What are the keys to communication skills for effective parenting?

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Effective Parenting — Edited and Revised Transcript

Hi, this is Alan Seid with Cascadia Workshops.

I work with individuals, couples, families and organizations to help people transform the relationships that are the most important relationships in their lives, and to help people make a positive difference in the world.

This video is on effective parenting, which is a huge topic.

Many of the people in my audience online, or the people that I work with are parents.

The pattern is that our closest relationships are the most intense ones, our spouses, our parents, our siblings, our children.

Those are some of the most intense and most challenging relationships.

Parenting in and of itself is extremely challenging.

I’m a father and I’m speaking form experience.

If you’re a parent then you know what I’m talking about. 

It’s extremely challenging and also extremely rewarding.

But here are some of the things that get in the way of effective parenting and some of the ways we can be more effective parents.

Authentic Human Connection and Roles, and How These Affect Being Able to Be an Effective Parent

Starting Assumption: Authentic Human Connection — seeing each other as human being to human being — is good for children and parents

I’ll start with this concept.

The roles that we inhabit in our day can get in the way of authentic human connection.

[Authentic human connection builds trust, rapport, and self-esteem — that's both the hypothesis and what my experience indicates...

...which in turn lay the foundation for long-term, healthy, inter-generational relationships.]


One of my teachers, Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, who founded the process Nonviolent Communication — which he named Nonviolent Communication (or NVC) because he wanted to align himself with Gandhi’s movement of truth-telling and compassion.

Dr. Rosenberg was a student of Carl Rogers, a famous psychologist. One of the things that Carl Rogers was exploring at the time was...

...how is it that authentic human connection can be so healing?

It turns out that some of the roles we play in our daily life actually can get in the way of authentic human connection.

In this case the role of parent-child.

If I am relating to somebody else’s role rather than relating to a human being, or I’m acting as a role instead of showing up as an authentic human being, that can get in the way of the quality of human connection that I’m actually seeking.

This also happens in other roles: boss — employee, therapist — patient, all kinds of roles that we inhabit, we end up connecting with a role instead of a real human being.

So I want you to make sure that you’re relating to your child or your children as real human beings rather than their role and your role relating to each other as roles.

When I connect with my children human-to-human, that’s when we’re able to create the high quality of connection that we’re really looking for.

Effective Parenting 2.0: Power-With and Teaching Self-Responsibility

 Another piece that I’ll share with you for effective parenting is the concept of power-with rather than power-over.

In power-over, I want you to do the thing that I want you to do and I don’t care whether it meets your needs or doesn’t meet your needs. So I get to boss you around and tell you what to do.

If I have a relationship of power-over with my children, then I might be able to get them to do the things that I want them to do, however, it might be at a cost to the relationship.

Either they’ll resent me for it in the long run or they’ll be disconnected from me in some way, or they’ll just lie to me and do whatever they want behind my back.

I want to create a relationship in which there is a lot of trust and where there are clear communication channels, so if they have questions about some of the challenges they’re going to encounter in society, I’m a trusted source to be able to share my perspective with them.

In a relationship of power-with, my children are able to count on the fact that I’m seeing them as a human being and that they also have a voice and they also have the power to influence the things that impact them in their lives.

Of course this changes over time.

I’m not going to negotiate everything with a two-year-old.

But, there are a lot more things I can negotiate with a teenager.

So as they grow and as they develop, I’m able to have more and more of that dialogue and that rapport with them.

I want to say a quick word here about the topic of punishment because a lot of parents tend to resort to punishment to motivate their children. And so many parents come to me saying, “it’s not working.”

And yet, occasionally in a workshop I’ll hear a parent say, “Wait a second, what’s wrong with punishment? It actually works.”

So here’s just a quick take on the topic of punishment.

I would ask you to ask yourself two questions.

1) What is it you want the other person to do?

2) What do you want their reason to be for doing it? What do you want their intention or their motivation to be for doing it?

Effective Parenting Example:

I want my children to brush their teeth.

Well, what do I want their reason to be?

What do I want their motivation to be?

Because Dad will get mad, Dad will throw his version of a temper tantrum if they don’t brush their teeth...

...is that what I want their reason to be?

Or they’ll get a guilt trip from Mom?

How do I help them connect with how the action of brushing their teeth serves life, actually contributes to them, how it serves them?

Again, when they’re two, it’s really hard for them to get it and I might need to step in a little bit more. As they grow older I need to be really clear.

What do I want them to do, and what do I want their reasons to be for doing it?

Effective parenting is a humongous topic, but...

The Blueberries of Self-Empathy: Effective Parenting Breakthrough

...I want to leave you with this little effective parenting story.

I was in my home office.

At the time it was a small bedroom in my house. I was working on a project, very focused. There was a deadline.

And I started to hear screaming coming from our dining room. My oldest daughter at the time was three, maybe four. I just assumed my wife would handle it, but it just kept escalating and escalating.

I started to hear banging.

I assumed it was fists banging on the table or feet kicking...

...and the screaming escalated.

I started to feel irritated and frustrated because I was really wanting to focus on the project I was focusing on.

What I needed was a different quality of support that would come through quietness or just a different volume level in the house was the kind of support I was wanting.

However, at the time I was increasingly getting frustrated and irritated.

I had the thought at the time that I needed to get her to shut up. I kept waiting for my wife to handle it and it kept escalating.

So the next thing that happened is I stormed out of my little home-office...

...and I’m barging over toward my three-year-old, just really upset.

My "need" was to get her to shut up!

Well, something remarkable happened.

I was maybe five feet away from her, and I suddenly had this little kachunk feeling inside. And I just stopped in my tracks and I went inside and I got connected.

OK, if I got her to shut up, which I thought was my need, what’s the actual need, a universal need.

That’s when I got to a supportive work environment.

I needed a different kind of support and quietness would really help toward that.

Or at least, just the usual sound levels, not the kicking and screaming and kicking and banging, and all that.

So, anyways, I stopped. I got connected with my needs.

As soon as I got connected with my needs I was able to shift my attention and be present toward my daughter.

So here’s my three-year-old crying, and I got to get curious. "So what’s happened, what’s the problem?"

Well it turned out that mom had given her a little bowl of blueberries and on the way to the table three fell on the floor — and it shattered the divine perfection of this bowl of blueberries...

...and the world was falling apart.

So I got it!

I was able to understand that this bowl of blueberries was very meaningful.

And I asked, “Hey, if I get you three more from the freezer, would that help?” And she said, “Yeah,” and she stopped crying.

I got her three more blueberries and...

...she was fine.

Her needs were met.

And I was fine.

My needs were met.

Breakdown of the Story

So one of the keys to that story is that I got self-connected first.

Once I was able to connect to what was going on for me, and I was able to take a deep breath and calm down...

...then I was able to get curious and connect to what was going on for my daughter.

Once we got connected, we found a solution that would meet the needs for both of us.

I didn’t need to impose my will to get her to shut up.

I just needed to slow myself down, create a connection, and out of that we found the solution that would actually work.

So developing your interior resources is absolutely key when you’re a parent.

The more we develop our interior resources, the more we’ll be able to show up with presence, with patience, with curiosity when it really, really matters.

And by the way, everything I say in the video on social support for healthy relationships also applies to parenting.

Please know that as a parent you’re doing some of the most important work in the world.

Thank you for watching this video on "Effective Parenting."