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Dear Katherine: We Give Her an Inch, She Takes a Mile

Dear Katherine,

My 5-year-old daughter has always disliked being told what to do. Now that we’re changing our approach to the parent-child relationship, she’s convinced that she was right all along about being able to do whatever she wants. 

When we give her even a little bit of freedom, she tries to take as much power as she can get. It isn’t sustainable! 

How can we achieve a healthy balance? 

Sincerely,

Not So Sure About This

Hey there, Not So Sure About This! I love this question.

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First of all, congratulations on having a confident and strong-willed child. Behaviors like what you’re describing can be the source of many parenting challenges. Take comfort in knowing that autonomous children grow up to be strong, capable adults who positively impact the world around them.

Right now, your daughter is getting her sea legs, so to speak. You’re transitioning from one parenting style to another, and she’s experimenting with her new boundaries. Where her autonomy was once limited, it’s now being encouraged. She’s grasping for power because she’s afraid she’ll lose it again. 

Your daughter needs to know that you aren’t going back to the old way, which left her feeling dismissed and out of control. 

The transition to conscious parenting can be disorienting for children. But the good news is that your daughter is only 5. The rule of thumb is that for each year of a child’s age, you can expect them to need that many weeks to adjust. 

Here’s how to make it through the next 5 weeks: 

Talk her through this transition.

Your daughter probably doesn’t realize that there is a cultural shift taking place in your family. It’s important to talk her through why you’re changing your tactics. 

Help her understand that the sense of healthy empowerment she’s feeling isn’t going anywhere and that you’re committed to this new approach.

Reinforce new habits.

The techniques your parents used on you as a child likely inspired the parenting style you’ve relied on for the last 5 years. It’s become habitual—and habits are hard to break. 

In a challenging situation, your first instinct may be to revert to your old behavior patterns. Keep reminding yourself that those habits won’t yield the results you’re hoping for. 

It takes strength and determination to replace old habits with new ones. But the more committed you are to conscious parenting, the faster you’ll see positive changes.

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Manage your expectations.

It’s easier said than done, but try not to get frustrated that your daughter hasn’t adjusted to these changes quite yet. 

Motivating your 5-year old to act out of consideration for others, rather than because she was told to behave a certain way, is a big ask. And your daughter can pick up on your stress, so accepting that she’ll need time to evolve is key to a smooth transition. 

Not So Sure About This, the most important thing of all is to keep going. You’re on the right track, and I have full confidence that you and your daughter will overcome these challenges. 

Love and Blessings,

Katherine

3xTEDx Speaker, Media Contributor, parenting coach and mom of two. Helping families thrive for over 20 years using the Guidance Approach to Parenting.