Are you surprised at how much energy and attention your child requires? Do you sometimes feel exhausted by it?
Are you puzzled at how demanding she is even though you strive so hard to meet all her needs?
That she sometimes doesn’t even seem like a happy child in spite of all you’re doing?
Are you discouraged that even though you model respectful behavior, your child is not respectful, compassionate and at times even pleasant to be around?
This a common issue I notice in many of the parents who come to me.
They are committed peaceful parents.
They’ve put a lot of time and energy in learning how to be the best possible parents to their children.
Many are highly motivated because they don’t want their children to experience the painful childhood they themselves experienced.
Yet they don’t have the child the peaceful parenting books promised. And they’re tired of bending over backwards trying to please their children. They believe somehow that parenting doesn’t have to be that hard, yet they don’t know how to get there.
Does that sound like you too?
Then it’s very possible that the problem is you’re too child centered.
That in an attempt to make sure that your children’s needs are met, you’re too focused on them instead of being the grounded leader they need and giving them the space to have their own life experience.
In order for our children to feel secure, it’s very important that they feel we are in charge, we know what we’re doing, that we have things under control, that they can rely on us.
(For a full discussion on this important topic, read my article The Key to Well-Behaved Children Who Listen to You, While Fully Respecting Them or listen to my interview Why Leadership Is the Missing Link in Conscious Parenting.)
If we turn to them for guidance on how to live our lives, spend of a lot of our days focused on them, looking for their input on most things, they will not have the sense that we’re in charge. They then won’t be able to relax into the safety of knowing that someone has things under control.
They need that knowing to be able to and free to focus on their own lives, their own experiences.
It’s important that we create lives that feel good to us, in which we focus on our own tasks and interests, and our children are on the periphery.
What we do should be compatible with our children, but our lives are not about them and their activities.
Having our children be our entertainment causes a shift from their intrinsic motivation and their own connection to their activities, to an extrinsic motivation where they aim to please us and get validation from us. It cuts off their self-connection.
It leads to children who want a lot of attention, feedback and approval on whatever they do, who can’t just appreciate what they enjoy doing for its own sake but are dependent on the validation of another to enjoy it.
This is often the cause of children who feel very demanding.
This is something that happened a lot with my children when they were young, when we visited my family in Montreal, for a few weeks at a time. We’d just hang out in the family room a lot and everybody would comment and “ooh” and “ah” at everything my children did.
They would as a result of it often be a lot more demanding of attention when we got back home, and it would take some adjustment for them to come back to just doing things of their own motivation.
It’s also very important for children to have space to be, do, learn and explore without any interference. This allows them to discover who they are, what they like, to learn, to grow into themselves.
Showing your children more benign neglect could be a very beneficial thing to their sense of self, and free you up to have more time and space for yourself!
So how do you apply this in your life when you’re often alone at home with them, and that there are limited ways to meet their social needs?
Please know that I’m not saying that you should never play with children or engage in their activities.
However, contrary to popular opinion, it is definitely NOT necessary to play with your children to meet their needs and build a strong connection with them.
Because of the artificial set-up of most of our families, our children are more reliant on us for their social needs than if we lived in ideal tribal or community situations.
It’s perfectly appropriate for us to do things with them, as long as we genuinely enjoy them, but those things need to comprise just one part of our overall enjoyable lives that include a lot of our own interests.
I played countless games of Skip-bo, Rummikub, cards, as well as read books and did puzzles with my girls.
As long as I enjoyed it and didn't make it my job.
What I saw as my job was to ensure that their social needs were met.
While many toddlers are happy being home alone with mom and maybe some siblings, some require more social engagement in order to have their social needs met. And most children 4 and older require regular time with children and adults other than their parents and primary caretakers to feel socially satisfied.
One guideline I have to determine if you're being child-centered or not is to check your energy when engaging with your child.
· Do you feel grounded in yourself or is your energy with your child?
· Are you being condescending and cutesy with your child or engaging from a clean place?
· Are you resenting giving him attention or are you genuinely interested or eager to interact with him?
Because this is a feeling thing, it's a bit tricky to describe, so I encourage you to just notice where your energy is when playing with your children.
HOW CHILD-CENTEREDNESS FEELS
Now I want to give you an experience of what child-centeredness feels like.
Have you ever been in a co-dependent relationship or seen someone close to you in one? This is what child-centeredness is like.
Read the following paragraph. Then close your eyes to feel into what I describe.
Imagine you’re in a romantic partnership with someone who absolutely adores you and/or is afraid of losing you. He makes his whole life about you and is every moment focused on how what he does impacts you. He asks your advice and permission on everything. He doesn’t want to do anything without including you. He's afraid of hurting you. He makes sure that any action he takes will not impact you negatively in any way.
Imagine what this would feel like, beyond the initial enjoyment of having someone’s full attention. Imagine living this way for years....
Once you’ve felt into it, now imagine the following:
You’re married to someone with whom you have a great connection, and you share a deep love for each other. Your spouse is a happy person who isn’t reliant on you for happiness. He also sees you as a whole and competent person. Though he loves spending time with you, participating in shared interests, he’s also happy in his own work, hobbies and other relationships. He deeply revels in your company, not because he needs it, but because of the quality of your connection. If you’re not available to spend time with him because of other activities you’re involved in, he happily finds something else to do. You share a home and a life but are still two independent people.
How does that feel?
Which of those do you most resembles what you have with your children?
If you have elements of co-dependency, what’s something you could do to move towards a healthier relationship with them?
What I propose, instead of being child-centered, is to be what I call ‘family-centeredness.’
The goal of family-centeredness is to find a way of living, and activities that meet everyone’s needs as much as possible.
To create a life that everyone enjoys, that has room for everyone’s interests.
Where there’s room for each person’s individuality and wholeness within the context of the loving and supportive family.
Of course, with babies and young children who are still dependent on the parents, some activities may be unavailable to parents for a few years. But it’s still important to create a life for yourself that you enjoy as well, and very possible even while meeting your children’s needs.
You deserve to be happy and have your needs met too. ♥
With much love,
P.S.: For more on this topic, make sure to read the comment section of this article. I've shared some additional ideas and resources, and asked 2 moms who completed my Clean Parenting™ program and mastered this principe to share here their advice after seeing them post it in a Facebook group.
FOR HELP PARENTING in a way that meets your children's needs AND is not child-centered, click the button below to request my FREE report:
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For support in learning to parent in a way that fully honors yourself as well as your children, check out my Clean Parenting™ Program.