Developing Firmness Tools for Parents

Kind compassion and grounded firmness are critical to effective parenting. If we can do both, our parenting takes on a strong even keel, so that in stormy times or calm, we know we are getting where we want to go with our children in a way that has direction and purpose. Both parents and kids feel the stability. We call this parenting with connected firmness. How do we do this, when many of us were not brought up with this modeled in our own families?

Ask More Questions: Instead of telling kids what to do all of the time, begin to ask them what needs to happen.  “What needs to get done before bedtime?  How are you going to remember your backpack in the morning?”

Connect Before Correcting or Redirecting: Acknowledge that you see and understand the situation, while holding on to the boundaries. “I understand you are so excited to play with that frisbee…and it belongs to the birthday kid…So we are going to let them play with it first.  What can you play with while you wait?”

Tone, facial expression, body language: Acknowledge that you see and understand the situation, while holding on to the boundaries. We don’t. When the news is not what a child wants to hear, we can be fully present and use a soft expression and a gentle tone. “I love you, and, the answer is no.  I understand that this is disappointing. It is OK to be sad about it.”

Problem Solve and Make Agreements: Involve your kids in finding solutions to issues and challenges. If the problem involves one child, sit down and have a problem-solving conversation with them when you are both calm. Express your part of the problem, “I really want you to do well in school and I know you are struggling right now. I have been nagging you to do your homework and it doesn’t feel good.  How are you feeling about my constant reminding? Let’s try to figure out a plan to get your homework done that doesn’t involve me coaxing. We can get some ideas down and choose a solution that works for both of us.” This short, animated video shows the problem-solving steps.

If the problem is a family problem or some planning that could be done, bring it up in a family meeting for collaborative solution finding.

Follow Through: Keep your agreements with your child. Follow through with what you say you will do or on the plans you agree to in family meetings. If you say you will turn off the television at 7:00pm, do so without a big explanation. If you say that you will not be going for ice-cream if the rooms are not cleaned by 5:00pm, silently refrain from being talked into going. Kids will learn to trust your word. When you follow through consistently, they don’t spend their time trying to wear you down to change your word.  See these additional resources from Sproutable on follow through.

Learn More About Developing Firmness Tools for Parenting: Take one of our one on-line Reimagining Resilience workshops, or our next Parenting with Courage & Connection series where you will learn many more tools!


Glenda Montgomery is a Sound Discipline Facilitator.