How do you go backwards and repair damage from authoritative parenting to partnership based parenting?
I think that at any point- when the parent shifts from control/authoritative to a partnership paradigm, a more positive relationship and healing from the past can occur. Think of our adult relationships with our parents- once they shifted (if they did) to partnership with us, our relationships improved, right? It may not happen overnight, and it will take a lot of work. But it’s possible. And I would argue that if you still have a child at home you can make this shift now rather than waiting until your child is an adult on his own.
But what are some steps?
The first step is recognizing that damage has been done, and you are the adult that needs to undo this damage. Be kind to yourself too, you were doing of course what you believed was best for you and your child.You were hoping that by showing him the right way and controlling his behavior, he will be happier and more successful. But it hasn’t panned out. And you have an unhappy person on your hands. And this will take time, patience, and a lot of introspection to heal on both of your parts. But the onus will be on you- you are the adult here–and it though it won’t be easy, it will be tremendously rewarding.
Tell your child that you value your relationship and you want to change the paradigm for you being “the boss” and always trying to control, to a more respectful partnership. And do it for real. Start with a day. or a subject. Does what your child is into drive you crazy? Spend some time trying to understand and value your kid’s values. If you love the outdoors, but your teen loves being holed up in her room all the time, instead of trying to get her outside, engage with her where she is at, on her level, and with what she is interested in. Give her the opportunity to paint or decorate her room, or do what she will with it. Offer to help, and don’t be hurt if she says no. Do it without an agenda.
Take a day. A day where you just hang out with your child or teen. Follow her whims and desires. She wants to watch TV all day? sit and watch with her. Laugh at the silliness, eat cookies together. He wants to play video games? ask him to teach you how to play. Play with him, get interested in the characters, the strategy. Allow him to lead.
Have your child/teen be the leader by showing you a thing or two about whatever it is he/she is passionate about. Being a partner does not mean to gently lead your child in the direction you choose, but to partner. Recognize that your child’s strengths and interests are his own, and that they have inherent value. Respect that value. If you are struggling you have likely gone a long time in the other paradigm. Know that shifting this paradigm and energy, and building that sense of trust with your kids will take a long time, but it will be infinitely rewarding.
Have fun with your teen. Ditch school for a day- and go do something fun together. Understand if your teen texts all day. Do something you both enjoy. Appreciate your child for who he or she is, not for what you want him to be. Really get in the mindset that your child or teen is an interesting, fun individual whom you want to get to know- and get to know him where he is at.
Consider the importance of school in your family’s life. Do you let school dictate how “smart” your child is? Does your life revolve around school schedules, school attitudes, homework, weekends and vacation times? In most of society- the needs of the school take precedence over the needs of the family, and the assessment schools give our kids dictates how smart we perceive them to be. This is really ludicrous if you think about it– because your child and your family are so much bigger than school. Your child is intelligent whether or not a huge institution like the school system has a way to measure this intelligence. You can truly be free from the school paradigm if you chose.
If your child is unhappy in school, and you have the ability to homeschool, consider this option.
And if you believe you don’t have the ability–ask yourself, what is holding you back? Is it money?- can you do with less? Is it childcare? Can you find a local homeschool family that you can partner with? Do you feel you can’t do it on your own? The options and community available on line are endless!
Do you have a democratic-free school in your area? Consider this. These are small multi-aged private schools where children are allowed and encouraged to follow their interests and passions.
Is your child a teen and you want some additional support with thinking differently about his education? You want another adult to help you work through thinking about your relationship, and your teen’s education? Check out Pacific Sands Academy.
And this may seem really weird, but invite your child back into your bed, especially if she/he’s younger. I have long thought that so many schisms between parents and young children could be healed if children just got to sleep with their parents. I can only imagine how much deep psychological bonding happens just by sleeping together. As animals we are meant to sleep with our young. Your child may be old enough to not want this anymore,and of course don’t press if she doesn’t, but you could still offer a family slumber party- where you watch a movie together in bed, eat a snack, chit chat, and welcome the possibility of falling to sleep together, or camp out in the living room together.
Finally, if you have a teen, and are interested in exploring an alternative approach to education and parenting, and you would like weekly or monthly support, check out Pacific Sands Academy. I would love to help you get your relationship with your teen back on track, and help your teen live a life of joy and abundance as well.
– Shauna Reisewitz