Hal’s book is an excellent resource for parents wading through the murky waters of raising children in the modern world. If you benefit from these excerpts, it might be helpful to grab his book and read it in its entirety. As always, feel free to take what’s relevant and inspiring and disregard the rest.
“Your number-one leadership role in the family is that of a calming authority”
An emotionally regulated parent is the most effective. The more we lose our cool, the less authority we have. Attachment research is clear that kids need a secure base to properly support their development. Monitoring and regulating our own emotion is the single most effective parenting strategy.
“Emotional reactivity is our worst enemy when it comes to having great relationships”
This can take the form of turning up the emotional heat in anger or turning down the emotional heat with dismissiveness and withdrawal. Both reactions undermine our ability to stay connected with our children. This robs us of the opportunity to have a positive influence on them.
“Parents feel overstretched, overcommitted, underprepared, and under appreciated”
Parenting is hard. Our emotional reactivity often comes from the unbearable weigh of feeling like a failure. Our child’s struggles can feel like our fault, evoking a gnawing sense of inadequacy. We don’t need to succumb to the pressure to be perfect parents or raise perfect children, we’re all human.
“Keeping your cool means creating space”
A big part of your role is creating an environment that honors the dignity and value of your children. Giving them space to learn about themselves, including their needs, strengths, and weaknesses, affirms their personhood and agency as a human person. This space let’s them build themselves up before taking on the world.
“If you want your children to become self-directed adults, you have to face the truth that you cannot do it for them”
Parents cannot force development. Children need our support, guidance, and nurture. They are not robots and need to have a day in their growth.
“Your goal is not to stifle their emotions but, rather, to steer them toward productive expression”
Parents are surrogateprocessors for emotion. This is why it’s important for us to stay regulated; our children need us to help them process their emotions in a healthy way and we can’t do that if we don’t have enough emotional flexibility within ourselves.
“Just because authority is easily abused does not warrant discarding it altogether. The damages of having no authority, especially in the lives of children, are just as horrendous as the damages of abusing authority”
Parenting is a gift and a privilege. We must constantly monitor how we use our authrity and strive to find the right balance between creating boundaries and honoring our children’s humanity.
“You cannot take care of your family unless you first tend to yourself”
No, this is not selfish. The proverbial saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” comes to mind here. It is an act of love to give our best self to others. When we are filled up, we have more to give and we can give it with more love.
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* The information provided is for self-enrichment and not intended to replace any necessary mental health treatment.
Jonathan Dixon, LMFT
Alpha Omega Team