The other day, I was in a knee-jerk control mode, trying to get my way with my kids. All the phenomena I experienced were familiar: in the middle of my rant, I felt noble, all my logic made perfect sense to me. The voices in my head sounded intelligent: They are studying wrong; they are disrespecting my house; they are lazy, slovenly brats. Then I realized I was hearing my father's voice in my own head! How did that happen? It happened the same way it has been happening in households all over the world, from generation to generation. I wondered, how could we learn anything other than that which we grew up immersed in, and usually, are genetically predisposed to as well? The only way we could be any different, imaginative, inventive, better, is if we put conscious thought and effort into it. Are you doing that?
Instead, by the time you have a teen or tween, you are probably bemoaning how exhausted you are, how little they listen or care and how hard it is to parent with your spouse or be a single parent. And don't your friends just commiserate? A lot of help that is.
After working with young people most of my life (and recently launching the life coaching for minors program here at Handel with my husband and life-long educator, Will) I realized we have to work on the parents, too! I hope you're clear I'm on no high horse here. I've been guilty of every crime I am about to lay out and I bet a few of them are on your list, too.
Out-Pouting Your Kid
Have you stopped to consider that you pout as much as they do when you don't get your way? I was shocked to find that I don't mind holding a grudge against an 8-year-old. She seems so tough, but eventually she breaks down and I realize I cannot fight with her as though we are equals. She is a kid and if I want to teach her not to pout, I have to model it. I have had amazing results when I take a quick time-out, come back and say I was thinking about things wrong, listen again and negotiate a solution we can all agree on. I NEVER get a bad, pouty, or disagreeable response when I do this. Yes, I have to give up my ego for a moment, but that is worth it to avoid a stand off, or worse, my kid winning the power struggle!
Here is another fun and surprising fact. When my kids argue with me, I do NOT want to listen. Most times, since they are as persevering as I am (yes, they get your good qualities, too) eventually I realize I have to listen. I have never once thought "that wasn't worth it." In fact, most times they have a point and I can re-adjust my thinking, validate them and come to a solution. Boy, the relief they feel is so palpable and it doesn't mean they get their way, but they feel heard.
Out-Martyring Your Kid
Being a martyr is the oldest power play in the book and we are not above using it on our kids. Guilt trips are a very common form of cruelty. If you tell them to feel bad, you will raise kids who feel bad. Instead, practice owning your feelings. ("When you do/say X, I feel Y. I request ABC instead.") And then listen to their response. The other antidote to out-martyring is setting clear rules for the household and chores. Most of us don't want to do this, reasoning, "if they cared, they would just naturally clean up after themselves without being asked." This logic makes me laugh so hard I could pee my pants. That's like thinking your husband should telepathically know when you are in the mood or in need of a hug. We are so delusional in our self-absorption. You have to tell your kids the expectations and then uphold them.
Out-Shouting Your Kid
It seems obvious, but we don't get it. If we shout, they are going to shout. Oh, the irony of wishing they'd be better than we are but not teaching them how. If we lie, cheat, steal, act cruelly, zone out, show up late, or give in to addictions, most likely, SO WILL THEY. Change behaviors in yourself (or at least start dealing with them) if you want to best assure your child's success with these things.
Out-Shining Your Kid
Let's face it, though they don't usually start out better than you, it's kind of their job, developmentally, to get there. We have such mixed feelings about that and that's normal. I remember when my kid was about 7 years old, marveling at how much easier learning certain math concepts came to her, and how well she remembered things knocked my socks off. But then I had that twinge of jealousy I sometimes have with my brother or husband when I realized she was going to surpass me (which she should) possibly very soon. Not to mention her skin is softer, smoother, and tighter and her abs are stronger and flatter.. and... and... and... Moms with daughters, back me up here. Dads with sons who see them outshine you at sports or whatever the topic, it's human nature to compare and compete. It's downright biblical that we do it in our own families, let's not pretend it's not happening.
This blog however, is a call for us to grow up and override our very human tendencies to compete, pout, martyr and shout. What's the antidote? Conscious design and the development of Personal Integrity®. Please let us teach you the Handel Method®, or if you already know it, let us help you apply it to your parenting.
If you want to learn how to put the above into practice, come to Parenting by Design, the four-week course to design and implement the plan for your family, led by my dear husband, Senior Coach and Director of Educational Programming, Will Craig. It starts June 7 and it's only $200! Come MAKE SURE you do a better job than your parents did and a better job than you've been doing.