Most parents I work with can identify the key strengths of assertive parenting. They are clear on how they want to parent. However, if we explore what prevents us parenting in an assertive way, usually the answer is stress. Stress can have a very great impact on our ability to parent well.
So many parents are under a lot more stress than they realise, and often just describe themselves as ‘busy’. As parents, we can all be very busy juggling the multiple tasks of parenting, working, managing the home, family, friends, partners and everything else we feel we have to give time to. This can be OK if all of this is running smoothly and there are no changes or challenges in any area; but how realistic is it to think that there won’t be any challenges?
When we give so much of our time and energy to all of these tasks, we have to look carefully at how we resource ourselves to keep going.
Some parents are better than others at fuelling up again. What does this involve? It requires finding time during a busy day or week for you; a time when the pressure is off and you can focus on what your needs are.
Take time to do what it takes to help you regain your peace of mind. Take time to think, to reflect, to plan, and relax. When you focus on everyone else’s needs, you are using up all of your personal resources to meet the needs of others. Unless you find the time to reflect on what your needs are, you may find that you can no longer meet the needs of others. This is when the pressure will become too much and you will become stressed.
Once you are stressed, your stress will be felt by others. Your children will notice and feel that things are different in the home. Your reactions to behaviours may fall at either extremes: harsher or very passive; neither of which is positive. You may find you are shouting more, are less patient, more tearful, or are in conflict more.
All of the above are indicators that things are not going well and, as Dr John Sharry would say, you need to press the pause button and look at what is happening. At times, we can keep repeating the same behaviours over and over and blame others for them. It is so important that we take responsibility for our own behaviours; that we own what we do, and why we do it. This is one of the key messages we try to give to children when parenting assertively. We teach them to choose how to behave. We teach them that we suffer the consequences when we choose badly, and we reap the rewards when we choose well. The same goes for us!
So, the key message is: try to notice when you are stressed. Look at what the signs and symptoms of stress are for you. We all respond a little differently to stressful times. Have some good tools in place to help support you to refuel. Once you notice the signs of stress starting to build, use your tools to refuel before things get too bad. Take time out for you.
Tell your children that you need to take some time for you in order to look after them well. Talking with your children in this way supports them to start to learn how important it is to look after themselves well. Identify their needs and try to meet them. As parents we have the responsibility to meet our children’s needs; they are not responsible to meet ours. If you are parenting alone, you then may not have too many adults in your life to help meet your needs, so you also have to really look after you.
For one parent I met, this meant having one full cup of tea each day. They don’t all have to be big, time-consuming things; at times, it is the smallest things that have the greatest impact.
As we move into the summer, try to take time for you and see what impact it can have on supporting you to parent as positively as you know you can and want to.
Resources: A useful tool may be to try three minutes of mindfulness. Find some useful exercises here and meditative music to facilitate you.
One Family will also be running new eight-week course in Self-Care and Personal Growth when Parenting. For more information, please email, or call 01 662 9212.
For support and information on this topic, or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email
Parent Mentor