Thank you (once again) to Monica Cassani and her site http://www.beyondmeds.com for posting this. A really useful short film about 4 basic changes we can all make to ways of parenting that are culturally common, but which can make it more difficult for children to grow into teenagers/adults with a clear sense of (and ability to exercise) their right to say ‘no’ – for example to touch or sexual contact they do not want.
The last thing most parents intend is to make this harder for their child, and our sense is that the information in this film – about the impact of certain ways of interacting/ communicating – is often simply not taught/spoken about. Parenting is one of the most challenging and the most important things we do – yet we give very little focus to preparing people for this core life experience, or supporting them in it.
We don’t entirely go with Paige’s open questions – some of which still seem to have a clear agenda about what she might want the child to say (and children usually seek to please us, and are in the weaker power position in an interaction with a parent). A truly open question has no agenda about the ‘right’ answer, and will accept whatever answer the responder gives. Marshall Rosenberg, in the context of Non-Violent Communication, distinguishes between a request (which will accept the answer ‘no’) and a demand (where the answer ‘no’ is actually not acceptable to the questioner – even if the question is phrased as a request).
Clearly where the responder is a child, there may often be an element of teaching/shaping within the adult’s responsibility/task – for example around self-regulation. If your child is denying being cold, whilst simultaneously shivering and turning a little blue around the edges, ‘do you want a sweater?’ may appropriately not be an open question, may in fact be a demand (‘I know you want to get back to paddling, but you are clearly cold and I want you to put this on, at least for a little while’). However, there is a twofold task here: (1) around you as parent identifying (and being clear with yourself and your child about) whether you are asking an open question/making a request, or whether you are in fact voicing a requirement; and (2) around refraining as a parent from needless demands – of the ‘because I said so’ variety – and so creating space for your child to develop autonomy and the ability to define, regulate and meet his/her own needs.
Here is the link to the original post on http://www.beyondmeds.com post – this site has a wealth of useful resources on conscious parenting and many other themes.
And here is the link to Paige’s own ‘Gentle Parenting’ site, which has loads of useful material on it too.
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter