How I Changed as a Parent

To hear this interview and others, listen to the Successful Parenting Podcast by Jackie Rhew and Robin Choquette!




Google Drive

Successful Parenting Podcast


What has brought you to this work?

I thought about that question and I realized that I have had children in my home with me as a parent in some form for the last 32 years. I still have two left at home. Some of the older kids I was blessed to play a parent role with are now about 50 years old! I was 24 when we moved in to parent nine kids at a time. I was a house parent, a foster parent, biological parent, and a stepparent.

While I initially got into this work to help kids. I realized how important families are. Over time I realized how important marriage is, and then I realized if you’re facing a divorce, how important it is to divorce well.

Do you feel that conflict is something parents should avoid?

Developmentally kids need conflict to become independent. We also need conflict to get our needs met. It’s inevitable and it’s just a matter of whether it is positive or negative. We can either be aggressive about it or passive. Usually the more anger in the conflict, the more destructive it can be, not that anger is a bad feeling. What’s sad is when over time people stop the conflict by giving up on the relationship.

Or is it an essential component that children need to learn how to manage?

Conflict resolution is an essential skill. There are effective ways to handle it and harmful ways. I think kids watch more than they listen so we want to be able to model it.

Have your views on helping parents teach their children about conflict evolved over the years?

Let’s just say I’m a slow learner. While I have been educated on parenting, It is often challenging. I got better as a parent as time went on, but I’m sure I still have things to learn. I had to learn that conflict is easy to manage when I’m calm, and it is difficult, or even impossible to manage when I’m upset. So a lot of what I had to learn is self-regulation. Now I failed at this, but I don’t want to try and correct the kids when I’m upset.

The second thing I had to learn is that I thought my words were so convincing that I just had to reason with my kids to calm them down or correct them. I’m either really bad at that, or reasoning with kids is insufficient to calm them down and correct them.

After a while, I turned to in-home policies in which privileges were predicated on completing responsibilities. I no longer wanted to argue with my kids. I would focus on a few important responsibilities or skills I wanted to reinforce, and then just set up an if then scenario. If they completed their responsibilities they could earn said privilege. I would try to get their input on both the responsibilities, skills and privileges to incorporate. This would have to be tweaked for each kid over time, and be age appropriate.

Now since I often got into power struggles with my kids, I decided not to try and reason with them, or at least not argue about it. I chose to focus on winning the battle for home structure, but the kids had to win the battle for initiative. In other words, they had the option of whether or not to complete a responsibility or practice a skill. But if they didn’t, they didn’t earn their privilege for that day. This freed me up to empathize with them and connect with them instead of feeling like I had to correct them.

Would you say it is ok for parents to argue in front of their children? What tips would you share with parents on ways to manage conflict with the other parent and/or their child(ren)?

Well that’s going to happen and my biggest regrets would be when I’ve lost control because of anger. That’s when I have to role model apologies. As I think about it, as long as I can stay calm I can manage conflict. So for me it’s more about anger management. Parents don’t always have to agree, but it’s better to find a way to back each other up.

We receive a lot of calls and emails from parents concerned about their children’s level of conflict or how they ‘fight with one another.’ How would you recommend parents handle fighting amongst children, including emotional, verbal or physical aggression from one sibling to another?

I believe we do need to intervene when it comes to aggression. Conflict arises when anxiety is triggered. Because control is so important to us as we are trying to manage difficult feelings, we will ramp up our efforts at control at signs of resistance. This of course is like pouring fuel on a fire. Often we are intervening when it is too late. At least one person is in fight or flight mode, and if one person is in that mode it is often contagious. The first step would be calming yourself down and then calming the other person down before conflict is addressed.

However, physical aggression needs to be stopped by physically separating each person. I wonder if family disengagement policies should be practiced like fire drills.

What are some good conflict resolution skills you teach parents and children? What are ways to teach kids to manage their conflicts? When should parents intervene when their children have excessive conflict with a peer in class?

Before driving we should make sure we are not under the influence. Before resolving conflict, we should make sure we are also not under the influence of adrenaline. So the first skills we need to learn include mindfulness, being present in the here and now, grounding exercises, techniques for self-soothing, calming the body and emotional regulation, deep, slow breathing, recognizing limiting and inflexible beliefs, and positive statements about self. How do we know when we’re ready to handle conflict? We can maintain a sense of humor, engage a creative process, integrate multiple points of view, remain calm, and think clearly.

We know we can think clearly when we can explain each person’s side of the conflict accurately. Then, instead of trying to convince the other person to change, we think of future solutions. If no solutions are agreed upon, parents have to rely on their own rules and consequences.

As parents, we model how to manage anger and frustration for our children. What if one parent struggles and frequently loses their temper in the home? Should we discuss this with the child(ren)? Can we expect our children not to lose their cool, if a parent struggles to do so?

This is a difficult situation when not everybody wants to work on their anger. There are calming techniques that you can use but the problem is you may have to be you have to be calmer before you can use them. I would hate to put the responsibility on a child to calm a parent. Sometimes children need to comply with authority figures even if the authority figures are out of line. Ignoring negative behavior can be a tough pill to swallow. If one parent is excessively angry, that is an issue between the parents.

When should parents be concerned about their children’s management of anger? One parent noted that their child raged every time they said no. Should parents stop saying no? Any advice?

I think we should always be concerned about the management of our own anger and the anger of our children. Knowing their triggers and planning ahead is key. But in the case of a child raging every time they are told no sounds exhausting and is not typical. Somehow their raging works for them and we would have to take a look at possible causes. This is where counseling and treatment centers can help.

Here are three questions that we ask every guest. You may choose to answer one, two, or all three of the questions. It is your choice, what do you think?

1. What did you do as a child/teenager that would drive your parents crazy?

I believe I was fairly argumentative. But they said it was missing curfew.

2. What is the biggest difference between children/teenagers today and when you grew up?

Social media competes and even is more influential than the parents. I think kids are more entitled, and emboldened by what they see on social media. There’s also seems to be more diverse parenting styles seen on social media, some good and some bad. A generation ago there was a good chance your kid’s friends’ parents were similar to you in parenting.

3. What does Successful Parenting mean to you?

A trusting relationship with my child. My child feels safe and connected. My child is free to be different than me.

Recommended Posts