iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
GET UPDATES FROM Beth Weissenberger
 

Want to Be a Better Parent? Ask Your Child for Feedback

Posted: 05/02/11 08:12 AM ET

It's time we started a parenting revolution. I'm talking about how we communicate and conduct ourselves with our children. Most of us grew up in a culture where parents were put on a pedestal. In other words, they believed that they had the right to be a particular way because they were in charge: "I am your mother and you do what I say." As a corporate coach I tackle this issue in the workforce, as well. Just because you're the boss doesn't mean you have the right to be a jerk. The best way to become a great leader at home or work is to get off your pedestal and start owning your own crap. You will be amazed by how quickly your home environment can shift when you tackle who you are as a parent.

Why do we think that as parents, we can do whatever we want with our children?

When my daughter was about 6 and a half, I sat down with her and said, "I want be a great mommy. I know there are things about me that don't work. I'm sure there are things you don't like. What can I do to be a better mommy?" She didn't have to think about it. She knew exactly what I needed to fix. She asked if I would stop interrupting her and saying "no" before she finished speaking. I could say "no," but I needed to hear everything she had to say first. Then she asked if I would stop screaming at her and just use my words. I was allowed to be mad and tell her how I felt, but she didn't like to be screamed at. It reminded me of how I felt when my mother screamed at me. I would tune her out or curse her under my breath. It didn't work when my mom did it either. Why would it work with my daughter?

The first step toward changing your relationship with your child is to make the commitment to be a remarkable parent.

I heard everything my daughter said. I promised her that I would work on myself and stop doing those things. I told her that if I interrupted her again before she finished telling her story, I would pay her a dollar. I would also pay her a dollar if I lost my temper and screamed at her. From that day on, every time I interrupted or screamed at her, I paid her a dollar. That conversation changed our relationship. Now she knows that she can talk to me and let me know if something is bothering her. This doesn't mean I don't discipline my daughter; it just means I don't get to be a jerk.

How to get off your parental pedestal:

1) Interview your children.

Sit your children down and tell them you want to be a better parent. Ask them about your bad traits and what you need to do to be a better parent. Listen openly to what your children say. They are genius at it. They know what works and what doesn't. Don't get defensive or mad at them. They need to feel safe and that they won't get into trouble. Sometimes it helps if you first give them an example of one of your bad traits (e.g., "I know when I get angry I shut down and pull away").

2) Ask how the bad trait makes them feel.

After you've listened to what your children have to say, ask them how it makes them feel when you treat them that way. Trust me when I say that you will want to stop the bad trait immediately when you find out how your behavior is negatively impacting your children. Recently, a coach at my company interviewed her 12-year-old son about her parenting. He told her that whenever she was mean to him, he thought it meant she didn't love him. You don't want your crap to screw up your relationship with your children.

3) Choose what traits you're going to fix.

After you've spoken with your children, make a list of all your negative traits and the issues you need to fix. Choose three negative traits or behaviors that you want to change. Own those negative traits; become aware of them. Once you see them and know they exist, that's when you can truly take them down.

4) Implement a consequence system.

Sit with your children again and tell them what traits or behaviors you are going to tackle and stop doing. Come up with a consequence for each behavior. I always like the consequence of putting money in a jar (e.g., a dollar every time you break your promise), which your child can spend on something fun like pizza or a movie when the jar is full. Once you start implementing consequences, you will notice a shift in your relationship with your children almost immediately. They will respect you for being honest with them and owning your own crap.

I'm always taking on what isn't working in my life and continue to have ongoing conversations with my daughter about who I am as a parent.

When you get off your pedestal, you are taking responsibility for who you are as a person. It will make you feel happy and proud of yourself. You're also teaching your children that it's OK to have crap as long as you own it and try to fix it. This creates a deeper connection between you and your child. They will always know that you're working on yourself and trying to be a better person and parent.

Recently, I was at my brother-in-law's birthday party, and we went around the table all sharing what we liked about him. When it came to his 8-year-old daughter, she said that she liked how he always apologized whenever he did something wrong. It was a great moment. As parents we're not perfect. There's no reason to be on a pedestal and pretend that we are.

 

Follow Beth Weissenberger on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Hglifecoaching