One of the most rewarding part of working with families is assisting, and counseling parents around parenting skills, to reduce unhealthy stress for both them, and their children.
One of the most common pitfall for all parents is the “escalation trap”.
We ask the child to do something. They ignore or refuse. We escalate. They escalate. We escalate. They escalate. At the end, we may give in with an “accidental reward”, or they may give in this time.
The question is, what are they learning from this, and what are we as parents, learning from this.
They are learning that we are not serious until we escalate.
We are learning that they are not going to listen until we escalate.
So if that is what we are learning, and that’s what they are learning, it’s probably not going to get better.
Part of parenting skill training is to equip parents with strategies to prevent this escalation trap.
So what principles and strategies can we use to help parents with this?
1. Start with simply being aware of the above. Awareness is the first step to change.
2. Work on connection/relationship because this is foundational in parenting. When the relationship, connection and attachment are good, boundary setting is going to be much more effective and easier to implement.
3. Consider shaping behaviour by rewarding and giving attention to the behaviours we want, and active ignoring of the behaviours that we don’t want (as long as they are not dangerous). If not careful, we tend to do the reverse. Part of reward can be a simple “descriptive” praise for behaviors and values that you want to cultivate in our family. For example, good boy for being so patient and kind to your sister, rather than simply, “good boy”. Be mindful of what they are doing well and acknowledge those, rather than just pointing out the “bad stuff”.
4. Consider using behavioral strategies from TripleP like quiet time and time out, or the 1,2,3, and consequence from 123Magic may assist, although the delivery must be done correctly.
5. Or cultivate more “mindful” parenting in line with the theme of Circle of Security. Provide them with their needs for safety, stability, unconditional love/connection, and the opportunities for growth/learning. Use “time out” for both parent and child if required for defusion/reflection, but remember to go back to “time in” to empathize, teach, coach, accept/own our mistakes, make things right, and most importantly, rebuild the connection.
Parenting is definitely one of hardest job in the world, and at the same time, can be most rewarding as well. Helping the parents will help ourselves to fine tune our own parenting skills (for those with kids), and reduce our own stress.