What is “clean” parenting, anyway?

If we’re honest, we’ve all had those moments at the end of a long day when we resort to less-than-stellar “dirty” parenting techniques. And we all know they don’t work.

So, how do we ditch the dirty and get clean? Here’s how to clean things up.

Susan Stiffelman, family therapist and author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected, presents the idea that there are two types of parenting styles — clean and dirty.

As parents, we’ve all done it. We ask our children nicely the first few times we see a behavior we don’t like, but when we don’t get the desired reaction, we resort to bribery, use “the look” and even threats. When our children challenge us, it’s much easier, but far less effective to rely on dirty parenting.

Here’s what to do when you witness a parenting train wreck >>

Cleaning up our parenting

Stiffelman explains, “Clean parenting is about approaching a child without an undercurrent of manipulation or neediness.“ She points out that the use of clean parenting presumes that parents are the “captain of the ship” and that our requests come not from desperation, but rather from strength.

Ditching the dirty parenting

In contrast, explains Stiffelman, “’Dirty’ parenting… involves bribes and threats, dirty looks, bad vibes and sarcasm. It feels… dirty — to not only the child, but to us. We feel we’ve compromised our integrity or behaved in ways that are beneath us when we’ve resorted to dirty parenting.“ She goes on to point out that although we get our desired result and a change in our children’s immediate behavior, using dirty parenting to try to control our kids deteriorates the connection that we work so hard to build with them and undermines our bigger parenting goals.

She further explains, “…whenever we come at our child or teen from a place of force, we activate their instincts to resist, even more so when the connection between us is weak or fractured.”

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So, while clean parenting requires more of us as parents, the payoff is greater since we’re parenting from a place of truth, respect and an open heart.

Stiffelman astutely drives her point home: “It’s not easy, but figuring out how to stay connected while navigating differing vantage points is an inevitable part of the ride. The cleaner we make it, the bigger our hearts — and our children’s — can open, as we move with grace and dignity through the ups and downs along the way.”

And isn’t what we want most as parents to build a strong relationship with our children based on trust, mutual respect and open communication?

Tell us

What do you think of ‘clean parenting?’

More thoughts on positive parenting

Positive discipline: Why time outs don’t work
Parenting Guru: Is it wrong to punish kids
Evaluating your discipline techniques


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