We learned a lot from our last HoneyKids Talks: Practicing Respectful Parenting at Home. Here are our biggest takeaways...
Finding the right way to talk to our kids — especially when our patience is being tested — is never easy. And with all the parenting theories out there, finding one that benefits both the parent and child can be tough. That’s why we’re such big fans of ‘Respectful Parenting’ — it’s a parenting technique that helps build strong, mutually respectful relationships with our children.
In our last HoneyKids Talk: Respectful Parenting At Home, our panelists, Denise Teo, Pedagogue at EtonHouse International School, Lisamarie Hughes, Principal at EtonHouse International School Sentosa and Phua Li Ling, Director of Chapter Zero, shared valuable insights on how to put respectful parenting into practice in our homes. Here’s what we learned…
All about Respectful Parenting: TOP TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS
1. Be kinder to yourself
Regardless of which parenting theory you choose, prioritising what you think works best for you and your family should take precedence over everything. There’s no ONE right way to parent — allow yourself to be sad, pick up after yourself, learn from your mistakes and try to be better. Take it one step at a time! We are all just trying to do our best because we love our children, but it doesn’t mean you can’t love yourself too.
2. Share the good and the bad with your children
It’s OK to talk to our children about our bad days. They are so in tune with us that they feel it anyway. Narrate what is happening and how you’re working though it — this helps children feel safe with their emotions and feelings. Later, you can explain how you got over your bad day so your children can model your experience.
3. Find your tribe
Finding like-minded parents who just get you is always a relief. It’s a great way to get support sans the judgement, especially during tricky times. There’s always room to do better, and what better way to learn than from people who know exactly what you’re going through? If you haven’t found your mum-tribe yet, you could start by looking at your school’s community or a playgroup if you have younger children. If you’re new to Singapore, the park is a great place to find fellow mums and dads to network with.
4. Always listen with empathy
When talking to our kids, we should always listen with an open mind and heart. Doing so will increase their confidence because they know we always have their back. As much as possible, we need to keep our comments to ourselves or give them unwanted advice, especially when they’re pouring their hearts out.
5. Parenting isn’t a linear journey
There’s no one right way to parent. We need to be open minded, learn from our children, and most importantly, learn from our mistakes. There’s no better teacher than a lesson learned!
YOUR RESPECTFUL PARENTING QUESTIONS: ANSWERED!
My two year-old hates brushing his teeth. I’ve tried giving him two different toothbrushes and asked him to choose. This trick works sometimes, but most of the time, he’ll refuse so we end up holding him down while I brush his teeth. Is there a better method?
Think about offering him something he can see to prepare him for the length of time he’ll need to brush his teeth. We personally love sand timers for this. Another method is to show your child how YOU brush your teeth. This is what we’ve done with our own sons. It became a fun activity to “see Mama brush her teeth”. Play also works particularly well for children at this age. We like to distract them while we’re brushing their teeth. Sometimes, we offer something interesting from the cabinet like a box of floss, or we fill up the basin with some water so that they can brush their “toys’ teeth”.
My child complains about everything. If I ask for a task to be done or a schedule to be followed, the answer is an automatic ‘no’. I feel like I’m constantly explaining myself. Is there a way to make my child more positive?
Hearing that your child says “no” sounds like there is a power struggle that is taking place. We need to understand that respectful parenting is not permissive parenting. The child should not decide the next cause of action all the time. In respectful parenting, we listen to our children, hear them out and value their input. But these are all done within the boundaries that have been set prior, with agreement from our children. No matter what age your child is, we should strive to work on the agreed plan and routine, even if it may result in a meltdown. By outlining the boundaries clearly with our children and carrying them out accordingly, it will help to lessen the power struggles, and you’ll have a better, regulated child who is not out there to oppose you all the time.
My son can’t sit still while we try and read books together. Instead, he crawls everywhere. Should I just continue reading and let him crawl around? What approach should I take?
Firstly, consider the time you’re reading. Is it a time when your child is tired or hungry or has a strong desire to move? If there is a strong desire to move, maybe try spending some time outside at a park, exploring nature or some general rough and tumble play together at home. After lots of positive physical exploration, a story could then be used as the cool-down activity while you enjoy a drink of water together.
If your child continues to move around, continue reading. Consider how you are showing your interest in the story by adding suspense and invitation by changing up your voice, your reading speed and showing genuine curiosity about the next page “I wonder what will happen next?” Children are amazing at moving and learning at the same time! It is what they do best at a young age… After some time, if they sense from your engagement that the book is fascinating material, there will be moments where they will pause what they are doing, notice you, and come closer to engage with you.
Another meaningful possibility to explore would be setting the mood and scene. Can you make the room darker and enjoy a story using a torchlight? Or set up a cosy area with lots of cushions to relax on together? These considerations make the experience special, different and inviting. Bedtime is another relaxing time to try reading a book or telling a story to help your child unwind.
Finally, our last tip is to try whispering a story. This often draws children in as they want to get closer to see what is so special and what is captivating you. Happy reading!
My son is 11 months old. Should I already start practicing respectful parenting? Do they really understand at this age?
This is an interesting question that other parents of young babies may be wondering too. Parents of young infants and toddlers who have yet to learn to speak may find an adult talking to a baby as if the baby understands to be a strange idea. While newborn babies certainly do not understand our individual words, when we slow down and tell the baby what we are doing next during care routines that happen several times a day, the child gets to hear the same words repeatedly alongside a set of repeated actions. For some time, it may seem one-sided to the adult, but before long, you will be surprised when your baby responds. Over time, the baby starts to know what to expect during care moments, and begins to understand our words and later, speak.
11 months old is not too young. In fact, Magda Gerber who founded Resources for Infant Educators (RIE) taught parents to talk to babies from the first hour of the baby’s life. This peaceful partnership during care moments from the baby’s first days becomes the baby’s model for relationships and communication.
We’ve also met parents who have expressed doubt with regards to the respectful approach to discipline. Do babies really understand when we explain? Adults may have rules that do not make sense to a child, so it is our job to calmly express our boundaries to help them understand, while acknowledging the child to do what they want. All children need to explore, make sense of their world and figure out what the boundaries are. We’ll leave you with some words by Magda Gerber:
“When a child ignores the rule, the [adult] tries to show that she fully understands the child’s desire to do what he wants and that he is not naughty or bad for having that desire. Therefore, she does not get angry with the child but calmly repeats the rule as she enforces it.” – Magda Gerber, from “Dear Parent”
More about Respectful Parenting
Respectful Parenting is an approach that EtonHouse embraces across its 16 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. Here are the answers to more questions that the audience raised during the talk.
For more helpful tips on parenting and anything school or #mumlife-related, stay tuned on our Instagram for the next HoneyKids Talks!