," says Brown, "is it teaches children that they should do what you ask because you have more power, rather than encouraging them to co-operate because they love you and want to please you."
“These methods teach children that aggression or the removal of love and attention is the way to get other people to do what you want them to. Children may then use this to try to control other people as they grow into adulthood”.
In her Mindful Parenting work, Geelong-based Brown teaches strategies to help parents avoid becoming overwhelmed with frustration, and instead work with their children to achieve the outcomes they want.
“Mindfulness gives you the skills to see your emotions arise and choose how you want to react. As a parent, it’s a crucial step in avoiding being aggressive with your children.”
Brown says it’s not about letting the kids have their way. “Of course, children still need limits!” she says. “We need to teach boundaries, kindness and respect - if that’s at the forefront, meltdowns will be few and far between.”.
Brown believes that if parents adopt a mindful approach from the get-go, children will gain essential emotional intelligence that will serve them well as adults. She has created a comprehensive “Minimising Meltdown and Getting Kids to Co-operate” cheat sheet to help parents navigate potential power struggles.
Brown is also launching an online program at Feed the Parent with mindfulness at its core and parents (rather than children) as the focus.
Image by: Aleksander Popovski