There are certain foundational rules that I live by when parenting my own Modern Family.
The first is: DO WHAT WORKS BEST FOR THE FAMILY. I think that most families have the same overall goal – to create an atmosphere that promotes happy, healthy, functioning family members – but the path that each family takes can be different in reaching the same goal.
So why does it seem like even though we are doing the same thing as the other parents around us, we not getting the same fantastic results?
It Works for THEM But Doesn’t Work For You
For example, a mom friend of mine was telling me the other day about how frustrated she was with her pre-teen child because she was not getting her homework done every night. Her daughter either turned in half-finished work or no homework at all, resulting in very poor grades on her recent report card. My friend was getting so frustrated with the poor grades her child earned on her report card and she knew she needed to whip out her parenting arsenal and exact a PUNISHMENT.
Her answer to this problem? She used one of the most common parenting tactics out there – she took away her daughter’s cell phone. It made sense why my friend did this – she had heard that this works FOR OTHER PARENTS; however, her daughter didn’t seem to care and continued slacking off on her homework. WHAT WORKED FOR A DIFFERENT FAMILY DID NOT WORK FOR THIS FAMILY.
My friend’s error here was that she used a parenting technique that was not effective FOR HER UNIQUE CHILD. The most frustrating part of being a child psychologist is that the UNIQUE aspect that makes every child distinctively one-of-a-kind, also makes it difficult to say with certainty what parenting technique will work for that particular child. This makes parents so frustrated, because they simply want to know what works; however, parenting oftentimes involves some trial and error
Let Go of “Shoulds” and Judgments
Oftentimes, we set a trap for ourselves when we get caught up in the “shoulds” of being a parent. Here are some examples:
- I should use this parenting technique because that is how I was raised
- I should use this parenting technique because it worked for my OTHER CHILD
- I should punish my child right now, otherwise I might look like a bad parent
- I should use this parenting technique because it seems to work for my sister/neighbor/friend/etc.
Look, if something you are doing as a parent isn’t working, STEP BACK AND EVALUATE WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE PARENTING BASED ON SHOULDS. Once you shake off the “shoulds”, you become free to explore new, possibly more effective parenting techniques that you might not have considered before.
Be creative – try something new! What are the risks anyway? Maybe your child continues misbehaving – nothing gained, nothing lost. On the other hand, maybe something about the new technique connects with your child and they change their behavior to the target behavior you were hoping for! You’ll never know unless you let go of the “shoulds” and start parenting using what works!!
Once you have let go of the “shoulds” and are open to new ideas, the next step is to identify your parenting priorities. Don’t just cast out the old, unproductive parenting technique for another unsuccessful parenting attempt! WHEN YOU IDENTIFY YOUR PRIORITIES AS A PARENT, YOU SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS WHEN DEVELOPING NEW PARENTING TECHNIQUES!
We’ll use my friend as an example (she won’t mind). Once she realized that taking the phone away from her daughter did not work, she decided to try something different. Before deciding what to try next, she took the time to establish her parenting priorities. At the top of the list is that her daughter must complete and turn in her homework every day.
Now keep in mind that my friend did not establish that her child should get all A’s in her classes or be the top student in her school, etc. Her priority was realistic to the situation and something that her child could handle.
After identifying her parenting priorities, my friend was able to consider ideas specific to the situation at hand. What actually ended up working for this family was establishing a new routine that included more time for homework that included several breaks during the homework time.
My friend discovered that the old homework routine that was created when her daughter was in the first grade did not work for a child in the seventh grade.
Try, Evaluate, Keep/Rework
Finally, once you try a new parenting technique, give it time to work. I get so frustrated with the parents that I work with at the Clinic when they try something new ONE TIME AND THEN GIVE UP on it when it doesn’t work!
Just remember that it took months or even years for your child to develop a bad habit or behavior, so it only makes sense that it is going to take months (not a day) for them to change this behavior.
When trying out the new technique, don’t be afraid to “tweak” it for best results. For example, my friend realized that her daughter needed more time than the one hour before bedtime to complete her homework; therefore, she had her daughter start her homework right after dinner. This seemed to work, but my friend did not like all of the whining and stress that seemed develop with this new, longer homework time.
My friend again shook off her “shoulds” (this “should” work because I’m trying something new) and opened herself up for a new idea. She decided to try breaking up the homework time into two chunks – one before dinner and one after dinner – and this seemed to work for her daughter. Her daughter did not like to sit and focus on her homework for such a long time without a break.
The Take-Home Message
The take-home message that I want to leave you with today is this: DON’T PARENT ON AUTOPILOT – BE A PROACTIVE PARENT! Modern Family Moms and Modern Family Dads need to be open-minded and flexible.
If some of your parenting techniques are producing the desired results that you want with your kids (and they align with your parenting priorities), then don’t stop using those techniques. However, if you keep using the same techniques over and over again and they keep producing results that your do not want – try something new!
What are you striving for anyway – To LOOK like a good parent, or to actually BE a good parent? MODERN FAMILY PARENTS KNOW THAT BEING A GOOD PARENT SOMETIMES MEANS DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY SO THAT YOUR KIDS GROW UP TO BE GREAT ADULTS!
Finally, I want to hear about your experiences with battling your own “shoulds”. What “shoulds” did not work for your family? How do you parent using what works?