If you’re like most parents, you want the best for your children and you strive to see that your children are well cared for and happy. A fine line exists, however, between doing what’s best for your child and giving into your child’s every whim.
You’ve probably heard of the term “people pleaser”; perhaps you consider yourself to be one—but people pleasing takes a different focus when you are a “pleasing parent.” Parents who over accommodate, do whatever it takes for their child to avoid conflicts and disappointments. Maybe your child is prone to having tantrums if they don’t get their way, or perhaps he/she is an expert manipulator. It may ease your stress to just give in to your child’s demands and/or to prevent the embarrassment of a full blown tantrum when out in public.
Unfortunately the longer you stay on that pleasing parent treadmill, the more your child’s acting out behavior becomes “normalized”, and your own avoidance of conflict becomes your “go to” response. The reality is, you may be doing more harm than good when it comes to teaching your child responsibility and tolerance for life’s disappointments.
What can you do to get off the pleasing parent treadmill and regain confidence in your parenting to appropriately address your child’s manipulations and demands?
Many pleasing parents tend to give into bad behavior the most when they’re out in public with their children. If your child has a history of throwing tantrums at the store and won’t stop until you get them a toy or a candy, they’ve more than likely recognized that manipulation works. They know you’ll give in, so they’ll keep up the disruptive behavior until you cave. One way to put a stop to this exploitation is to set clear limits ahead of time. For example, before you go to the store, tell your child your expectations. Whatever you decide, defining those expectations should be up to you, not your child. Expectations of your child while in a store may include:
Staying calm and quiet in the shopping cart
Not reaching out to grab things off the shelf
Not pressuring you to buy unnecessary items…stick with what you need!
It’s essential to let your child know that if those expectations aren’t met, there will be a consequence, such as cutting your shopping trip short and the loss of electronics for a pre-defined time. Then, follow through on it. It might be inconvenient for you, but it will demonstrate for your child that you won’t be manipulated any longer.
Another strategy for eliminating the “pleasing parent treadmill” is to work with your partner on your parenting techniques. Perhaps you butt heads on several parenting decisions, or have different disciplinary styles. A pleasing parent often gives in to whatever their partner decides to avoid confrontation, but internally resenting the decision. However, communicating with your partner, in a calm, rational manner, demonstrates for your children that, as parents, you can have a healthy discussion, even a respectful disagreement; thus, modeling how to appropriately problem-solve and work with others. The alternative is to allow a partner to walk all over you, and to dis-empower you in front of your children. Self-help books on parenting, such as Parenting with Love and Logic, by Foster Cline and Jay Fay, can provide practical solutions for effective parenting and support a unified parenting partnership.
A child truly needs parents who are guided by their values. Value-centered parents understand that what’s modeled today affects how your child’s learned values will inform their future successes. In other words, what is best for your children, isn’t necessarily what they want but what they need, now and in the future, as a well-rounded person.
A parent who hovers over her child’s play date, may be well intentioned, thinking that steering her child’s play time with others in the direction she thinks it should go is what parents “should” do, is appropriate parenting. This parent would never wait to see how her child would get along with other children, she would jump in and direct the play in order to prevent any disappointment or conflict her child might experience. Unfortunately, that intervention may impress on your child that he/she is special, with the belief that “When others don’t share with me, my mom jumps in and makes them cooperate.” This child may grow up thinking others should always give him his way. He may even grow into an adult who has an air of entitlement about him that sets him up for avoidance by others. Or the opposite response would be that your child becomes shy and avoids playing with others, and stops risking new experiences so dad doesn’t step in and embarrass her. As a grown-up she may find she’s uncomfortable taking risks of any kind. Poor behavior patterns parents consistently “give in” to are most likely to have long-term consequences.
Pleasing parents most often avoid disciplining their children, or are inconsistent in setting boundaries. Appropriate limit setting isn’t mean or unkind. Just the opposite. Children actually want limits and structure and thrive in an environment that defines expectations. Firm and kind discipline gives children the foundation for developing appropriate behaviors that will benefit them in developing effective social skills. At first children may resist your new found parenting style, but consistent and appropriate behavioral modeling will, over time, help them grow up into more well-rounded, stable adults.
Do you consider yourself to be a pleasing parent? I can help you get off the Pleasing Parent Treadmill and develop confidence in your parenting style.
Everyone desires a meaningful life and the opportunity to live up to one’s potential. You don’t have to navigate stress and uncertainty alone, and/or feel caught in a spiral of confusion on how to accomplish your goals. I invite you to contact me to schedule a free consultation, by phone or in person. I’m happy to discuss your particular needs and answer any questions you have about beginning therapy, my approach, and my practice.