The first time we ever used collaborative parenting strategies in our family, I was very literally near the end of my parenting rope! I had gone into parenting thinking I would have this parenting thing down ( I thought). As a teacher, I understood consistency, holding children accountable; I was the teacher they sent other teachers to in order to see how to manage a class. Surely if I could do that with more than 20 children, I could do that with 2 of my own! (LOL forever, my friend).
I will never forget the feeling of success it brought to sit down with my child and empathetically listen to his perspective and the resulting collaboration that resulted in less stress for the entire family.
Transitions were very difficult for my son, especially when it came to favorite activities. And, at the time, nothing was more of a favorite than legos. Anytime we had to transition from legos, the nightmare would ensue. I thought I knew what was going on… he loved legos, right? Of course he didn’t want to stop! I pulled out every parenting “strategy” in the book. But once I dove into that collaborative conversation with him, boy was I in for a surprise! It turns out that in his very complex mind in which he would become completely hyper-focused and absorbed, he was afraid that he might not remember where he left off! He might not remember where to start up again! Wow! I had never thought of it like that before! This insight guided our whole language we used to discuss this and eventually we came up with the agreement to have space and time to find a “stopping point.” It is a term that has served us well in many situations since, but had I not had that conversation with him, I would have probably stayed in the cycle of constant dread everytime we had to shift activities or leave the house!
Admittedly, within the world of nueroscience and education we are in the very earliest stages of truly understanding the human mind and how it develops. The more we learn about it, the more evidence there is to show that the commonly accepted reward/ consequence system does not always work, especially for brains that are differently wired.
The good news is that collaborative parenting is an approach that aligns with preparing children with behavioral challenges to learn skills for navigating adulthood. Here are some answers to commonly answered questions about the collaborative parenting approach:
Q: By using collaboration with my child, does it undermine my authority as a parent?
A: Absolutely not! In fact, there is evidence that using these strategies encourages children to listen and come to parents with their concerns when they know their parent will look through a collaborative lens. Also, there is never a question that in issues of safety and health concerns that you must act in a role of authority. If my boys find it difficult to accept and comply with a family rule put in place for their safety ( for instance with technology), we may have a discussion about why it is hard for them and get to the bottom of the unsolved problem, but that doesn’t mean we will change the rule entirely. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have to take a break from technology. Also, in the collaborative process, there is a step that involves sharing your concern with your child and why it is important to you. The modeling of communication here is extremely powerful and strengthens the relationship between parent and child.
Q: If I use collaborative structures, am I able to still provide accountability for my child?
A: Yes! Collaborative structures include reviewing the agreed upon solution to further problem solve and aligns with natural consequences of choices that children make. It overlaps with gentle parenting and viewing the child from a holistic perspective. As adults, we may have many assumptions of what is causing behavior, but once collaborative structures are used, most experience surprise that there was something else at the root of the problem from the perspective of the child. Most importantly, these structures teach important soft skills such as interpersonal relations, communication, problem solving, and reflexivity that are highly valued in both in relationships and in the work environment.
If you want more information on how to implement these parenting strategies with your child, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up for a consult at deannawestedt.com. You can schedule right on my oncehub link. I look forward to walking with you and your family through these impactful steps.