Why Behaviour-Based Parenting Misses the Mark

Why Behaviour-Based Parenting Misses the Mark
I’ve been musing about parenting lately, and thinking about what kind of parent I am, and why that is.  Is it deliberate?  A product of my own upbringing?  Am I the kind of parent I want to be?

Well, my children aren’t perfect.  Although I’d love to believe they are, they do have their guises.  As does everyone.  As do I.  I always thought knowing that made me a better parent.  Being able to see their strengths and weaknesses honestly.  And, it is helpful.  But, in a far more powerful way, I have come to realize that having me in their court, is okay.  It’s good.  In fact, it’s great.

I don’ think my kids are perfect, but I do see them as beautiful, amazing, deep and real human beings.  Little human beings, with the needs of developing people, but human beings.  Who deserve to be treated as such.  And, this is where “behaviour parenting” really irks me.  I know my children aren’t the most well-behaved.  They tend to be a little wild.  A little free-spirited.  And, sometimes, it makes them difficult to reign in.  Sometimes, it makes us challenging to be around (sometimes they are perfect angels, too, of course).  But, I don’t think I’d change that.  I really don’t.

You see, I believe that allowing them to ask questions, speak their mind, and follow their natural curiosities is a good thing.  I want to support that.  I believe that going against the grain, sometimes, will serve them well, in the end.  I want to honour their interests, their desires and their hearts.  What I see, too often, are parents that want their children to behave.  To be presentable.  To be easy to take places.  Children that “play by themselves” and “sleep all night” and are “socialized” (read: will sit quietly in a classroom).  Children that are self-sufficient.

I want my children to be self-sufficient, too.  I want them to be confident that they can accomplish things on their own.  I want them to take pride in their abilities.  But, I don’t want them to be convenient.  And I don’t want to parent them based on the behaviours I want to them display.

Sure, I’ve dabbled in behaviour-based parenting.  I’ve gotten frustrated, and even angry, when I know my kids are doing something inconvenient.  Something I’d rather they not be doing.  Something dangerous, or thoughtless, or – let’s see – loud?!  But, the more I focus on correcting their behaviour, the less I become the parent that I want to be.

When I focus on behaviour, I objectify my children.  They aren’t my children, they are the source of a poor behaviour.  When I see them as such (consciously or unconsciously) I cease to see them as human beings with a complex set of emotions and needs.  I cease to see them as human beings in need of respect.

I refuse to treat my children as creatures that don’t deserve respect.  I refuse to treat them as beings that need to be controlled.

I want to guide them.  Yes.  But, I also want to listen to them.  To hear them, and to serve them.  To be there for them, and to help them grow into the human beings they were meant to be.

When I think of them this way, I don’t think of their behaviour.  I think of their needs.  I think of their hearts and their minds.  I approach parenting from a much more compassionate place.

And that is the place where I want to dwell.

I’d love to know your thoughts on behaviour-based parenting?  Does it work for you?  Do you find you can focus on behaviour and still have compassion for your kids?

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  1. Thank you for this… food for thought!

    • You’re quite welcome! Thanks for reading and musing with me.

  2. I agree that behavior-based parenting is the complete opposite of the way I want to parent. It may bring the results of having children that seem more behaved in public, but I think in the long run- when kids start to hit their teens- kids will be more prone to act out just for the sake of acting out. They know their parents aren’t as interested in them just for who they are, so to get attention, they’ll do things they might not normally have done if they would have had a closer relationship with their parents. I guess I view my parenting style as a needs-based and bonding based parenting. I do my best to grow closer to my kids each day, and by growing closer, I see that they trust me more and are more willing to listen to the advice and other suggestions I have.

    • Sounds so beautifully simple. I love that idea, of focusing on growing closer everyday. I’m going to hold that in my heart in the coming weeks, and see how it effects my thoughts and reactions. Thanks for your comments. I’ve been on a break, and it’s good to hear from old friends! :)

  3. thanks, i really resonate with your message – especially about not wanting my child to be “convenient” – how true….

  4. I love this post! As the parent of children ranging from 18 to 1 I can honestly say that I have run the gambit in parenting techniques. Although my instincts were always to be more nurturing and accepting, when my oldest was small I was so insecure that I gave in to the ideas that others insisted on. Now I wish so badly that I hadn’t. I should have followed my intuition. What made it even more difficult was that I was a teacher at the Montessori school where he was a student in the early days, and there was kind of a pressure to have a “convenient” child so that parents wouldn’t think that the teachers couldn’t even control their own offspring.

    Anyway, I learned as I went to throw out the well meaning but sometimes downright damaging advice of others when it conflicted with what I knew to be true about my own children.

    Good for you for following your own parenting wisdom. You will not regret it.

  5. Thats a very good word for it, behaviour based parenting. I fall into this when I am tired or in a hurry. But when I am being a more conscious and awake parent I try not to correct behaviour but instead give my son the freedom to develop and dictate the pace of our days. Those are usually much better and more satisfying days for both of us. Your post has really made me think more about when and why I fall into behaviour based parenting. Thanks.
    I’d love you to consider linking this post to one of our Sunday Parenting Partys. I think our SPP readers would really enjoy it. I’m pinning this to our SPP board (I hope thats OK).

  6. Hi.
    Yes. Behavior based parenting misses the mark for me, big time. Always backfires. You may want to check out out a very important book I discovered called Pride and Joy by Kenneth Barrish, PhD. It was recently published. His book is important as its focus is singular, narrowing in on a child’s emotions, not behavior. He happens to also be a skilled clinician. It’s the most sensible book I have read that understands interactions/ experience from a feelings point of view, appropriate for many of us intuitively-based homeschool types, but others as well.

    • Thanks Veruka! Sounds wonderful. I’ll check it out for sure.


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