Learn about parenting patterns and how to set boundaries (+ shake off parenting guilt) with Respectful Parenting.
Picture this: your kid is throwing a tantrum (or you just got a teenage eye roll) but your repeated attempts at trying to reason with them fail. You lose your temper… only to feel guilty for doing so afterwards. You start to think about your parenting style: surely there’s another way to deal with your child’s tantrums?
If this sounds all too familiar, you’ll be pleased to know that our latest HoneyKids Talk: Changing parenting patterns through Respectful Parenting is focused on just that! Parenting educators from EtonHouse International School (Lisamarie Hughes, Principal of EtonHouse International School Sentosa; and Sophia Klopp, Certified Parent Educator of Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen and an EtonHouse parent) shared about the Respectful Parenting approach, including how to use it to manage tantrums and meltdowns from toddlers to teenagers. They also shared valuable insights about the importance of setting up boundaries, how to establish healthy boundaries in a respectful manner, what to do when these boundaries are crossed, how to repair these broken boundaries, as well as how to deal with parenting guilt.
Got a burning question and need the answer? Jump to the video section that’s relevant for you!
Speaker introductions – 1.44
What are parenting patterns and how they influence our parenting styles – 3.10
What is respectful parenting – 4.11
How to manage and set boundaries through respectful parenting – 7.01
What are essential agreements – 12.22
What happens when boundaries are crossed, or when there’s a power struggle at home – 14.06
How to deal with defiant and demanding behaviour without losing your cool – 18.22
What you can do if you had a terrible episode with your child – 25.27
How to deal with different parenting styles from your spouse and your child’s grandparents – 28.14
What is parenting guilt and how to deal with it – 31.20
Final takeaway from panellists – 34.24
Q & A – 39.52
Changing parenting patterns through Respectful Parenting: TOP INSIGHTS FROM THE EXPERTS
1. Accept your parenting patterns with compassion
If you would like to parent differently than how you were parented or how you are currently parenting, you have to be able to acknowledge your parenting patterns and accept the not so favourable ones with compassion. These patterns will always be a part of us, and the negative ones will rear their head occasionally, especially when we are exhausted and triggered. When you realise that you and/or your parents did the best they could with the tools they had, you’ll start moving out of the blame stage and will be able to whole-heartedly live out Respectful Parenting. It’s never too late to start!
2. Resolve conflicts respectfully
Conflicts are normal even in the healthiest of relationships. The important part is showing your children how to repair the relationship afterwards. This is often called ‘rupture and repair’, and it’s what makes a healthy relationship heal and grow. It helps to read about your child’s current developmental stage of equilibrium and disequilibrium to understand that they are not intentionally trying to make us angry or hurt us. Their brains are just not fully developed yet, even in adolescence. It’s even more helpful to be attuned to ourselves and our conditioning as to why we are feeling triggered.
When the rupture happens, try to step away from the situation to cool down, making sure that your child is safe first. When you have calmed down, ask your child if you can both start over. The reflection that happens after a rupture in your relationship is very valuable, and it can start as young as infancy. They may not understand your words, but they do absorb your facial expressions, your tone and your body language. As your child gets older, the both of you could then think about what can be done differently next time. When things don’t go our way as planned – reflect and ponder, then find out better ways to handle it exemplifies resilience.
3. Acknowledge the parenting guilt and strive to do better
Ruptures in our relationships can leave us feeling guilty. This is a common human trait and it’s what helps us recognise a mistake we’ve made, figure out how to fix it, and how to do better next time. We have to be very careful to not personify this guilt so that it becomes shame. Shame is when we start labelling ourselves, making it hard for us to do better. It attacks our core being. We need to shift away from shame and practice self-compassion. We all do better when we feel better. We all make mistakes, and we learn from them. It is also helpful to know that you are not alone in making parenting mistakes and to be in a community with the same beliefs because they will be offering support, reassurance, and compassion when you need it most.
4. Ruptures followed by quality repairs are healthy and raise resilient children
It’s refreshing to see now that talking about challenges with parenting is the norm – and this unites us! There really has been a shift away from ‘perfect parenting’, which is great as none of us want to be in that competition, and the gold medal is simply unattainable. It really is a journey rather than a mandate, and we can make mistakes. This journey is a chance to celebrate and model a ‘growth mindset’ for children. EtonHouse always highlights that when things don’t go according to plan, it’s the best time to grow. We can position ourselves humbly as always learning with our children. Making statements such as “I could see that this morning was not a good one for our family and I want to make tomorrow better” along with some suggestions for improvements; or opening up for suggestions from our children can help us close ruptured situations and create a reflective, problem solving culture within the family.
