One of the biggest challenges we have when raising our children is facing a rebellious child. Daily fights over power, aggression due to sibling rivalry, or crises, have led suffering parents to cry for help. I receive emails, phone calls, and petitions daily from parents who are desperately seeking help raising their children.
I think all parents, at some point, need to face a disobedient child. Then the same way we, as parents, are not perfect and have made mistakes, over time, our children will make mistakes too. The difference is that when we made a mistake, in our view, it was not a big deal. But when our child behaved unexpectedly, it was an alarm that led us to be worried and feels desperate.
It seems like we have forgotten that we were also the same age as our children, many times we behaved the same way they are behaving today. Why are we not more transparent with ourselves and accept the fact that our children are as human as we are? There are still parents who, when raising their children, demand they behave in a way that they, as parents, have not yet achieved themselves. I understand it is not easy to be a parent nowadays.
Raising our children
In my next blog posts, I will be sharing the strategy I have used all these years to raise my children. I do not expect you to agree with me. This is the method that has worked for us, and maybe you have a different one that has worked for you. In the end, nobody has a perfect method because when we receive the children God gave us, they did not come with a manual that explained what to do when behaving in certain ways.
How nice it would be if this was the reality! Do you remember the last time you bought a car? That car came with a manual, regardless of the model or brand. That user manual set out what to do if the oil needs to be changed if it has engine problems or any other situation. It is all written there.
When my daughter Jasmin was born, I did not have such a manual. I had to figure out what to do. A year after Jasmin was born, Samuel, came into our lives. And, I said: “Well, now I have a year of experience as a father. With Samuel, it is going to be a little easier because I already ‘have experience.’ How wrong I was! Samuel had a completely different personality from that his sister. The manual I used for Jasmin did not work with Samuel.
My strategy for raising our children
It has been to cultivate a relationship with them based on collaboration instead of power. And I know that for many parents, this is not the conventional way, but remember that unconsciously, we have had a collaborative relationship with our children throughout the years.
For example, when Jasmin or Samuel cried, we tried to figure out what was happening to them so that we could help them stop crying. If the method we used was not working, we used another method until we found the most effective one to help them stop crying.
Ideally, we continue to do this almost every day. It is simply trying to understand and focus on some of the most important aspects of being parents: understanding our children’s worries, perspectives, and opinions, considering what troubles them, and working together to find realistic solutions that are mutually satisfactory.
What parents need
A question many parents have asked us is: Will I still be an authority figure in raising my children in a collaborative relationship? Yes. Maybe not an “old school” authoritarian figure, but an authority figure indeed. It turns out that what parents are most commonly seeking is to be influential, not to control. And just by being parents, they are already influential.
In the beginning, when my wife Zoraida and I started with this plan, it was something we did unconsciously. In the sense that we have not read what neuroscience showed about our children’s development. We just had the Bible, and it showed us our children as the heritage of Jehovah, and that He was calling us to be a positive influence on our children’s lives. They had that influence when they benefited from our wisdom, experiences, and values while they were walking through complex and tough stormy waters.
I have discovered that an authoritarian method of power and strength when raising our children is not helpful in the long term. On the contrary, helping our children to solve their problems collaboratively was much more effective for us.
Raising our children according to Science
Today, science has provided many studies about this line of thought, which we have held onto in the last few years as parents. And in my case, as a therapist, to help parents who need orientation in this area. One of the researchers behind those studies who have contributed to this area is clinical psychologist Ross Greene. He has written several books and I will mention some concepts he uses in his book Raising Human Beings.
Greene presents a revolutionary concept: children do fine if they can. What does this mean? If Jasmin or Samuel could do it right, they would. Period. If they did not do fine, or they were not meeting expectations at home or in school, as a parent, I had to do well. My responsibility was not to criticize them or to censor them for not behaving properly or meeting my expectations as a father, but to find out why they were not meeting those expectations. If I could not solve the problem my children had on my own, then I had to:
- go to the books,
- search on the internet,
- or ask for professional help in this area.
I had to find out why my children did not fulfill the responsibility they had in their hands. We cannot assume, as we have many times, that the problem our child has is motivational. Very is rarely correct to assume that a child is not meeting an expectation because he/she lacks motivation. Very often, skills are the engine that powers the train, and motivation is the caboose.
What children need
Children want to succeed. No child does not want to succeed. Society is configured to be a gratifying place for those who do things right. Any perceived incentive to do things wrong is going to be greatly overtaken by incentives to do things right.
Children need the freedom to grow as they go through different stages of their psychosocial development. That freedom must be by their age.
Besides, children need room to make mistakes and learn from them. If you try to control the result or become too critical when they stumble on their feet, you will fail. They will become too concerned about not making mistakes in the future.
They need opportunities to straighten their sheep on their own when they see themselves in stormy waters. And they need you to observe them closely to see how they are doing. If you do not look closely, they will likely get tired of stumbling and give up. But, if you throw them a life jacket at the first stumbling, they might never learn how to swim. A parent’s success lies in preparing the children to navigate a rough world.
What has been your experience raising your children like? What method have you used and how effective has it been? Share your story with me. Then, we will continue with this topic in our next post.