I remember when I was pregnant, I thought to myself, I hope that I can be a good mother. Growing up in a divorced home, the idea of marriage and then baby is the farthest thing I wanted to be a part of, and yet, God has it that I married the most romantic, funny and compassion man I know and had the most joyous and ridiculously handsome little boy I could imagine having. To top it all off, I was also wonderfully gifted a step son who is fun, creative and have the most gentle spirit little boy.
During my whole pregnancy, I consulted a marriage and family therapist on subjects of personal growth, marriage, children, finances and everything else because I needed answers. I needed and wanted control over the destiny of my child and I wanted most of all to shelter him the best I can from experiencing pain. I needed to know I’m doing everything in my power to raise him to be a mature, emotionally available adult.
A week ago, a friend recommended a parenting seminar by ECHO, a non-profit organization that teaches parenting with the ECHO method. The main theme of the method is about non-violence, understanding and respect. It’s a method to help your child to own the reasons for their behavior and to behave well because they want to and it’s good for them. The ECHO parenting can be explained in a 3 circle diagram that converges in the center forming a well-balanced parenting paradigm.
ECHO PARENTING- 3 Circle Diagram
Circle one- understanding the physiologic development of your child. Having an understanding of how the brain functions and the stages of maturity can help put into perspective the reasons for why your child behaves that he does
Circle two- practice of the ECHO method which is a parenting model that encourages understanding and respect for your child’s feelings and emotions, and therefore validating it. It’s a commitment to empathize with your child when he/she is experience a variety of emotions on a daily basis that they cannot put language or solutions to. All the way, laying down boundaries for the child so that they understand although you validate their feelings, they must still comply with certain boundaries and limits you ask of them.
Circle three- dedication to personal growth as a parent.
WHAT MOST OF US DO- Dominant Parenting
The Dominant paradigm is about behavior and changing the behavior of the child. The Dominant parent focuses so much on behavior that sometimes miss teaching moments for their children.
Examples that demonstrate the Dominant parent
TIME OUTs- The basis for why “time outs” work is because the parents create fear in the child. Be it fear of the feelings of disconnect from parent’s love or the fear being punished, if fear is motivating factor to change behavior, the child will act out as soon as you are out of sight. Some children would gladly take a time out to do the wrong thing because they weight out the cost for misbehaving and it became worth it to them. Yet a child who complies only because of fear will not truly understand the reason for the need to change a behavior.
Children are testing their boundaries at a young age and waiting for a reaction from the parents in order to put order and limits to their little worlds. They do not understand why certain things are off limits and a parent’s explanation is very helpful in getting your child to be motivated to correct behavior on their own will and with comprehension for why they are doing that action.
The ECHO method is non-violent and will not use fear, guilt, shame or these motivators to correct a child’s behavior. Rather it focuses on teaching and empathizing with the child on how difficult it is to learn these new boundaries and limits and helping the child understand the new rules.
TANTRUMS/WHINING- understanding tantrums start with understanding the brain. When the brain is flooded with emotion, the logical side of the brain is blocked. Just like when a baby cries, parents are likely to figure out what’s wrong? Is it that baby is hungry, tired, bored or need a diaper change? In the same way, children at a young age still have a hard time problem solving because their brain does not yet have sophisticated solutions. So instead of being able to communicate their discontent verbally, you will get annoying whining and sometime escalating to tantrums. The dominant parent may put the child to time-out or tell them stop it, big boys/girls don’t whine. Why can’t you be like so-and-so sitting nicely over there. See they are being so good.
In this example, the child feels guilty and conforms to a certain behavior. They are being told that they are not good the way they are at this stage and that they should just grow up and be like the older child. IF they are sent to time out, then further they will feel disconnected to the parent and feel misunderstood and not heard.
EXAMPLE OF ECHO PARENTING
Instead, the ECHO parenting would take the whining/tantrum throwing child and try to understand what they must be feeling.
It could go something like this, “You must be feeling really upset that we had to stop your playtime to take a bath…”
Or, “I’m sorry that taking a bath right now makes you feel really sad.”
The emphathizing methods of ECHO is about helping your child identify the feeling and then giving them permission and respect for having those feelings. Research shows that if you give permission for your child to cry, they will cry less. In all this the child will still need to take a bath, however, the parent took the time to understand, validate and explain and teach. Every whining and tantrum moment can be turned into a teaching moment.
The ECHO parenting method is like music to my ears because at the heart of every parent is the desire to see our children grow up to be mature adults that can handle the complications of life. We would love to see children with good self-esteem, disciplined, respect boundaries, loving to others and emotional available. The road to that goal is sometimes filled with pot holes of tantrums, tears, yelling, “NO!”, anger, “It’s not fair!”, “I hate you”, and unresolved situations/endings.
What I most appreciated about the ECHO method is that it’s not a rule book, but rather a principle of Non-violence, love, and respect. The ECHO coach of the day emphasized that this method’s results are often a “LEAP OF FAITH.” It’s quite possible that after you’ve been thoughtfully understanding and empathetic about your child’s resistance toward taking a bath, they still yell and scream and resist you every step of the way. Parents may feel like a broken record. However, if you commit to the ECHO method, the end goal is that your child will feel connected to the parents and have the right motivations for their actions.
For more information on ECHO parenting, there are in depth 6 week courses and also support groups that encourage this parenting style. The local ARTZONE in Hermosa Beach is run by a director who is a firm ECHO parenting supporter. IF you go to the ARTZONE play time on Wednesdays, she is available for Q & A and helping you through any challenges. The staff members at ARTZONE are all trained in the ECHO method and use it to resolve conflicts that arise at the center.
For more information about ECHO PARENTING near you, go to www.echoparenting.org