SELF-CONTROL AND SELF-SOOTHING - CRITICAL SKILLS FOR CHILDREN
The two primary parenting tasks critical to raising happy children and good citizens are: (1) teaching self-control, and (2) teaching self-soothing.
These tasks require Mom and Dad to be attentive, listen actively, and guide the child toward experiencing the consequences of their own choices and taking responsibility for their own behavior.
The motivation for growth and development is part of the human condition. It doesn't need to be taught, but it can be stifled. Most parents instinctively help their children reach for toys, practice sitting, learn eye-hand control, and so on.
However, parents also do things for their children sometimes long after the child is able to do it for him or herself. Mom or Dad feeds the child because they don't want to clean up or they don't have the time. Parents carry children who are capable of walking because it's easier for the parents and requires less patience and concentration. Parents respond to demands and whining as if it was an appropriate way for a child to ask for what she or he needs.
Each of these situations is a natural opportunity to help guide the child's motivation towards learning self-control. Coming up against a limit or redirection from Mom or Dad may then lead to a natural opportunity for the child to practice the skills of self-soothing.
Discipline is about self-control and self-soothing. Discipline is about learning to manage impulses and desires; it's about learning to handle frustration and delayed gratification. This is the challenge of parenting. Teaching discipline to a child requires maturity and discipline on the part of the parent.
Teaching self-control and self-soothing is hard to do when we haven't learned it very well ourselves. It's one of the reasons that sometimes our children teach us that we need to grow up, too! Very few of us reach adulthood having completed all the tasks of adolescence. So reparenting ourselves and learning to heal the deficits from our own parents is just part of the process.
If our child sees and hears us over react to unexpected schedule changes, rant and rave when our boss or coworker disappoints us, yell or scream at other drivers on the freeway, and rush around like a maniac because we lost control of our time...how can we expect our children to do anything else.
If you are an adult who needs to learn more skills for self-soothing and self-control, acknowledge it. Being honest with our self about our mistakes, deficits, limitations can be humbling and challenging. And that is exactly what parents do when they are serious about raising a child.
Children and parents experiencing the breakup of the family need care, attention, support, and nurturing. If that need is met early in the breakup process, the outcome for everyone is better. Children have needs every single day. Unlike adults, they are unable to wait to play, rest, read, study, go to the doctor, go to the dentist, and navigate multiple developmental stressors.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent because life is full of uncertainty and the unpredictable. It was true for our parents and it is true for us. Accept that and do the best you can. And reach out for help. It's easy to find. Learning about the research and techniques of parenting can be fun and very rewarding.
Transitions Family Program at Hannah's House offers many services for parents, families, children, couples, blended families, and coparents in every stage of coparenting from cooperative to high conflict. This program exists to ensure that specialized forensic clinical services are available to any and all family court-involved parents and children in San Diego County.