Intro:  This month I am previewing a book I am working on Inspired Parenting.

 Teaching Reflective Processing Skills
I used to tell my son, when he’d complain about having to hold my hand in a parking lot, “I spent a lot of time and energy taking care of you, I’m not about to let you go and get yourself hurt!” The younger a child is, the easier it is to protect them. As they get older, and they become more independent from you, and more dependent upon their friends and the world outside of your home, the less control a parent has. At some point, we must allow them to live out their own dreams and expand their own boundaries. Sometimes this means they will experience wonderful things as a result. Other times, horror. As a parent we have to be ready to support and process through both situations. Something I wish I would have learned earlier in parenthood, is how to teach my children to be observant and reflective in every situation. When my children are expanding their own boundaries, and participating in their own activities of choice, I want them to be able to ask themselves a version of the questions I ask them when I feel as though they break one of my boundaries:

  1. What did you think of that experience? What was positive about it, and what was uncomfortable?
  2. Did that experience make you, and those around you, more or less functional?
  3. Did that experience lift you, and others up, or did it drag you and others down?
  4. Would you want to participate in that experience again? Why or why not?
  5. Do you have any questions?
  6. How can we help support you?

The more I can memorize these questions as a parent, and as a person in general, the more I take judgement and anger off the table. To be honest, I am still working on that. But the more I make these questions a daily habit, such as a daily conversation around the dinner table, the easier and easier it becomes.

But there will also be times when their decision, and your decision, will not come to an agreement.
In those situations the next set of conversation starters can help:

  1. Here’s the behavior I saw from you after you had that experience….(list the behaviors and be as objective as possible).
    Negative Examples: you were unable to get out of bed, you stoped talking to us/your friends, you let your grades slip, you told us (insert a lie) when actually (insert the truth), etc.

2. Remind the child of your families expectations and the reasoning behind them. Also allow others to process how the child’s behavior impacted them. Examples: I couldn’t sleep because I was so worried, I cried, I was angry, I couldn’t concentrate on my own work, I couldn’t talk to you, etc. creativity

3. Remind the child of the consequences of not following the expectations, as well as the rewards for doing so.

4. Do you have any questions? And how can we help you?