By Kim DeMarchi
Some parents are kind, but not firm. Other parents are firm, but not kind. Still other parents vacillate between two extremes—at times being overly permissive and at others being overly authoritarian and dominating.
The key to effective parenting? Find the sweet spot—by being both kind AND firm simultaneously. You’ll know when you’ve been successful: Being kind and firm sets a respectful tone in your home because no one needs to battle or engage in power struggles to be heard or understood. Being kind and firm is all about knowing what your parenting rules are, why they exist, and communicating them calmly, clearly, and consistently.
What does kind AND firm sound like in the real world? Take a look:
1. “I love you, AND the answer is no.”
Why it works: It’s always a great idea to start with love, which is why this is one of my favorite examples. Try to say this to your children calmly and genuinely—and be impeccable with your limits.
2. “I know you don’t want to stop playing, AND it is time for dinner.”
Why it works: The child’s feelings are first validated (which shows kindness) but the parent remains firm in her resolve. Perfect!
3. “You don’t want to brush your teeth, AND we’ll do it together. Want to race?”
Why it works: Rather than focusing on the rules, this approach focuses on the fun. Humor and games are great ways to take the focus off of rules, rules, rules.
4. “I can tell you don’t want to clean up your toys, AND what was our agreement?”
Why it works: If you’ve made an agreement and now your child is balking, remind her (kindly and quietly) of the terms. Keeping a cool demeanor will help minimize power struggles.
5. “You don’t want to go to bed, AND it is bedtime. Do you want one story or two stories as soon as your jammies are on?”
Why it works: This clever distraction from the issue at hand—bedtime—gives some power back to the child, who after all may be exhausted and more prone to big feelings when he’s tired.
It can take a while to get in the groove of kind-and-firm parenting—and we all have less-than-stellar moments. Keep trying, give yourself a pass when you miss the mark, and take time to congratulate yourself when you succeed.