by Camille McDaniel, LPC, NCC, CPCS
Many parents try so hard to do their parenting best. Tuck these “Parenting Traps” somewhere safe in your mind. It will be very helpful as you travel on your parenting journey.
1. Help everyone stay in their own place on the totem pole.
Consider a totem pole like a hierarchy, everyone has a rank. Examples of bottom, middle, and top rank could be: Family pet (bottom), Children (middle), Parents (top). When you change the order, the pole becomes unsteady. Ways that parents sometimes allow the order to change: 1. Asking your children to make decisions regarding adult family challenges. 2. Letting them know about what the other parent did that angered or hurt you. 3. Asking them to relay messages to the other parent when parents are not on speaking terms.
For example, it may be important to let your children know the family finances have changed and mom and dad may not be able to afford as many fun outings. However, it is not necessary to let the children know the finances have changed because one parent spent all the money while at the race track and now the non-offending parent has to work another job to make up for their carelessness. This is information most children get stressed over because they are powerless to resolve the issue. I have seen children not tell their parents about their own basic needs for fear they would be a burden just like the offending parent.
2. Teach by example, be the change you want to see.
If children and teens didn’t need examples and direction on how to live, they wouldn’t need you. What you do will be copied, whether you like it or even know it. Be aware of what you are doing or saying that might be copied.
3. No bribes for negative behaviors.
Why would your child do what you say to do when they can do what they want and get something cool out of it when you want them to stop? You are training them to only listen to you if they get something they like out of it.
4. Use Patience and Calm.
I have told this story before but it can be applied over and over. Years ago, when my god-son was much younger, I babysit while my friend and her husband went out. I was instructed not to give him any candy because he had enough already. If he was hungry he could have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple, and water or milk. Cool! Easy enough, right? Well after his parents left, my god-son wanted more candy. He must have asked for candy for at least 30 minutes or more. My answer never changed the first 2-3 times, “You can’t have more candy but you can have …” After the 3rd time, I would just smile at him, lovingly, and ask if he was ready for his sandwich. Next, I let him know to only talk to me about food when he wanted the sandwich. I then continued with my activity and didn’t respond to candy requests. He sat sulking for awhile. Later he came for that sandwich, no apple, and milk. It was a game of patience and calm. I already knew it was going to be my way so there was no need to stress.
**When it is more complex than this I work with parents to find solutions that fit their families needs.
5. Put Your Needs First.
While it is necessary to meet your child’s needs, you have to take care of yourself first. Why? Well, your child depends on you being healthy and stable so they can be stable. If you are stressed out, burned out, always sick, and out of balance, you will not be in a good position to be there for those who depend on you most.
Do you remember your last trip by airplane? There is a reason why the flight attendant instructs you to place the airbag over YOURSELF FIRST then help the person seated next to you. If you don’t help yourself first, you will not be strong enough to help anyone else.
6. Encourage your children to talk to you.
Make time, daily, to hear their joys, hurts, fears, and accomplishments. Make a big deal out of their successes and be a shoulder when they need to cry. If you don’t, someone or something will be there for them. There is no guarantee that it will be the type of influence you want for your children.
Parenting is a tough job! There are no manuals with specific directions to achieve specific results. Don’t grow weary in well doing… until we meet again in the next blog.