In the journey of parenthood, many of us find ourselves diving deep into books, seeking strategies and scripts for every parenting challenge that comes our way.
If you’re anything like me, you like your parenting books. When my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, and then again when she was struggling with anxiety and depression, I found myself diving deep into every book I could get my hands on, looking for that perfect script, that one solution I hadn’t thought of, that answer that would make some sense of what was going on, and more importantly, tell me what to do about it.
But let's face it—there's no single book out there that has all the answers, no matter how much we wish there was. It would be fantastic if we could find that one 'Complete Bible of Parenting Behavior and Responses', but it just doesn't exist. (I apologize for any disappointment that may bring.)
The good news is that while there is no magic formula or 1-size-fits-all set of rules, there are three fundamental pillars that can help us navigate the beautiful chaos of parenting with a bit more confidence and clarity.
Today I’m going to talk about ditching those parenting books and arming yourself with the knowledge you actually need to navigate the realities of raising complicated little humans.
1. Learn How the Unconscious Mind Works
Whether it's your kids, yourself or pretty much any relationship, including professional ones, it's vital to understand how our minds actually work. We live in a culture that celebrates the rational conscious mind - it's in our schools, in our parenting, in our arguments, when in reality, that's not how we operate 95% of the time.
The conscious mind only makes up about 5%, (maybe 10) of our behaviors. Frankly, once I began to understand it, I was shocked that it isn't being taught in every school and parenting course in the world. If it were, we would be living in a much more peaceful world because we would have the tools to actually understand each other and ourselves.
[Fun fact: the conscious mind doesn't even kick in until around the age of 7 so up until then you are dealing with a walking talking unconscious. And...many experts believe it doesn't finish developing until well into the 20's.]
Understanding how the human mind operates gives us insight into our own reactions and behaviors as well as into those of our kids.
Getting a handle on these inner workings can shed light on why our children may respond a certain way which will help us be more effective in how we respond, communicate and guide them.
Stay tuned for more content on the unconscious mind coming soon.
2. Understand Fundamental Human Needs
The motivation behind every behavior is tied to some need. I've already shared a lot about this. Check out our earlier content to learn more about Self-Determination Theory.
Understanding these core needs gives you the power to decode otherwise mysterious or misleading behaviors, like when your kid says they suddenly don't like their favorite food.
By understanding the core needs that fuel their behavior, we not only have a better chance of meeting those needs but of looking through the surface words or actions to what's really going on underneath.
3. Know the developmental milestones
Developmental milestones play a crucial role in our understanding of our children's behavior and growth.
Most of us are already familiar with the physical ones like walking and talking, but what about cooperating, sharing, saying yes, or saying no?
At each stage, there are specific aspects of themselves that our kids are working on developing. By understanding what behaviors to expect in these changing phases, we can set realistic expectations and provide appropriate support and guidance.
Take, for example, the classic parental frustration with the word "no." It's almost as if toddlers are programmed to say it on repeat, right? Well, guess what? They are! Saying "no" is actually a vital part of a child's development as they explore their independence and assert themselves. It's not about getting them to say "yes" all the time; it's about understanding their need to express their autonomy and supporting their healthy growth.
And if we shut that down too soon we actually slow down the speed with which they can move through it, or worse, prevent certain aspects from developing entirely, such as holding boundaries or knowing what we want.
Eric Erickson did great work in this area, and his work is well-known and very respected. A lesser-known, but potentially more powerful model comes from the researcher and professor of psychology, Claire Graves, whose work later became popularized as Spiral Dynamics.
According to Graves’ theories, our capacity to develop, or even understand, many celebrated behaviors such as sharing, teamwork, collaboration, entrepreneurship, servant leadership, are predicated on the healthy development of earlier phases, which include less celebrated behaviors such as taking what you want first, hitting back at someone who hurts you, going with the group, even when it’s not what you would do on your own, and blindly following rules simply because they’re there.
Understanding the progression of these phases can help you gauge where your child’s currently at and work with them, knowing that as they butt up against the practical limits of each of these behavior sets, they will then grow past them and into the next developmental phase.
Knowledge is Power
By arming ourselves with the knowledge of how our minds function, the underlying needs behind behavior, and the various stages of development, we gain the power to decipher what's happening beneath the surface. Those insights enable us to communicate effectively, motivate our children, and guide them through their unique developmental journeys while fostering harmony within our families.
Of course, even with this knowledge, parenting is challenging but really understanding these 3 areas should help you understand what's at play, even if the answers aren't always easy.
Jlove, is the Co-Founder of Mercury Coach, a certified Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner, parent advocate and coach. She uses tools and teachings from neuroscience, psychology and timeless wisdom to help parents break free from false and limiting beliefs and enjoy parenting while they empower their kids to be confident, self-reliant and happy.