A mother with small children reported confusion around the principle that says, “what we resist persists” in reference to parenting. She asked, “When I lecture my six year old son about the importance of cleaning his room or taking care of his toys, am I resisting reality? When I find myself yelling “STOP RUNNING in the HOUSE” to my children, am I actually making the problem worse by my own resistance? How can I tell when I am setting good boundaries and when I am actually creating more problems with my resistance?
Such a relevant question …. parenting is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to applying the principles. 🙂 To answer the question … yes, when you react from a place of resistance with your children, then you will meet more of it. If you're “lecturing” or “yelling” at your little ones, you are actually reinforcing the behavior that you're trying to curtail. Such is the nature of resistance. Setting boundaries is an essential part of child-raising but we can set them in ways that do not create more resistance.
Use eye to eye contact when talking to your children about proper behavior. Talk in quiet, but direct tones. Saying “no” can be done respectfully. It's actually more effective that way. When you do say no, follow through. If you tell your children no and then give in later, you teach them that you can't be trusted to tell the truth. Why would you be surprised then, when they don't take you seriously? This sort of interaction often results in your loss of temper and much unhappiness all round.
When your children behave inappropriately, instead of yelling at them from across the room, get up, go to them, get down on their level and look them directly in the eye. Talk with them in kind, respectful tones, as if you expect them to understand. You are teaching them, not punishing them. Inform them about why their behavior isn't appropriate and share some healthier options. For instance; “It's not safe to run in the house because there's not enough room. I understand you feel like running, would you like to go outside where there's more room?” Or … “Since there's not room here to run, let's go in the den where we can put on some music and dance instead.” Children want your approval … they love to cooperate when they feel approved of for that. Trying to force cooperation from a place of anger and control simply teaches your children that resistance works. They emulate you. You're angry so they're angry.
When boundaries are repeatedly broken, explain to your child, that there's an apparent need for a time out or appropriate consequences to help them better remember the rules. Then see them to their room for a few minutes time out – not in anger … but in a matter of fact way, tell them why they are being placed in time out and for how long.
The most important ingredient in setting boundaries in a way that does not promote more resistance is your attitude. If you are calm, kind, honest and direct, they will respond well. If, however, you see your children as a problem, they will be! You will notice that when you are frustrated or irritated with them, they tend to act worse.
Perhaps you've observed that it's those times when you feel most discouraged and overwhelmed that they seem to act out the most. This is not accidental. Children are mirrors. They reflect to us our own mental state. They will naturally and automatically show us the degree of resistance we're currently feeling.
This makes self care a priority in raising children. Rest and do things you enjoy every day, with and without (if possible) your children. When we neglect to take care of ourselves, it shows in our mood … we become tired and reactive. Don't be surprised then when your children are cranky too. When your children are “having a bad day”, it's a signal that you need a little attention and self care. Take responsibility for your own feelings; find and question the thoughts that are creating your emotional stress. Otherwise you will continue to project your unhappy feelings on to them. Then, no matter what highly touted parenting “technique” you may use, you will still meet with resistance. It never fails, if you are irritable and reactive with them, they will tend to be hyper and irritating in return. But, by being kind and caring to yourself, you will find that you are better able to encourage your children's cooperation. And when you are relaxed and responsive with them, they will reflect that same attitude back to you. They will be a joy to be around.
I hope this helps. Blessings, Lynne