Hi, I'm here today to talk to all those parents out there who want their child fixed. I can remember having a really challenging time with my boy and I just wanted someone to fix him for me and it took me a long, long time, like years to realize, that actually the only person (you're going to HATE me for saying this) but the only person who can fix your child, really is you. My name is Gill tree, I'm from Stressed Parent. Having been a hugely stressed parent myself - I adopted my son when he was three, in 2011 so, I've now got a 14-year-old.
I'm going to teach you just a little bit about what I call parental presence. Developing your authority, having influence over your child, being the go-to person for advice. Why do we lose that in the first place? What happens to cause us to stop having that role in our child's life? I think the internet has a lot to do with it. I think Google has replaced us, anything they need to know, they go on Google, they're finding out all sorts of stuff about life, sex, drugs, rock-and-roll. They get lots off social media, they've got all their peers, they don't need us for advice, and opinions, and wisdom. So, I think that's partly it. I think, partly, we're just very busy as parents - we are working really hard and we're just not connecting in the same way. That maybe when there was no such thing as the internet, we had that family time together.
So, I want you to think about your role as a parent, no matter the age of your child, they could be five, they could be 25. They're still quite young, inside even age 25, they still need us. They still need us for some advice, some wisdom, for some guidance. I like to think about being like harbour walls, there's a storm out, there’s storms brewing, and we are the ones to call our children in and to maybe close the harbour and keep them safe from the storm that's brewing. So, whenever there's a storm out there in your child's life, you're the ones that they come to, for safety, for security, for reassurance, that's what we want. And what do we do? How do we do that?
Well, you know this already, it's about setting the rhythm of family life - when do you get up in the morning? When do you have dinner? When do you clean your teeth? It’s the rules, the rituals, the routine. So, think of it as 4 R’s – rhythm, rules, ritual, routine. And they slip, they do slip, there's no doubt about it. We get busy, other things happen - people come to stay, we go on holiday, they're sick, all sorts of things slip, we can always put things back in place, and if they object, you say, “well, I made a mistake, I shouldn't have let you have your dinner in your bedroom. We have family meals around the table, I've made a mistake.” It's fine to admit that we're moving back to our family life, and our rule - dinner together on Sundays at seven, or whatever.
We want to be in control without being controlling. We want them to have enough freedom that they learn by their mistakes; they make decisions for themselves. They become independent of us, they develop that independent thinking, obviously it's going to be very different for a five-year-old to an 18-year-old, but we want that. So, give them some freedom to make mistakes, to plan their days. I'll say to my son (it doesn't mean it happens, it doesn't mean that it’s effective) “What's your plan around tidying your bedroom today? What is your plan for today?” At least I'm throwing it back to him to think, and my son, like many adopted children (if you have an adopted child or a foster child, they have very poor executive functioning - that's the front part of their brain) they don't think, they can't listen to a lot of instructions. They haven't developed that ability to think through. So, the more opportunities we can give them to think things through, “what's your plan? What do you think? How much time will this take?” is a really, really useful way to start to develop that in them.
Member of the International Stress Management Association
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