|When Martel experienced severe food-related eczema, we were able to identify the food triggers. We talked together about the best ways to avoid the foods that caused him problems and came to a mutual solution of how to either keep foods out of the house or to avoid them. Because Martel was a partner in making these decisions, we did not need to coerce or control him. At times, he was still frustrated by having to avoid certain foods, but his frustration and anger were the result of a natural limitation, not the fact that I controlled what and how he ate. If Martel were so young that he was not able to talk about and understand the connection, we would avoid having foods in the house that caused him issues.
Our process continues when we find something that may seem to cause physical reactions. In fact, he can often track what types of foods he has been eating and what might be the cause. The fact that he has control over how we manage his food sensitivities and we work together means there is a high level of trust in our relationship. Martel trusts that we will not arbitrarily impose limitations on him and we take on our responsibility to work with him to address any food sensitivities.
When we are exploring new ways of being, it can be easy for the pendulum to swing too far to the other side. Letting go of control can easily move into the spectrum of parenting in which we take no responsibility for facilitating our children's growth and learning.
For example, we may come to believe that children should decide when and where to go to sleep. If the child has had a rigidly enforced bedtime, she may have lost her connection to her own body and not understand when her body is tired and needs rest. If the child is very young, she may not be able to communicate effectively when she is tired or her parents may misinterpret her communication efforts.
If we do not facilitate the process by which children learn to understand how their bodies communicate with them, we miss an opportunity to support our child's natural growth and development. If we believe that we should not be involved in this process, we may leave the child to struggle beyond what he may be developmentally capable of handling.
I have come to recognize that the individuals in our family have different needs and rhythms. My goal is to understand these different needs, and find a balance that best meets everyone's needs. Even as adults, we may often need the help of those around us to see around our own blinders. I see part of my relationship with Martel and Greyson, and partner Rob as being there when they may need me, to support and assist.
Permissive parenting can create the same kind of distance between a parent and a child as does coercive parenting. If I choose to disengage from Martel's life I lose the opportunity to partner with him as he faces new challenges in his life. My desire is to have a connected relationship in which Martel and Greyson realize their own personal power and feel my support as a partner in our lives together.
Naturally we will often have needs as individual family members that create tension. As I moved out of coercive parenting, I spent many months just catering to Martel's desires and wants. I felt as though I needed to make up for the thousands of times I had said no or controlled his decisions.
My second child, Greyson, was still a babe-in-arms. It took time and a belief that everyone's needs could be met creatively that allowed me to find some balance in our lives by the time Greyson began to assert his own autonomy. At times, this is still a struggle, but if I hold on to the idea that we can figure out together how to get our needs met, I am more likely to find the path that works best.
As we learn new ways of being with the children in our lives, we negotiate these internal changes within ourselves at the same time as we negotiate the external impact on our families. Creating connections through a balance of respect for each individual's autonomy and an understanding of the interdependence we all share can help us to facilitate our own growth and the growth of the children who share our lives.