|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
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
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.