How to successfully support your children after your divorce. A 12 weeks program for divorced parents.
Week 5 - Changing Tack in Parenting (1)
Where do you stand as a parent and when? Before your child, aside, behind or nowhere?
When parents are together, there are obvious advantages for parenting. One parent might prefer a different parenting style than the other. The shortcomings of one parent is often compensated by the other. After your divorce this compensation might disappear. Therefor, it is useful to know at least what your strengths and weaknesses are. That is a start of you change in parenting.
Changing Tack in Parenting explains new techniques to you. What they are and how you can apply them.
This week we discuss the positions that you as a parent can take in the relationship with your child. The week after next week, discipline techniques are on the menu.
Where do you stand as a parent?
Ever thought in the supermarket when you encountered children of other people behaving completely out of control? Did you not think at that time “I will never tolerate my children to behave like that?” Most people have the same thought, but not all those people are successful in preventing this from happening. This has a lot to do with parenting positions. If you want to know why and how, read on.
The 4 parenting positions.
We use a conceptual framework with 4 different parenting positions.
Knowing in which position you are in a parenting situation allows you to analyse how you deal with your child in different situations. Next, it gives you practical guidance to how to make necessary changes, if required. No one of these parenting positions is good or bad in itself. It depends on the situation your children are in.
Is the position in which you are in the lead. You show your child how something can be done. Not only by explaining or by telling, but by walking the talk.
For example, you take your young and unexperienced child to the play ground and you are going to learn how to ascent the climbing frame. You go first, slowly, while you let your child watch. Then you do it again and you let your child follow. Naturally, you keep looking ahead, to the next step you have to make. You go one step at a time and you start at the easy side.
In fact, you virtually pull your child to the top.
When you are in the beside position, you support your child. For example, you help your child with its home work from school. You rehearse, you give some tricks or suggestions to make it easier to remember things they have to learn.
By standing beside you child, your child will unconciously see you as somebody they can rely upon, somebody they can lean on when they need a shoulder when they need one.
Beside is a temporary position. You should not confuse it with closeness as in friendship. The timing is different. When your children get older, you are wise to raise them in the direction of adult independence. Not as your friend. True friendship will be your reward when your child has reached adulthood.
Unless you want your child to remain dependent and in need of your mental and financial support for the rest of your life, of course.
Is when you push your children to move forward and to do things you want they way you want it. Parents with a busy schedule place themselves in this position almost automatically.
Do you recognize parents (or maybe yourself) running from one place to the other and getting late in many occasions? Parents that yell at their children because it takes them too long to do something or because they do not obey? Many parents spend time with their children, but when they do, they are mentally somewhere else.
When your child learned from you when you were in the lead, but he is taking over, you can place yourself in the behind position. He leads, he will be supported by others, but if it finally goes wrong, you are there as a final safety net.
In short, the behind position serves as a quick reminder of boundaries, as a safety net of confidence.
For example: you go to the play ground and you let your child do whatever he or she wants. You do not support it climbing the racks. Only if your child tries to leave the play ground you step in and reminds it that it is supposed to remain on the play ground.
The behind position is the most common, although most parents won&lquot; admit. You should not stay long in the behind position.
Nowhere at all
Is if a parent is not present at all. Be it mentally or physically. Some parents are physically in the same room, but they are fully occupied with other things or persons. This sends a constant negative silent message to the child caused by the disengagement of the parent.
Divorced parents will be physically absent now and then as a natural consequence of the divorce. Nowhere still feeds the child's feeling of abandonment, but these negative feelings can be minimised as we discussed in week 2.
For example by making it very easy to contact the distant parent when the child feels the need and by really being there for your child when you are with him or her.
Nowhere does not have to be negative in all circumstances. The older your children get, the more they can do things on their own. They need to fly-out by themselves to learn and to grow. Children need to have the possibility to experience independence.
Nowhere at all happens naturally. For example, when you drop them off at school.
Why is it important to know your parenting position?
A master of parenting knows which position is the most effective in which situation. He or she can switch from position effortlessly. To become a master of parenting, you could practice all the different positions. That will make you feel at easy in each position.
Most parents switch from one position to the other without thinking or realising. By bringing the position and the alternative to the consious mind, you will be able to swich from position on purpose. Changing position changes the perspective and will open alternatives. Do you use push or pull? When do you give a shoulder your child can lean on?
Most parents have a natural preference for one of the parenting positions. When things are getting difficult, routine or when there is a lack of time, they tend to take that preferred position. When you were still together with your ex, that was compensated by the different natural parenting position of your ex.
After your divorced, this has changed. Be aware of this. Staying in one parenting position all the time does not work. Your child needs leadership, boundaries and structure. A father that is only tough to his son and who is constantly bullying him, does not work either.
When to take which parenting position?
Parenting positions should be balanced. Over time, the balance will shift. When your child grows older, he will become more independent. Your child will be in the driver seat more often and finally he or shel will go and live on its own. Without you.
Ahead: in situations in which you want to show them the way ahead. When your child needs leadership, when you want to form attitudes, mindsets and family culture.
Beside: when your children can use your support or when they ask for it. For example: making their home work, being their supporter when they play their sport games.
Behind: when they are becoming independent and start make their own choices. No matter what the results are, let them know that you stay behind them.
Nowhere: when they grow older and older, your children need the opportunity to fly free and experiment.
What are your parenting positions?
What is your natural parenting position? To find this out, write down what parenting situations occurred between you and your child during the last week or during the last 2 weeks. What did you do in each situation? What was the result? Next, categorize each parenting situation in one of the four categories.
How to practice the different parenting positions?
On the list of parenting positions that you compiled under the previous question, write down what other possible parenting position(s) you could have taken? What would have been the result? Is this result better? If yes, mark this alternative parenting position and apply it next time in this situation.
Your list should include all 4 parenting positions.
One or two weeks later, review the list. Evaluate for yourself what you did, how you did it and what the results are.
It is a good thing to list this evaluation in your calendar, so you do not forget. Dedicate a little time and attention to do this exercise. The rewards will come quickly.
Stay tuned. Next week you can learn about Focusing on Yourself.
Do you want to read more about the subjects covered in this article?
Please read the book:
by Jill Darcey.How to Successfully Co-Parent after Divorce
Go to the Home page of Children and Divorce