Five Ways to Parent With Compassion

Five Ways to Parent With Compassion

Being a parent. It’s Hard Ya’ll. We are all so tired. The needs are so many. We function on little sleep and zero relaxation time. A dozen challenges capsize us every hour, forcing us to make discipline decisions every waking minute. Every evening, our minds entertain the endless question “Did I do the right thing?”. We long to let our children know that we love them deeply but between the yelling, nagging and correcting we don’t know if this message is getting across. We desire to discipline gently but we also want our children to be respectful and compliant. How can we accomplish this?

In order to parent with compassion, all we need is to recognize why it’s important and discover new ways to parent through the challenges we face. Here are Five of My Favorite Ways to parent with compassion.

1) Parent Gently by Communicating Expectations

  • Spell Out Clear Expectations– Explain what you expect from a child ahead of time and in the simplest terms possible
    • Example 1: “When I say it’s time to leave come straight to mommy. Do not go on the slide one more time”
    • Example 2: “When we get to Michael’s house, remember that we cannot take a toy without asking him first.”

2) Use Logical Consequences

  • Select a Natural Consequence and Explain it Ahead of Time
    • Example 1: “If you choose not to come to mommy right away, we won’t have time to make your favorite pancakes for lunch
    • Example 2: “If you take Michael’s toy without asking, you won’t be allowed to play in his room anymore.”

3) Redirect

Beyond simple distraction, redirecting a child’s attention is giving them something to look forward to so that they are motivated to change their behavior. Here are a few examples of how to redirect.

  • Give Them a Totally Awesome Task – ask them to accomplish something special either ‘for you’ or ‘all by (them)self.’
    • Example 1: Your child wants to keep playing but it’s supper time.
      Redirection: “Can you be my ‘super supper helper’ and set the table for dinner with the “shiniest spoons and plates?”
    • Example 2: It’s time for tooth brushing but your child is resisting.
      Redirection: “Can you be ‘so big’ and turn on all the light switches on the way to the bathroom?” or “Do you think you can reach to turn on the water all by yourself today?”
  • Look Ahead- another way to redirect is to think about What’s Coming Next and describe something ‘fun’ about it. This helps our children’s brains turn away from what they are currently fixated on and unto something new
    • Example 1: “We are going to the grocery store. Should mommy push you so fast in the cart?’
    • Example 2: The doctors office is going to be so fun! I love those stickers they give you. Which one do you think you’ll get today?

4) Be Imaginative Children live in a world of imagination. Tap into it!

  • Make it a Game- This is tried and true! Almost anything can become a game!
    • Race to see who can do it faster or first
    • Sing a song and dance your way through routines and activities (cleaning up, brushing hair, making the bed)
    • Make it a challenge
      Example: “Do you have enough muscle power to lift all of those blocks back on the shelf? “
  • Personify! – This is especially effective with toddlers but can be used for most kids until about eight years old
    • Example 1: Your child is supposed to eat breakfast but he is building an elaborate structure with blocks
      Be Imaginative: “The blocks say ‘We bet you’ll be build us even higher after you get more muscle eating that breakfast!”
    • Example 2: Your child needs to get his shoes on so he can get to school on time
      Be Imaginative: “Oh dear, I hear your shoes calling for you! Who will ever put me on?’ they say. They miss you!”

5) Validate and Affirm

I consider this the most important technique for parenting with compassion. If your child is struggling, or having emotional outbursts and tantrums we need to validate and affirm that we understand their feelings. Many times, a child is cries louder because they can’t understand how to convey their emotions in words or they don’t feel heard.

Validating Kids Aged 1-3

  • Mimic (but don’t mock) their emotion
    • Example: Your child is crying loudly because she wants “more brownie” but she’s had too much already
    • Validation: Match her loud cry and say “You want that brownie! “You are so, so sad because you want that brownie now!”
  • Reinstate Reasons but Use Few Words! – small children cannot process elaborate explanations, especially while upset
    • Example: “You want more brownies, but more brownies means owie tummy”
  • Offer a hug or a redirect
    • After validating, ask the child if he/she would like a hug. If not, offer to give her some space
    • If child is still upset, offer some cooling down techniques “let’s take two deep breaths together”
    • When child begins to calm, redirect (see above)

Validating Older Children

  • Repeat their ‘wants’ and affirm their feelings
    • Example: Your child really wanted to go on an outing with their father but he needs to accomplish something on his own.
    • Validation: “You really wanted to go with Dad to pick out a new tool.” I understand that you feel very disappointed. You really love that activity.
  • Show Compassion
    • “I am really sorry that you’re feeling so awful. My heart hurts for you when you’re sad”
  • Redirect
    • Example: Would you like a hug? Would you like play that new board game with me? or “What others things could we do instead that you like?”

And That’s Five Ways to Parent With Compassion !

Obviously, no one technique will work perfectly to calm our children and communicate compassion every time. That’s why learning a whole array of ideas is helpful! Every week, I try to practice these more and more. And as we practice each one, we get better and better at figuring how and when to use them.

I’d love to hear from you! What techniques have you found to calm and connect with your child?

Recommended Reading: Happiest Toddler On The Block, Beyond Behaviors

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