Reactive to Proactive: How to Change Your Parenting Style

Perhaps you’ve been exceptionally frustrated with your child lately. Maybe you’re the parent of a toddler who wants to push boundaries, or maybe you’ve been arguing with your school-age child more frequently. When you get upset with your child, you can’t help but react strongly. You feel like you’re being pushed to the edge as a parent.

But on the other hand, you don’t want to get angry with your child—you love them and wish you could approach these situations with compassion and patience. This is the difference between a reactive and a proactive parenting style. How can you practice proactive parenting rather than reactive parenting? These tips will help you make this transition.

Become Proactive In Your Personal Life

Being proactive means making choices for yourself, planning for the future, and accepting responsibility for your decisions. A proactive person takes matters into their own hands rather than simply going with the flow. You can apply this to your parenting style, too. When you can anticipate that certain situations will be difficult and you prepare yourself emotionally, you’ll be able to respond in a healthier way.

Give Your Child Choices

Why does your child lash out sometimes and try to deliberately break the rules you set? They want to establish their independence and autonomy. This is a normal part of human development, and it’s an important phase for your child to go through. But there’s no denying that it can be tough to deal with this chapter as a parent!

Giving your child developmentally appropriate choices in different situations can help. Your child will feel like they have more control over their own life and circumstances, and you may be able to avoid some arguments. Furthermore, you’ll be able to teach your child valuable decision-making skills.

Don’t Assume The Worst

Sometimes, you react strongly to particular situations because you’re worried that they’ll spiral into something even worse. Alternatively, you might assume the worst of your child’s intentions. You might think that they’re purposefully trying to hurt your feelings or that they fully understand their actions and the emotional impact that those actions have on you. Instead, keep in mind that your child is just experiencing emotional growing pains, and they are trying to understand themselves and the world.

Examine Your Expectations

Do you ever get frustrated with your child because they don’t meet your expectations in certain situations? Perhaps you wish they acted more maturely or feel embarrassed when they act out. Sometimes, it’s worth reexamining your expectations to assess whether or not you’re simply putting too much pressure on your child.

Are your expectations appropriate for their age and stage of development? Have you been comparing your child to your friends’ children, even though they’re going through different things? Do you feel you have to be stricter simply because your parents were? It’s important to ask yourself these questions.

Focus On Addressing Behaviors

When your child acts out, it’s hard not to get upset. But instead of directing these negative feelings towards your child, try to direct them towards the behavior itself. If your child is old enough, explain the distinction to them. Your child needs to know that you do not think of them as a “bad person”—otherwise, they might worry that they disappointed you. If you explain that the behavior itself is wrong and why, you can separate it from your child as a person.

Are you hoping to shift from a reactive to a proactive parenting style? Working with a therapist can help. Reach out to us today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session for parenting therapy.