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If we want our kids to be successful, emotionally healthy, and happy in this wild, new world we live in, we need to shift the parenting paradigm.

Read more Expanded Views on Parenting

Whether you’re looking into the eyes of your new baby, bringing your child to kindergarten, dropping your 14-year-old off at their first day of high school, or glowing with pride at their college graduation…there isn’t a parent out there that doesn’t experience fear for their futures and hope for their success.

The world our kids are growing up in is so different than the one most of us grew up in. The expectations are different, technology has changed everything, the world feels smaller and yet more daunting, and our kids have an entirely different view of life.

Simply parenting them in the way we were raised (or the opposite of how we were raised) might not be enough to ensure they’re prepared for this new world. This is a critical time where parents are being called to re-think parenting.

At the core of every parent:child relationship is love – a love no one can ever understand until one becomes a parent. Until we have children, we cannot imagine the fierce need to protect our kids – to keep them safe. Sometimes our desire to keep them safe interferes with our ability to prepare them for the world they’re entering. Sometimes our love for them leads us to sacrifice ourselves in order to try to make their lives better – so they are left without role models who are living their lives fully.

Our own unexamined fears, beliefs, and worries naturally spill into our parenting and we unconsciously hold our kids back from becoming all they have the potential to be. We want them to reach for the stars, but we don’t trust that they intuitively know how to get there, so we control their lives as we know best. We inadvertently inhibit them from becoming all they can be – from living into the fullest expressions of themselves – and from being capable and empowered as they enter adulthood.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When we integrate these 4 mindset shifts into our parenting, we’re able to

  • get our kids to cooperate and be respectful,
  • be the confident, playful, present, and patient parent we want to be,
  • feel more inspired and joyful in our lives,
  • live our lives more fully and inspire our kids to live their lives fully too,
  • feel confident that our kids will be prepared for the world they are entering,
  • raise kids who feel empowered to stand up for positive change in the world,
  • put more loving and compassionate energy into our world that sometimes feels scary and filled with hatred,
  • build the relationships we want with our kids – bonds that last a lifetime,
  • increase our kids’ ability to learn and stay focused,
  • and raise kids who are happy, successful, self-assured, and amazing!

From The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: A New Interpretation: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by William Martin:

“There are only three qualities you must teach your children.

Compassion, patience, and simplicity.

Some would say this is absurd.

They would teach instead ambition, drive and consumption, and say it is the way of success.

But if they learn patience, they see the world as it truly is.

If they learn simplicity, they see themselves as they truly are.

And if they learn compassion, they heal themselves and the world.”

(1) Forget Fixing and Find the Real You.

Instead of trying to “fix” your kids, you need to start by looking at yourself. The first thing we need to do is heal from our childhood wounding. By stepping into the authentic version of ourselves, we become role models for self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-love, authentic living, and personal growth.

By seeing ourselves on our own path, we are better able to see that our kids are on their own path. Our job isn’t to steer them to another path, but to love them just as they are and support them in finding their own way. (That doesn’t mean fixing their problems or keeping them from being hurt. It means loving them through it all and being there as they figure things out.)

By turning inward, finding our own inner wisdom, we teach our children to do the same. As a result, our kids can step into the most fully expressed, authentic, loving version of themselves. This includes:

  • Self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-care…self-love!
  • Taking responsibility for our “stuff” and learning to manage our emotions and reactions
  • Bringing ourselves fully to our relationships in our family
  • Pursuing our own interests

From The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: A New Interpretation: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by William Martin:

“There are many ways to get children to behave as you wish.

You can force, plead, and bribe.

You can manipulate, trick, and persuade.

You can use shame, guilt, and reason.

These will all rebound upon you.

You will be in constant conflict.

Attend instead to your own actions.

Develop contentment within yourself.

Find peace and love in all you do.

This will keep you busy enough.

There is no need to control others.”

(2) Ditch the Dominant Model.

Most of us were raised with the dominant or power over model of parenting. In this model, the parent demands that an action be taken because I said so. I advocate for moving toward a power with model. Power with seeks consent in making decisions and considers the concerns and feelings of those affected. Yes, there are times when we need power over, for safety, for example, but as our children get older, we can shift more and more towards exclusively practicing power with. Think of it as shifting from control to connection.

Most of us know that we don’t want to parent as we were parented, but we also don’t really know another way. We find ourselves yo-yoing between permissive parenting (when things are going well) and then dominant parenting (when we don’t know what else to do). Together we discover the middle-way—a model based on mutual respect and understanding, empathic connections, and values-based limit setting. And it works!

