Parenting Persona

All parents must identify and understand their parenting persona. Your persona drives your parenting decisions and plays a major role in how successful you are as a parent.  Recognizing and understanding your parenting persona allows you to choose parenting tactics to meet your own needs, the needs of your child and the needs of your family.

Are you a reactive person? Do you respond to your child with anger? Do you have difficulty coping with change? Are you prone to being irritable or fearful?  Do you lack persistence and have a short attention span? Do you tend to withdraw when confronted with uncomfortable situations? Are intense situations often followed by feelings of guilt or remorse? Do you expect perfection from your child? Do you become frustrated when you do not have control of a situation? Do you easily become impatient? Are you judgmental of others? Do you worry about what others think or say about you? Do you criticize others? The answers to these questions will help you determine your persona.

Your persona regulates and alters the way you respond to your own feelings and events in the outside world. Being able to manage and understand your persona allows you to accommodate your behavior and change the way you relate to your child. Your persona is influenced by your temperament, reactivity, regulation and life experiences and provides a description of how you will respond to parenting situations.

The best way to visualize your parenting persona is to identify your response patterns. The three basic personas are mental analyzers, feeling followers and reflex defenders.

The first parenting persona is the mental analyzer.  Mental analyzers are imaginative thinkers who are inquisitive and have a thirst for knowledge. They are prone to appear detached and prefer to have plans for everything and avoid the spontaneous. They find comfort analyzing their child’s behavior, seek mental answers on how to alter a child’s behavior and are most secure when making plans.  Analyzers are prone to being detached from their child. They tend to be conceptual, rational, practical and interested in how their child thinks. They enjoy the mental process of researching parenting responses and are skeptical, rational and avoid being caught up in emotions.

The second parenting persona is the feeling follower. Feeling followers are highly attached to people, moods and emotions. They are aware of the feelings of others and tend to be outward directed when compared to the mental analyzer who is more inward directed. Their decisions are dependent upon the way they feel about something. They prefer to be connected to others and rely on an emotional vocabulary to understand and respond to the behavior of their child. Feeling followers worry about how they are perceived while enjoying the recognition and external validation of others.

The third parenting persona is the reflex defender. Reflex defenders are aware of and depend on boundaries for decision making. Autonomy is very important for these parents who rely on intuition, instinctive impressions and a sense of fairness for decision making. They are prone to being defensive and protective of their parenting decisions and rely on simplification of parenting responses to prevent decision making from becoming burdensome and overly complex. They prefer not to negotiate and are prone to critical and judgmental responses to others as a way to protect and defend their actions. Anger is often visible in their responses and they tend to be highly committed to their decisions and do not rely on recognition or how they are perceived by others for personal gratification.

By determining your parenting persona you will be better able to understand and alter the parenting decisions you make.

Parenting Choices

Your abilities to anticipate and respond to the needs of your child play the biggest roles in the amount of stress a parent experiences.  Stress is part of parenting. Being able to recognize, understand and eliminate this stress helps you find the emotional vocabulary to listen to and connect with your child.

Uncertainty of how to respond and interact with your child is the most common cause of parental stress. It is a barrier you can overcome. Everyday parents are confronted with seemingly endless events and behaviors that require parenting responses. By following specific child-directed responses this uncertainty can be eliminated. These techniques can reshape the way you respond to your child and the way your child responds to you.

The first rule is to follow your child’s lead and avoid criticism, questions and commands. Unless there is a safety or security concern, ignore negative behaviors and use praise, reflection and imitation to direct and lead your child’s behavior in a positive direction. These types of responses decrease the risk of negative interaction. Choose words, a tone of speech and use gestures that show enthusiasm. Your words and actions must say to your child: “I enjoy being with you.”

Praise is the next parenting response. It increases positive behavior and like enthusiasm, it generates a positive feeling between you and your child. When giving praise, always identify or label what you are praising. An example is: “Thank you for getting your hat and coat on.” Try to avoid questions. Questions often have hidden commands and suggest disapproval and not listening to your child. Focus on correction without criticism by avoiding words like: “no”, stop”, “quit”, “that’s wrong” and “don’t”. This eliminates unpleasant interactions which damage your child’s self-esteem.

Reflection is another response. It relies on repeating or paraphrasing what your child says to invite your child into a conversation with you. Reflection shows your child you are listening and tells your child you understand what he or she is saying. This type of two-way communication enhances speech and social reciprocity skills and helps you connect with your child. Reflection can also be paired with reporting. When reporting you tell your child exactly what he or she is doing. This technique improves your child’s attention span and shows you are interested in and approve of the activity or behavior your child is performing

Imitation is the final technique you can rely on.  By doing the same thing as your child you allow your child to lead and signal your approval for your child’s activity. Cooperative and parallel play teach your child to lead and supports learning how to give, share and take turns.

Using these child-directed approaches will help you eliminate parenting stress by preventing you from being overwhelmed by parenting choices. These techniques allow you to gain control and become the best parent you can be.

Be My Valentine

What tools do you rely on to parent your child?

Children are born into this world as perfect beings waiting for connections to be made. Although your child needs food, warmth and protection, mostly your child needs you.

Your ability to connect in a love-filled positive fashion provides a secure attachment which is essential for a healthy mental, physical and spiritual life. The interactions you choose become the grains of sand out of which your child’s social, emotional and cognitive castles are built. Your love and the interdependent relationships you offer teach, inspire and guide your child.

Your child is born with over 100 billion brain neurons and over the next few years hundreds of trillions of neuronal connections are formed. Brain networks form. Connections are pruned. Behaviors and skills modulated by genes and the environment erupt and your child becomes an adult and future potential parent. The parenting strategies and techniques you choose frame your child’s temperament and support your child’s future personality.

Stressed parents filled with fear, anger and guilt often rely on authoritarian parenting techniques built on dominance not love. This is both wrong and dangerous. Parenting is about enticement not force. It is about allowing your child to find and make the right and wrong decisions. It is about genuine praise and heartfelt effort rather than outcome. Parents who focus on demands and criticism command a behavior but run the risk of not teaching cooperation, independence, patience, understanding and acceptance. Providing your child freedom and encouragement are the holy grails of parenting.

One sided conversations do not last. A healthy parent-child relationship must be reciprocal. It must validate on a daily basis that you both value your child and promise to provide the stimulation and interaction fundamental to a secure, stable and organized relationship. For the infant and young child this means love, affection and attention and the fulfillment of basic body needs. For the toddler it means approval of exploration merged with the setting of limits, schedules and routines. For the preschooler the goal is the ability to understand feelings and being able to experience a wide range of emotions.

Your child watches you. Your words, actions and behaviors teach your child you care and are listening to him or her. How you behave teaches your child how to respond and communicate with others. Mirroring your child shows you approve and want those same words, actions and behaviors to continue.

Consider adding some new interactions into your daily routine with your child.  Practice reflection as a skill. Repeat and paraphrase your child’s words.  Invite your child into a conversation with you and see how two-way conversation accelerates both speech and social reciprocity. Report on your child’s behavior by describing what your child is doing. Watch how this increases your child’s attention span and willingness to engage. Imitate your child. Don’t just talk about what your child is doing. Get out of your chair and do it! You will be amazed by the excitement and added effort your physical involvement provides.

These choices are up to you. If you love your child the answer is easy. The power of connection will be the greatest valentine your child will ever receive.