Framework is a parenting paradigm that we intuitively adapt. I came to reflect on the topic since parents frequently ask me how I parent, especially as I am in the business of helping parents. I decided to use the word “framework” to describe it. Three reasons have contributed to my parenting offering framework/s for our own boys. First, I work with children and parents with emotion dysregulation where punishment yields poor results. Second, I am not as good in exerting my authority, but can work better through my thinking and influence, a better fit for my personal temperament. Third, coming from the eastern philosophy, we have less organized rules in rewarding and punishing. That said, it is always a merger with all my adult life in the western world.
I believe that one needs to start early, and keep at it. Negative consequences arising from the failures of life itself are inescapable. You already know that children will learn through these inevitable failures as much as successes. I think, ‘why cause sadness and angst over and above the life’s challenges, when I have an alternative choice to shape them gently?’ So here are the things that worked the best for me. I suggest you imagine yourself doing this and reflect on your style.
- Feedback: If you see something that requires them to develop insight, you can call on what could be better or how it things got to be wrong, and offer reasoning. You can also recommend a proactive choice to improve, more when they are young and help them think through it especially as soon as they develop abstract thinking.
- Suggestion: If you see an opportunity for prosocial behavior like carrying an old woman’s luggage or helping in a nursing home or taking flowers when invited for lunch and never go empty handed, you let them know how proud you are to further ingrain such humanistic values. But let me tell you, it will morph into you receiving calls from other adult benefactors and you end up simply conveying that kindness back to your children. You will reach a point where you yourself have to do very little.
- Share how I would problem solve: If they have a problem to solve, you can share your scenarios of tough situations and what you do/did to solve them, drawing parallels, including the wording you used, the deeds, and the perceived wisdom.
- Injection: You can send them emails and texts of quotes, anecdotes, jokes and all kinds of loving notes to help them feel connected and loved, while imbibing life’s values, sentiments and concepts.
- Descriptive anecdotes: You can take acute interest in sharing with children on any interesting educational life experience that you either witnessed or experienced, with elaboration on the nuances of what is there to grasp, analyze and reflect. This is capitalizing on experiences that teach life. This also offers a variety of neutral topics to discuss.
- Sharing ideas: Especially if they ask, you can volunteer without getting too excited, an option to think of your ideas to add to their own great ideas.
- Role model the thoughts behind actions: This is where your own life and balance in tending to family and work, prioritizing, explaining your limitations come into play. You have to explain to them that parents’ full time work as “###” would not allow us to be watching every game, but we would be there for every important event; and that they are beneficiaries of your earnings. It is a balance. You can also live a life where you involve your community, the dinner parties, people coming in and out of the threshold of your home that teaches our kids how to serve, give and be connected. Do not stay isolated. While at it, you can help them understand the effort and the planning that is required.
- Empowering: Learning not to do their work for them intrusively, learning to respect their boundaries, but encouraging and believing in their power. Let go with small tasks first, and big tasks come next, soon enough! Give freedom (Trust, but verify where needed). This is antithesis to helicopter parenting.
- Wisdom: Lighten up and not take every issue too seriously. It is like, “you cannot kick the cat too much!”
- Direct teaching: There are times that we directly shape the etiquette, directing them on good deeds. I think it is great to show them how to do things and this is the innate instinct that I am noting- what you do anyway! But perhaps the scope of what is possible, matters.
- Narrative of your life as parent: You can often speak of your own mind, like loud thinking on fears, worries, expectations, disappointments, and joys as a parent, as dictated by the context. I hope you do not over do it, though, but add value as authentic human being, so they get what its like to be a responsible adult. Perhaps, ‘not always’ using the patronizing parental tone that I hear, commanding.
- Relationship with partner: This I think is quintessential scenario of seeing affection as a good memory to expect the same for their own married life/partnership, we hope. The good manners to covet and treat their partner with poise, and inspiration comes from the affection they see among couples and within the family. I would take the time to explain shared roles between mom/s and dad/s may not be exactly the same. It can be complementary deeds of sharing the work in different ways. I respect that family compositions can be complicated, but I am making a general statement, with focus on the ambience within the family unit. I actively think of this, as it is never too early to inculcate as well as expect in children-evolve as a kindred spirit and find it in others.
- Relationship with family, close friends and the community: Kids see how we treat our own elderly parents and our neighbors. I cannot stress this enough, as inter generational cycles may repeat.
- Fail proof, state the obvious: Often, kids test the parents. Not falling into the basket of power game, laying back and saying how it is a struggle and leave it at that-is often enough and neat. Avoid letting them dig the heels deeper. You stay clean without criticism, while saying what you observe as matter of fact, and may be say what you see in “their” struggle. They will gain insight with some space.
- Happiness is a skill: I tell our boys-who knows where the heaven is? We must create that heaven on earth with what we can create in our home, or reach that sweet spot of contentment. Not merely achievement, but having fun creating good, content, artful life.
Again, there are different ages, stages, strengths and weaknesses in our kids, being able to grasp all the nuances of life. It is a process. If you think in terms of brain, it is utilizing prefrontal cortex heavily, versus relying predominantly on the striatum in learning. Brain is complex, of course! You are better of trying some of these, at least as you remember and keep giving a forum to think, a framework to operate! This I think is way stronger and easier on the psyche than narrow focus on material rewards (we all love rewards to some degree) or punishment. My humble 0.02 cents!