5. Build your toolbelt
An interesting way to approach parenting would be to visualise your ‘toolbelt’: Consider how many tools you have and if they are the best match for the behaviours you typically experience with your child. As your child grows and changes, your tools need to change too! Connecting with their school, reading parenting materials, and connecting with fellow parents for tried-and-tested strategies help us feel more confident with finding the ‘best tools’ for our child. Consistent tools that might always stay inside your tool belt could be:
- Talking with rather than at our child
- Model regulation to help your child with this lifelong goal
6. Be kind to yourself
Self-care is incredibly important to feel ready to face everyday life and guide our children’s challenging behaviours. There is a common saying that “you cannot pour from an empty cup”, and this really resonates with the idea of how you can fill your own ‘cup’ (exercise, reading, enjoy a favourite cup of tea, breathing exercises) to be able to pour into other people’s ‘cups’! Children can see us modelling this self-care, and this allows them to begin to recognise the needs of others and employ their own self care strategies as they grow too.
Changing parenting patterns through Respectful Parenting: YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED!
1. How do we handle tantrums in public areas where there are spectators and perhaps public expectations for us to quickly resolve and handle the tantrum outburst?
Lisamarie: This is a high pressure moment for many families and the first step would be self-talk. By reminding ourselves that most spectators probably feel genuine compassion and understanding for this ‘normal’ age appropriate behaviour, this then allows you to create a ‘tunnel’ around yourself and your child. It gives us a chance to see the tantrum as a ‘cry for help’, removes the pressure and avoids us reacting, and instead buys valuable seconds to respond.
- When entering the demanding behaviour, stating a connection and displaying understanding helps. This does not mean giving in, but try to state what’s happening so the child knows you have heard him/her and connected: “I can see you are having a big feeling because ….(add the reason if you are sure)”.
- Soften your voice as a great de-escalation strategy.
- Lower your body position.
- Wait for the right moment to engage and in that moment, offer another space to talk or be together, e.g. a hug or more time for expression.
- When your child sees that you are not panicking and you are calm, they will gain their calm too and then an exchange can occur with acknowledging feelings, explaining why something happened or could not happen, and setting future agreements that are simple and achievable together. Remember this talk may need to happen much later when you feel your child is ready for this important and respectful exchange.
- When a behaviour is perceived to be ‘demanding’, it is a cry for help from children. So we could look for ideas and resources to help ourselves and our children. At school and at home with my son, I find Kelso’s Choices super helpful as it can be scaled up or down for different age groups and different situations. It’s a great tool on-the-go too!
2. What does “Go to Another Game” in Kelso’s Choice Wheel mean?
Lisamarie: Thank you for looking at the wheel and choices! ‘Go to another game’ is a non-verbal choice. It does not require ‘talking in that moment’ and gives children another option, power, and choice to manage a tough situation by choosing to leave and head to another game/object/toy/space to enjoy. Kelso’s wheel aims to create space for thinking, allowing our children to see there are other options to manage a tough situation. Some choices are non-verbal, which may be an easier way to start; some choices require us to be ready to accept verbal input (talking) and use our words/communication skills too.
Making another Kelso’s choice with ‘Go to another game/ toy’ may mean that the other Kelso’s choice could be used more effectively later, e.g. ‘talk it out’. It’s interesting to consider how one choice may happen first, to then be in a calmer or more willing position to then take another option that requires us to talk and communicate.
3. How do we set respectful boundaries that would meet the needs of both parent and child?
Lisamarie: An essential agreement would be a wonderful way to do this. It respects all family members and gives everyone a voice. It can become a family agreement that respects everyone in the family along with agreed rights and responsibilities. We often do this in our classrooms at EtonHouse, with all children and teachers contributing and agreeing to it.
For example, at home, Mum or Dad might suggest everyone has the right to feel safe. You can then invite everyone in the family to discuss and decide on essential agreements that can be added to the list (keep it to a few agreements) and then make them into a visual reference in your home. Using positive language and focusing on what we want rather than what we do not want also helps us all stay on track. “Gentle hands” would be more appropriate for the agreement compared to “do not hit your sister”. The same statement can apply to a wider range of contexts and all family members.
Consider how you can design and involve your child in making the essential agreement. It could be a poster, a book or a contract designed for the family. Including visuals through drawings and photos to explain the agreements will also help. Finishing off with confirmation that we will all work towards this as a family also builds intrinsic connections to the agreement – you can sign it off together, add a fingerprint to it, or add all of your individual photos or a family photo to agree that you are all committing to it. This makes the agreement meaningful and fun!
Lastly, it’s important to remember that all boundaries or agreements will be crossed or broken from time to time as a result of us being human beings. As such, it’s helpful to see the agreement as a tool for discussion, and positive guidance to come back to as a family. It’s a tool that will need to be upgraded or revised as your family grows with siblings or as your child changes.
4. Where do rewards (reward charts, earning money for chores, etc.) fit in Respectful Parenting?
Sophia: Using rewards is a form of positive reinforcement that may work to quickly motivate children and get them to do what adults want. Since rewards provide external motivation, it may take away a child’s innate desire towards learning and contribution and may start depending on these rewards for them to act or behave a certain way. What happens when the reward is taken away or when the child gets too old to get excited about them? Are rewards effective in the long-term, then? Respectful Parenting focuses on enhancing the child’s intrinsic motivation and self-reliance. Instead of rewards, parents can build on connection and relationship and show genuine appreciation and encouragement. These are unconditional with no agenda of getting the child to behave or do something.
