I frequently visit Dr. Laura Markham’s helpful family website, Aha! Parenting. Trained as a clinical psychologist at Columbia, Marhkam advocates relationship-based therapy. Her philosophy rests on two central concepts:
(1) “Children who feel connected WANT to cooperate. They need guidance — limits with empathy when necessary — but never punishment. When they can’t connect and cooperate, it’s because they need our help with their emotions.”
In other words, children are on our side. Even in the throes of toddler tantrums or teenage rage, kids are expressing some type of emotional upset or frustration that blocks them from getting close to us. If we recognize this for what it is and work on soothing, rather than scolding, them, they will find it easier to chill, connect, and cooperate. (This approach can work on spouses, too!)
(2) “Job One for parents is managing our own emotions, so we can help our children manage theirs.”
This is the real eye-opener. So often we treat kids’ issues as theirs exclusively, like we are somehow innocent bystanders being subjected to their misbehavior. Dr. Markham insists that we start by looking inward. Your world reflects you. My own mother has always told me this and I have resisted, but Markham has plenty of evidence to show it’s true.
In addition to her blog, Dr. Markham recently published Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids. It expands upon these ideas and offers really solid advice on becoming a better parent and person.