Expert Parenting Advice
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The four influences that determine how you interact with your children

A simple framework for understanding why you react the way you do when your children upset you.

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Dr. Anna Martin, an experienced Clinical Therapist, and author of Listen to Me: Taking the conflict out of child discipline.

Dr. Martin recently completed her PhD, and her thesis focus was on the parent-child relationship, and specifically, how the way we react to our children's behavior influences the way our children cooperate.

Now, according to Dr. Martin's research, one of the keys to getting better cooperation from your children is to learn how to react better to their behavior.

And in my interview with Dr. Martin, she shares the four "influences" that determines how you react to your children. She also shares how you can use these four "influences" to learn how to react better when your children upset you - leading to less frustration, and happier parenting!

Since talking to Dr. Martin, I have started to notice how these four influences subconsciously drive how I react when my kids do things that I don't like.

For example, the other day I was picking my kids up from my parents-in-law. While I was trying to coax them into the car, they were running around, making a mess of things, and trying to get some last playtime in.

I started getting very frustrated with them, but then I remembered Influence #3 that Dr. Martin shared:

Third, and this is where parents feel a-lot of pressure when they are out with their kids. Parents are influenced by how they are being perceived as parents. What people are thinking about their parenting abilities and how well their children are behaving. So, you might use behaviours that you ordinarily might not do because of this external pressure.  

Dr. Anna Martin

I realized that I was becoming more frustrated because my children were behaving badly in front of my parents-in-law, and I was feeling embarrassed and worried about what my parents-in-law thought of my parenting skills.

But here's the thing: by just becoming aware of this, I started to relax, because I realized why I was getting so frustrated. This allowed me to calm down, and I was able to calmly give my kids the time they needed to finish playing.

I even discussed it with my mother-in-law, and we laughed about it because she told me stories about how my husband would do the same when he was a kid.

Once you know of these four influences, you'll start to see them in your own thoughts and behaviors all the time. And by becoming aware of them, you take away their power over you, and you become more intentional in your interactions with your kids.

In the interview, Dr. Anna Martin shares how using this framework for self-reflection makes parenting less frustrating, and how self-reflection allows you to always respond to your children from a place of kindness and compassion.

She also gives an example of how this "self-reflection mindset" helps you deal with difficult parenting situations, like getting your kids to clean up after playing.