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Guest Post: The Art of Imposing Rules Into the Lives of Children

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In Boulder on May 6th, nationally acclaimed conscious parenting coach Michael Vladeck will teach you how to raise grounded and self-aware children within the distractions and disruptions of the internet and digital media …without the power struggles.  Gain a science-based understanding of the impacts of excessive digital media exposure as well as concise strategies to help you create balance.

Raising Balanced Kids in The Digital Age
May 6th, 6:00 pm – PLEASE NOTE CORRECTED TIME
Boulder Campus

As a preview, we are reposting with permission, one of Michael’s recent blog posts from him website, http://michaelvladeck.com:

The Art of Imposing Rules Into the Lives of Children

Your reason for rules is never superficial, it goes deep – expose that.  Model transparency and vulnerability (especially if you wish for your children to do the same).  Before making a power play – and inviting a power-struggle, communicate from the heart – from your needs and feelings as a parent that drive your parenting rules.  (The true exceptions to that, when you only have time set the boundary, are very rare and few).  Share  your answers to questions like: What fear, needs or knowledge do you have that are behind setting this rule?  Why do you not like setting rules, but feel you need to, as a parent, in this situation?  Hopefully it goes without saying that you need to be very responsible for the rules you create – that they are coming from a healthy place within you.  If you get lazy here, it will bite you back in some way with your relationship with your child.  It’s also essential that you don’t exhibit double standards (unless you can explain why you are doing so in an honest and effective way – effective enough to actually help them truly understand).  Remember, children’s brains do not process like yours, and can interpret things incredibly differently.

Their reason for not wanting to follow a rule is deep too – this needs to be respected.  What are the forces, fears and beliefs behind their resistance?  Help them see the unseen forces within them that drive their behavior… through exploring their choices with them.  They need help in seeing themselves more deeply, and insightful questions would be great to offer.  They do not need more “insightful” speeches.  Be curious and help them think more deeply and critically than their developing brains can do otherwise.  For example, older children who lie to parents so they can get to a party are doing that for a real reason; usually it’s not only about “fun”.  Fears of missing out or of not being accepted are powerful motivating forces – try to get to the root of that.

Kids break clear, agreed-upon rules for many reasons – think of your own when you were their age:  You didn’t agree with the rule; you felt is was unfair; what you wanted was worth the consequence of breaking the rule; you wanted to piss your parents off as a way of feeling more empowered; or maybe you simply forgot about the rule – and the list can go on.  Ultimately, however, breaking rules is most often a symptom of the broken health of a relationship – because there is a either a lack of deep understanding or connection between the two of you in some way, or there is a personal lack of connection within yourselves.  Tracing the reason for why rules are broken almost always leads directly some critical deep need or feeling that is longing to be met.  This requires you to NOT ARGUE OVER THE BROKEN RULE, but rather get underneath the story about the rule breaking.  This leads to sacred places where true understanding, compassion and connection are born from.  Breaking a rule opens up an opportunity to explore what is really going on within you as a parent, within your relationship with your child, or what is going on inside the heart and mind of your child.

Avoiding power-struggles:  Let them know the truth – that they do have a choice:  Once you have honored their needs and wants, and once you have shared your feelings behind why you are setting a rule, then point out that they are free to follow the rule fully, partially, or totally disregard it.  That is up to them.  BUT… there is a consequence for the choices they make – so help them by being totally clear on the consequence of breaking the rules – totally clear.  Even if you have a child who argues every rule or decision no matter how lovingly transparent you are about your reasons, let them know that they can keep arguing, or stop – and that the result of those choices will be different.  Be clear about what that would look like.  Giving them the power to make choices, even poor choices, teaches them how to critically think, embrace a bigger picture, work on being more able to delay gratification, become more socially intelligent, and so on.

Rules may be important, but without a strong relationship in place, they are mostly ineffective.  Oftentimes, when your child hates a rule, but has a good relationship with you, they’ll still go along with the rule.  Therefore, when you feel a rule is necessary, but your child does not, it’s important to try to help them understand why it is that you feel it wise for them to follow it.  Even if they challenge and break rules… you doing your best to create understanding is a critical first step.  And, it’s worth mentioning, saying to them “Because I said so” is likely setting them up to either break the rule, to not respect you, and/or to close off emotionally and communicatively to you with resentment and hurt.  You need to go deeper than that.  They deserve it, and eventually they’ll fight you if you don’t.

If the relationship you have with them is profoundly intact because you work on such conscious parenting practices daily,  you’ll have a better discussion about why the rule is being put in place and how they feel about that.  As importantly, when the time comes that they challenge or break a rule, you’ll also have a better chance of connecting to them from a more calm place to understand what their choice to break the rule was really about – and that become an opportunity for connection and understanding.  That said, you can learn exactly how to do this in my 8-week webinars and classes that will totally transform the way you relate to your kids – 3 of them start next week/April 6th or 7th. 

Lastly, don’t get blindsided.  Know that as your children develop their sense of personal will and become more independent, they will need more understanding about your rules.  This is why you want to start early if your kids are young.  If they are not challenging your rules yet, it’s coming: Definitely, absolutely and certainly.  So… begin now to create that more connected relationship and more intimate mutual understanding that is foundational to a strong relationship.