As for earning money for chores, the book The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber suggests that this can be done for bigger or extra hard chores that you would normally pay extra to get done. Household work should be done as part of contributing to the family, and it’s best to not tie it with money. What happens when they decide that they don’t need the money and the chores still need to be done anyway? Paying for chores may also teach them that working for money is no fun at all because they don’t like the chores they are being told to do.
It would be beneficial for parents to think of the long term goals, the life skills, and characteristics they want their children to have as adults. When children are intrinsically motivated, they will find joy in the things they do and become contributing members of society.
5. Would you handle tough behaviours (like insisting on doing things their way or mischief, etc.) differently between a four and eight year-old?
Sophia: Parents expect that as children get older, they should know better and do better. However, research conducted by the Gesell Institute of Human Development shows that a child’s development is not the linear upward trajectory that we anticipate. It’s actually more of an up-and-down roller coaster of equilibrium (when they are more joyful to be around) and disequilibrium (when they show more challenging behaviours).
Since a neurotypical eight year-old would be able to communicate better than a four year-old, the parents may be able to find out the physical and socio-emotional needs they are communicating when they display the challenging behaviours. They may be able to problem solve with the child about how things can be better for both parties in the future. Keep in mind though, that each child is unique and developing at their own pace, so parents should try their best to meet them where they’re at developmentally and not expect them to be more mature than what their brains allow them to be.
6. How can we use Respectful Parenting to manage screen time/gaming?
Sophia: Screen use has become a common worry in a lot of households. Each family has their own values when it comes to screen time and what worked for one may not work for the other. Also, what worked for one child, may not work for their sibling. There are respectful ways to go about managing screen time for your family.
Connect first before asking them to shift away from screens. Be curious as to what they’re playing or watching. Sit beside them and perhaps play a game with them occasionally.
Collaborate on creating an agreement with your child. Ask them what they like watching or what games they like playing. Ask how long a show or game usually takes. Knowing this information, it might work better to agree on limits about the number of games or episodes they consume versus how many minutes or hours they can be on their devices.
Be a good role model by being mindful of your own screen use. It would be more beneficial if screen agreements apply to the whole family. Designate tech-free times and places, such as no tech during dinner time and/or no tech in the bedrooms to get proper sleep. Also, role model how to take brain breaks from screens, e.g. “My eyes are starting to get dry. I think I need a break from my phone” or “My neck is hurting, and my legs are falling asleep. I think I need a good stretch away from my computer.”
Cultivate healthy habits early on with activities appropriate for their age. Engaging with your child and co-viewing are essential for their age. For younger kids, you could do a video call with relatives abroad or write an email together, focusing on screen use as a means of connecting with loved ones far away. For older kids, you could guide them with their online research showing them that some websites are much more reliable with information compared to others. Inform them on how to be good digital citizens and role play what to do when they encounter cyber bullying, scammers, and predators. For teens, ask them if they’ve seen any interesting videos lately and guide them on the proper use of social media.
A big thank you to our panellists, Lisamarie Hughes and Sophia Klopp from EtonHouse International School…
Lisamarie Hughes is an educator from Wales, UK. Lisa joined EtonHouse in 2005 and is a mentor Principal who has led many schools from inception to success. She motivates and guides school leaders across all EtonHouse schools to tackle challenges, follow best practices, innovate, create and effectively engage with families and staff. She is currently the Principal at EtonHouse International School Sentosa and has pioneered the innovative ‘The Island is my Garden’ project that incorporates nature education and community engagement in a beautiful manner. She was also voted Principal of the Year (Kindergarten) at HoneyKids Singapore Education Award 2021. Lisa has a son who is studying in Year 2 at EtonHouse.
As an advocate for Respectful Parenting, Sophia Klopp is passionate about parenting with mindful purpose and not with impulse. A mother to three children aged 15, 10 and 6, she believes that parenting is a fruitful and intentional journey of self-discovery, reparenting, repair and connection. Sophia is an EtonHouse parent and a Certified Parent Educator of Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen. She is an avid parent advocate with Chapter Zero and established the Respectful / Mindful Parenting Tweens and Teens Singapore Facebook group, supporting a large community of parents and caregivers who are in different stages of their journeys in supporting children respectfully. You can follow her journey at @positivedisciplinesg and with Chapter Zero (@chapterzerosg).
More about Respectful Parenting
Respectful Parenting is an approach that EtonHouse embraces across its 17 campuses. The school has many resources on this topic on their parenting blog and continues to work with its in-house team of expert educators and pedagogues to share their professional expertise and personal experiences as parents. You can also view past webinars organised by EtonHouse on different aspects of Respectful Parenting. Subscribe to their newsletter to be updated on future articles and webinars.