There is a strong distinction between effective parenting and radical parenting. We can think about effective parenting including: providing safety and continuity to a child’s life, offering encouragement, acknowledgement of a child’s emotional experience, holding authority with clear boundaries that are neither abusive nor reflecting abdication, supplying logical consequences for unacceptable behavior, addressing a child’s behavior as unacceptable and not the child’s character and the use of “I messages” that communicate that the parent has some unmet need in regard to the child’s behavior.
Radical parenting includes the emotional skills outlined above in conjunction with two other important expressions of Emotional Intelligence. The first is holding the mindfulness that parenting a child offers an opportunity to attempt to live one’s own childhood over again. When this dynamic happens unconsciously, the parent runs a risk of getting perfectionistic in the approach to parenting. The perfectionism is commonly accompanied by pressure and demands placed upon the child to get life right, i.e. get all A’s, excel in sports, be the best dancer, get accepted to the best schools. The key is to remain aware of letting go of expectations that your child live your childhood over for you.
The second component of radical parenting is remaining aware that we not only model our outward behavior, such as how we treat others, attend to chores, etc., but also the inner relationship we have with ourselves, that is, how we think and feel about ourselves. For example, parents might not shame a child but have a shame-based relationship with themselves, where they live in the feeling of not being enough. This interior modeling often results in children feeling shame, although they are not outwardly shamed. The antidote is for parents to therapeutically address the shame they live with, learning to transform shame into compassion. Taking on these two parental responsibilities can go a long way toward supporting the emotional wellness of children.