Recently my husband and I were enjoying a rare quiet moment without kids around when he asked, “Do you think we are making our kid soft?” He was concerned that we are not preparing our three-year-old son for a world that can be harsh in various ways. He was scared for our son’s future and if he will be tough enough for whatever the future may bring. When a question like this comes up at home, I often feel like I should have the answer because I am a child therapist, and of course, it is never that simple. Three-year-olds are tough and when he is crying because I put his milk in the wrong cup, it is clear that he is not ready to take on the world.
There is still a belief in our society that children should be cooperative and keep their emotions in-check and if they aren’t, you’re not parenting them correctly. We have all felt it–you’re out in public, your child is making a scene, and you wonder what others around you are thinking: “Are they judging me?”
Research shows us that having a child who fears you or who is “obedient” doesn’t translate into a happy and productive adult. Yet, it is important that children learn to respect others, practice compassion, and develop skills for managing stress and conflict appropriately. And we learn these traits from watching others with these skills.
The Circle of Security Parenting model teaches that parents should be “bigger, stronger, wiser, and kind,” and that is what I fell back on in this moment with my partner. My son is a “threenager,” and his behaviors can be beyond challenging. When he is acting rude or becomes highly emotional, I try to step back and sort out what is coming up for me, how I should show up in this interaction, and what I want him to learn. Easier said than done, of course. I want him to be kind, so I try to be kind; I want him to know how to set healthy boundaries, so I hold him accountable; I want him to be respectful, so I try to model respect even when setting a boundary for him. All of these traits translate into resilience. He is learning these things (slowly) and I am learning how to model them, which takes an incredible amount of practice and self-reflection.
So, are my partner and I parenting correctly? Who knows. Am I scared for my son’s future? Constantly. Is he going to be “soft?” I certainly hope he has softness to him. Parenting is hard and there is no one right way to do it. If you, too, struggle with parenting or just want more information about maintaining a strong healthy relationship with your child, please check out my Circle of Security Group, which will be starting after Labor Day. I would love the opportunity to be a part of your “village”!
For more information about the Circle of Security Parenting group, visit our Groups page.