Building this connection with our kids using power with vs. power over will transform your relationship with them, will provide them with a foundation for all other relationships, and will create a culture of cooperation and mutual respect in your home.

As a result, our kids learn how to be empathic, respectful and loving people who value relationships and communication. This includes:

  • Physical affection
  • Honoring that all of us have needs we are trying to get met and allowing space for the expression of feelings and emotions
  • Attention and presence
  • Ensuring what we say and do is in service of the relationship and of connection

From The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: A New Interpretation: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by William Martin:

“When your children behave, give them respect and kindness.

When your children misbehave, give them respect and kindness.

When they are hateful, love them.

When they betray your trust, trust them.

The River of Life nurtures everything it touches, without asking for anything.

You will be happy and content if you do the same.

Believe this difficult truth.

Showing respect in the face of disrespect, love in the face of hate,

trust in the face of betrayal, and serenity in the face of turmoil,

will teach your children more that all the moral lectures by all the preachers since the dawn of time.”

(3) Get Real.

This is not a time to protect our kids from real life. It’s time to guide them towards confidently navigating the world we live in (in an age-appropriate and parent:child-appropriate way). To do that, we need to stay educated and capable of supporting our kids in the real stuff they are dealing with, model healthy relationships and communications, and continue to do our own inner work. The family is where kids learn how to be in relationship with others – it’s their best training ground.

Can we be honest with ourselves and start to clean up the damages from our own childhoods? If we don’t want to unconsciously pass on our patterns, negative beliefs, conditioning, and outdated ways of looking at the world, we must bring these things to our conscious awareness and step into new ways for ourselves.

When we can embrace our humanness, imperfections and all, and engage with our kids on a human to human level, they learn what it’s like to live in this world. By getting real ourselves, we become beacons for our kids. And imagine, along the way, that you get to find more peace, fulfillment, joy, and connection for yourself. Win-win.

As a result, our kids feel confident that they can navigate the world and are capable of dealing with the challenges and difficulties they will inevitably face. This includes:

  • Being imperfect – making mistakes, repairing trust, and restoring connection
  • Letting go of the belief that the parent always “knows best” and kids should “obey”
  • Lots of self-reflection and inquiry into our thoughts and beliefs
  • Exposing them to the messiness of life

From The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: A New Interpretation: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by William Martin:

“If you want your children to succeed, show them how to fail.

If you want them to be happy, show them how to be sad.

If you want them to be healthy, show them how to be sick.

If you want them to have much, show them how to enjoy little.

Parents who hide failure, deny loss, and berate themselves for weakness, have nothing to teach their children.

But parents who reveal themselves, in all their humanness, become heroes.

For children look to these parents and learn to love themselves.”

(4) Move Away from Fear

It’s time to raise kids who are empowered and self-aware. We are raising adults. Most parents I know live in a fear-based place. That means they are passing those fears, anxieties, and worries onto their children. As with busyness, worry has become a badge of honor for parents. Instead of raising kids who are afraid and anxious, we must arm them with the information, skills, and tools to be confident and capable in this world. That means letting them fail so that they can learn.

We must resist the temptation to protect them and over-parent. As we allow them to fulfill their natural need for autonomy, they develop mastery which leads to confidence and the development of self-esteem.

Ultimately, we raise kids who are empowered, capable, and feel responsible for their lives. This includes:

  • Making sure they learn the softer life skills: empathy, communication skills, emotional literacy, conflict resolution skills
  • Examining our fears and limiting beliefs…and cleaning them up
  • Balancing our child’s need for connection with their equally important need for autonomy (increasing as they get older)
  • Reminding ourselves that protection comes from fear and preparation comes from love…launch them with love and faith

From The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: A New Interpretation: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents by William Martin:

“Wise parents let things unfold with as little interference as possible.

They remain out of the way, not calling attention to themselves.

Their children discover the natural harmony of things,

and work out their conflicts in ways that establish true peace.

When parents interfere, and constantly meddle in their children’s lives, the natural order is forgotten.

Conflicts are escalated, learning is curtailed, and confusion reigns.

There are certainly times when we should guide.

We naturally want to protect our children, and teach them what we have learned.

But it is best when we let that guidance be as unobtrusive and gentle as possible.

Forcing lessons on our children may get the immediate results we want.

But our children may be left without discernment, unable to build internal strength of character.

What are your children in the midst of learning now?

Are you in the way?”

And I’d add four more things that make these shifts easier…we need to lighten up, play more, laugh a lot, and have more fun!

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