Consensual living

Here’s a senerio for you: Little Johnny is 3 and has decided that he is never again brushing his teeth. What do you do? You could try forcing him to brush them, though forcing a 3 year old to do anything often turns into a bigger war than any mom plans for. You could try reasoning with him, maybe with a little bribing added in for good measure. There are always scare tactics, you know the “If you don’t brush your teeth they’ll all fall out!”. Some parents may resort to spanking or time outs. And others may try shame, “good boys always brush their teeth”. But what if you tried a more consensual living approach?

Consensual living is, from Wikipedia:

is a philosophy derived from the principles of consensus decision-making which advocates a consent-based approach to conflict resolution. The process of finding solutions in this model usually includes the communication of individual needs and the brainstorming of possible solution which will successfully address the needs of all parties, based on finding a common preference.

CL adopts the democratic principle of equality by which the wants and needs of everyone involved are considered equally in the process of problem solving, regardless of an individual’s age or position. Because of this stance, CL is sometimes regarded as a parenting philosophy, where children are considered to have an equal say in family decision making.

Most parents are probably scratching their heads right now. Don’t worry, I was just as confused and nervous and uncertain the first time I ever heard of this as well. Often most of the parenting advice we get has little to do with working towards making everyone happy, but instead works towards getting the parents what they want. So how would a consensual living parent handle the situation with little Johnny? Here’s how one pareent who uses consensual living ideals with her children replied:

actually come to think of it we did have the teethbrushing problem.
it turned out that her strawberry toothpaste was minty and the mentholated feeling was freaking her out.
i validated her menthol aversion, then tried to visualize the oral health section of the hfs to give her some alternatives, she got angry and said she didnt want to use anything, i explained why you need to brush your teeth and showed her my fillings, explaned cavities and all that in the least scary way i possibly could, she was actively asking questions the whole time, we did some verbal processing and she wanted to hear about the alternatives to minty toothpaste. she decided on one and now she loves brushing her teeth…

All this week I want to look at consensual living as it applies to parenting. Some of the topics including punishment, control, and learning to trust our children. Like a great article I found at the parenting pit you have to recognise The Possible and Impossible in Parenting. I hope you all will come back this week and learn a bit more about it with me.

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