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What happens when you make your expectations clear - but your children are clearer?
Illustration by Eliza Fricker (www.missingthemark.blog)
A lot of conventional parenting advice is about being clear and consistent. Make it clear what you expect of the child, and follow through with consequences if they don’t comply. If the child isn’t living up to expectations, it’ s assumed to be because the parent hasn’t set the boundaries well enough. The child needs to get the message. Whenever there is muttering about ‘poor parenting’ you can be sure that the words ‘boundaries’ and ‘inconsistent’ will come soon after.
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This is part of our cultural belief set around parenting. So much so that parents will be told in the supermarket that the child showing everyone that they are desperate to leave and go home is due to ‘lack of boundaries’, or told that if their child is very distressed about school, it’s because they haven’t made expectations clear enough. “We just don’t give them the option!” other parents say breezily, as if you’ve told your child that out of the options available to them, being unhappy at school is a lifestyle choice.
It all assumes that if you parent well enough, your child will comply. They will do what is expected. Being a good parent (from this perspective) is essentially about effective control.
Then along come clear-sighted children who see straight through this. They see no reason why the same rules shouldn’t apply to them, and so they set their boundaries and they follow through. They make their expectations clear, and when their parents don’t comply, they do not let them off. They take a hard line.
Their parents feel stuck. Nowhere in the parenting manuals does it explain what to do when your child sets and holds clearer expectations than you do. When anything you do seems to make it less, rather than more, likely that they will comply?
You need low demand parenting. That’s what Eliza Fricker and I are talking about in our next webinar. The webinar for parents with kids who haven’t read the parenting guides. This time we’re covering sleep, siblings, hygiene and food. Come and join us on Thursday May 4th, 7.30 PM. Yes it’s recorded.