When it comes to parenting, the phrase “letting go” is counterintuitive and feels like an impossibility for most parents. It’s often used in therapeutic settings as an effective tool for managing hardships, events, and situations outside of our control.
But, when it comes to parenting, it’s easier said than done. How can we be expected to “let go” of the outcome for a person we are programmed to care for and protect?
At Solutions Parenting Support, we teach our parents that letting go is a learned skill that helps parents get out of habitual emotional parenting and into wise-minded parenting, instead. Why? Because emotional parenting often perpetuates negative patterns in a family system.
The difference between wise-minded parenting and emotional parenting.
Being a wise-minded parent does not mean you don’t care about the outcome for your child and it certainly does not mean detaching from your child. It does mean detaching from the emotional responses so that parents approach challenging situations in a cognitive, thoughtful and intentional manner, instead of an emotional one.
Why is “letting go”, as a parent, simple, yet not easy?
From the moment a child enters into the picture, most parents are full of hopes and beliefs for their children’s lives. In the early years, parents make decisions about every aspect of their child’s life: what they eat, whom they play with, what time they go to bed, where they go to school, etc.
As children enter adolescence, it is important that parents make room for their kids to assert some independence. This is a difficult adaptation for parents in the easiest of situations and can become a monumental task if your child has demonstrated poor decision making and judgment.
So how can you implement the idea of letting go into your parenting style?
Here are our 5 top tips from our years of working with our parent coaching clients.
1. Stop trying to raise a “Happy Kid”
Your job, as a parent, is to raise a well-adjusted individual who can manage life outside the safety net of your home. This is actually more important than raising a “happy” kid. “Letting go” of needing to feel in control of your child’s happiness allows you to redefine parenting into teaching self-efficacy, which is a skill that has a much greater chance of ensuring a fulfilling and meaningful life for your child.
2. Help them to Help Themselves
Instead of focusing on “helping them” switch your mindset to “helping your child help themselves.” For example, when your child asks for a pen, a nice low-risk situation, you can say, “well, where are 3 places one might be and if there is not one in any of those I will see what I can do.”
3. Start small
Boundaries and expectations, in your home, are opportunities to teach problem-solving, relationship repair and accountability (all skills needed to function as an adult). Practice offering choices within your comfort level. For example, a small boundary could be, “If you oversleep this morning, I will have to stay at work later so I won’t be able to drive you to our cousin’s as we planned.’
As you find areas to offer choice, you send the message that you believe your children are competent and have the ability to make decent decisions. You send them the message that you see them as individuals capable of having different perspectives and priorities. As you create opportunity through boundaries, you provide the chance to make positive decisions and can be there to support them when they make mistakes.
4. Challenge yourself to examine your intentions.
Are you afraid of what your child will or won’t do, in any given situation? Do you have faith that they can handle things? Do you trust your child will make decisions based on your family values? Are you living in fear of what might happen, and making decisions based on potential future events?
Understanding intentions creates the opportunity to reframe your beliefs and then approach a difficult situation with clarity, rather than resorting to the emotional reaction. For example, at times many of the parents we work with share that they believe their child “should” do chores without being reminded and that, if they cannot, they will not be a functioning adult. Coming into a situation like this with the emotion of “ugh, they should know better by now!” can lead to an emotional upheaval. Instead, if you enter a situation with, “well, of course, they are not prioritizing these things they don’t want to do,” then you can interact with your child with a different emotion, in a more matter of fact way, in which you are better managing your emotions.
5. Stay in the moment
Rather than playing the tape out to the worst-case scenario, stay in the moment. Catch yourself if you’re constantly catastrophizing with thoughts like: “If they oversleep, they will miss class, fail out of school, and be living on the streets.”
Perhaps letting go isn’t actually letting go of anything related to your children at all. It’s letting go of your internal dialogues and fears. It’s letting go of your own expectations of what your role as a parent means.
In return for letting go, you may, in fact, end up with a deeper relationship with your children based on understanding, clarity, acceptance, and trust…which is really something worth hanging onto.
If you are the parents of a child in long-term therapeutic treatment or a wilderness program or you’re a professional working with families who could benefit from our services, please feel free to contact us at (970) 871-1231 or head here for a detailed list of services provided.
Hilary Moses, Jen Murphy and Jen Rapp Sheridan
Solutions Parenting Support