Also known as The Four C's of Parenting
I dreamed of the day I would have children. I was set on being a better parent than mine. I was going to be such a great mom that my children wouldn't have any problems. Then my babies grew into toddlers. And suddenly I was no longer confident or even knew what to do. There were so many decisions to make, everyday, about how to intervene in the latest behavior problem.
As an expert in childhood psychology I was wracked with the fear of creating an attachment disordered child (disconnected, low self worth, feeling unloved and unlovable, feeling unworthy) and could not step back from being a stressed mom to view it with my Therapist Brain. Ack! Fear and confusion ensued.
Gratefully, with the help of my therapist friends, I reviewed the Basic Needs of Children, remembered that we only need to be 'Good Enough Parents,' and that any mistakes we make, and we will make them, can be repaired. The bottom line is that your kids need to feel safe, loved and connected to you. In my counseling office I talk to parents everyday who are worried about their kids having good self esteem, but also wanting to stop bad behavior. This got me to thinking about how this is a universal concern of all parents and that I could share the Basics and maybe help lower parent stress.
The Basic Needs of Children are; Care, Connect, Contain, and Correct. Keep in mind that there is a reason for the order of these interventions. Before you can correct a behavior, you must make sure that Care, Connect and Contain have happened. We tend to go straight to correcting because we want to fix the problem and the situation. Resist this urge. It will not work. You will be frustrated and your child will not correct. On that note; here are the Four C's:
1. Care: by Consistently and lovingly meeting our children's needs for safety, food, and comfort we are helping their brains develop beliefs that they are loved and valued. Meeting these needs lays the foundation for our kids' self-esteem and belief that the world is safe and they have a place in it. All humans require this to develop healthy brains, relationships and success in life.
2. Connect: All of us need a close and nurturing connection - or bond - with our parents to live a healthy life. Children who feel loved by their parents not only have healthy self esteem, but are on the road to a happy and productive life. Children who feel connected to their parents are more cooperative. Holding babies while sharing smiles and love develops this connection. We continue this connection of love and closeness throughout childhood by creating positive shared emotion and eye contact with our children. Through activities of intentional play, snuggling, playing games across from each other, reading together... you keep that bond in tact. Think of when you have fallen in love; it is always a result of shared positive emotions while looking (gazing?) at each other.
3. Contain: Parents and loving caregivers help to contain and calm the strong feelings and emotions of children. Kids' brains are not always able to deal with intense emotions, like frustration and anger, and need our help. Telling your kids that you understand, that you see how upset they are - in a loving and compassionate way - goes a long way to calm them down. As a bonus, as parents calm their children, the kids' brains are learning how to self-calm.
4. Correct: I like the term Corrective Teaching over Discipline because discipline is often confused with punishment. All kids make mistakes and we want them to learn from those mistakes without creating fear or shame, because those emotions cause our brains to shutdown and prevent learning. First: wait until your child, and you, are calm and Second: ask them what happened. Sometimes after they are calm they will tell you what they did and what they think should happen. Our goal as parents is to help them learn a better way or better choices, without shaming them or escalating into an argument. If Corrective Teaching hasn't worked - you may want to use other techniques in addition. Some parents are afraid to discipline because they fear that the child won't like them if they do. The opposite is actually true. Children thrive when parents provide consistent boundaries, expectations, and help them Correct in a loving and calm way.
I hope this helps calm you stressed and caring parents. When all else fails; take a de-stressing break and do some self-care. A calm parent is an effective parent.
Contact RCT Counseling for a FREE consultation.