Parenting That Works. We’ve read tons of material on effective parenting. The most important indicator that effective parenting skills work is follow through. Whether you are parenting a toddler, grade schooler, middle schooler or teenager in high school, if you don’ follow through with what you say to redirect behavior, you’re pretty much screwed. You have no credibility if you say there is a consequence to bad behavior and don’t follow through with the disciplinary action. You have no credibility if you say you will reward good behavior and you don’t follow through. You’re basically an ineffective parent and worse, a liar at that. Your lack of effective parenting is a disservice to your children. Your job in life is to help them become independent, responsible, upstanding citizens while being right there beside them, to model good problem-solving and coach them along the way to becoming functional adults.
In helping families lay a strong foundation for raising their children and managing life circumstances, I, too, laid a foundation in raising my two adult daughters. I did less “telling them what to do” and did more asking them what they wanted. They had dreams I didn’t judge or criticize. My eldest wanted to go to USC and I said,”why not?” She wanted to become an attorney, and I said “go for it.” I set healthy limits and put boundaries in place so they knew how to get their needs and wants met at the same time respecting household expectations. They received many personal freedoms (privileges) because they earned them. When times got tough and I had to discipline I felt scared that having to say “no” or taking away a privilege would make me out to be the “bad guy” and I worried they wouldn’t “like me.” Well sometimes they didn’t like me. I managed my anxiety about it by doing what I tell my clients to do, “feel the discomfort” and do it anyways. Don’t undermine your parenting because you feel (whatever emotions) about doing the right thing. Life isn’t a popularity contest. Parenting that works includes both mother and father being on the same page about the children. They should be a united front and follow through together.
Positive and negative reinforcement is what redirects behavior. If you want your kids to grow up to be a healthy functional adult reinforcement appropriately. Twenty five years ago, when my eldest was 7 years old, I was dating a man who had a 17 year old son. He claimed his son was lazy and had no ambition. He said he’d never amount to anything all the while telling him what to do and when to do it. I had the privilege of caring for this young man for several months while his father was out of the Country. I enrolled him in school and visited his teachers during parent teacher conferences. He was given a list of household expectations and had no problem in meeting them. He was given personal freedoms that included allowance and being able to attend band concerts. When his father returned, he became withdrawn and not engaging. His father thought this was being disrespectful. One day this young man came home about a half hour late from school and his father punished him by “making” him wash my living room walls. I thought that was ludicrous and told him so. You can imagine our relationship went downhill from there.
Parenting that works includes:
- Validation/Positive reinforcement – when they do something well say so. Let them know they are seen and heard.
- Setting limits/boundaries – let them know what is allowed and what is not allowed. Be explicit with expectations.
- Role modeling – role model appropriate behavior so they know how to behave in and out of the home.
- Showing empathy – different than having empathy. “I can imagine that scrape hurts like hell.”
- Helping them ask for what they need and want.
- Helping them share thoughts and emotions.
- Demonstrating emotional tolerance – so they know how to self-sooth and not “act out.”
- Allowing them to make their own choices – even if they aren’t yours.
- Allowing them to learn from their mistakes – don’t fix things for them.
- Do more listening and less “telling” them what to do.
As a Marriage Counselor and mother, I am not that different from the people I help. Parenting was challenging. My family is also a Blended Family where circumstances were quite challenging. In our family and culture we want better for the next generation. I came from humble beginnings as my parents were immigrants. My children were brought up with many luxuries and privileges I could only dream of growing up. I’m proud to say they aren’t spoiled children. I believe they are successful and happy individuals because they had love, discipline and parenting that works.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I understand we all our products of our upbringing. I encourage parents to take a look at their own childhood and identify what they would like to improve in their own parenting. Our parents did the best they could with what they knew. We all have a story to tell about our upbringing. Some good, some not so good. It’s our gift to our children to be able to acknowledge and remedy our shortcomings so the next generation continues to move forward in healthy and productive ways.
For more about parenting your kids call me at (858) 735-1139.