In a recent Colorado snowstorm, my kids and I found ourselves stuck in traffic for almost five hours due to a horrible blizzard that left many motorists stranded. My poor son, Nathan, was completely stressed out and my daughter Jordan, was bored out of her gourd, so I decided to lift their spirits. We hadn’t moved in over four hours and so spontaneously I seized the once in a lifetime chance to dance on the interstate. I cranked up the radio which just happened to be playing “Everybody! Rock Your Body” by the Back-Street Boys. Within a few days of posting the video on Facebook, friends from all over the nation were telling me they had seen us on the news, and within three days we were making news stations around the world! “Inside Edition” “The Today Show” and even Nick Carter from the Back-Street Boys tweeted about us! But before any of this happened, I was in the process of writing a parenting book soon to be published called, Guiding Their Drive: Parenting by Personality. Since I am a parenting coach, my five hours in gridlock inspired the following list.
1.Top Parenting Violations: They drive with a fogged-up windshield. Having a blurred perspective will cause a parent to have unrealistic expectations of what “normal” or “good behavior should look like. You have to know your kids’ strengths, but also their limitations, so you don’t expect them to do what they can’t! Expecting your daughter who is a highly rational thinker, to show empathy and gratitude is unrealistic. Parents need to teach their children to develop the skills they are lacking and not shame them for being who they were born to be.
2. They try to fix the potholes instead of focusing on the inner state of their child. It’s much easier to focus on the negative than it is the positive. Lea Waters PhD., author of The Strength Switch, writes, “we’re programmed to see what’s wrong faster and more frequently than what’s right.” If we are raising a child who is our opposite, it is easy to frame the differences we see as negatives, rather than strengths we just don’t recognize or understand. For instance, a kind and gentle mother might frame her son as argumentative, since she doesn’t recognize what the skill of debating might look like before it is fully developed.
3. They take their eyes off the road. Instead of focusing on what is truly best for their child, even if it might be an unconventional way of parenting, they focus on the opinions of others. Or instead of trying to truly understand why their child is misbehaving, they just want to change the behavior as soon as possible so no one will judge or question their parenting capabilities. Grandparents are notorious for sticking their noses in where they don’t belong and often have strong opinions how “little Johnny” should be raised.
4. They try to text and drive! On average, parents of children ages eight to 18 consume screen media for more than nine hours each day, and of that, these parents devote nearly eight hours to watching movies, playing video games and scrolling through social media. These findings come from a new report released by Common Sense Media. According to another study, connection between parents and their children is the number one way to prevent at-risk behavior in kids. If parents want their kids to have a healthy relationship with technology, they need to model it themselves.
5. They forget to look in the rear-view mirror and know their own strengths and limitations. Children naturally want to differentiate themselves from their parents and siblings. I know that I am an expressive and feeling parent who occasionally loses her temper. After these episodes, I will say to my daughter, “I admire the way you keep your calm no matter how upset you are! We are wired so differently!” Then after she has protested the injustice of something being unfair, I validate how she is feeling, but tell her how something being unfair doesn’t bother me as much as someone who says something unkind. Pointing out our unique differences teaches her that each person has their own way of looking at the world so that she can be more accepting of other points of view.
6. They don’t “Stop, Look and Listen”. Some temperaments are introverted and hide their true feelings. They may pretend to enjoy soccer because their dad is coaching the team and would be disappointed if they didn’t play. They may give you little clues, but chances are, if you don’t take the time to sit with them, watch for body language, and listen without judging or giving advice, you will never know what is really going on.
7. They have a “My Way or the Highway” approach. Traditional parenting mandates that parents must always have the final word and not let their kids get the upper hand. The “because I said so” approach will shut down your kids and cause hurt, resentment and maybe even rebellion. Parents may also impose their will upon their child by making them play an instrument or participate in a sport even though their child has expressed their disinterest. I have seen far too many kids who were forced to play a sport from age three, burn out on that sport, or worse yet, have a career ending injury by the time they get to high school.
8. They don’t realize that parenting is a two-way street. Parents who are humble enough to admit when they are being too harsh will earn the love and respect of their kids. We all make hasty parenting decisions in the moment that may not be the best, but we feel we will appear weak if we back down. Recognize these times as opportunity for negotiation. Teach your kids how to problem solve and come up with a win/win solution. You can say, “Maybe you have a point. What is your solution so that we are both halfway happy?”
9. They are too much of an air bag! What is it about parents and lectures? Lecturing causes your child to feel shamed and stupid. It is better to state the misbehavior logically and calmly, then deliver the consequence.
10. They don’t drive with guardrails. Although some kids need more freedom than others, all kids feel safer with boundaries in place. Well-communicated rules allow your children to know what is expected of them, giving them a sense of security and confidence.
11. They don’t use their cruise control. It is better to have fewer rules and be consistent with those rules than to have too many rules that you can’t enforce. Dr. Bernard Arons, M.D., director of the Center for Mental Health Services, in Washington, D.C., states that, “The more consistent the message, the more stable they feel. Without consistency, kids have a hard time controlling themselves.” Consistency lets your child know that you mean business and no amount of whining, screaming or stomping will change your mind!
12. They put it in overdrive. Some parents just do too much for their kids. Helicopter parents love their kids so much that they don’t ever want to see that child fail. Gist: The Essence of Raising Life Ready Kids by Timothy Johansen and Michael Anderson advocates for letting kids fail while they are under your roof so you can teach them problem-solving skills. Instead of fixing the problem for them, let them wrestle with it and come up with a creative solution. I work with parents all the time who are exhausted because they do too much for their very capable kids. As soon as they are ready, they can make their own breakfasts, do their own laundry and pack their own lunches. These are life skills that will help them when they leave the nest.
13. They never take the scenic route. Many parents I work with get stuck in the rut of parenting the same way they were parented, even if it didn’t work for them when they were kids. They may feel that it is just it’s too much work to customize the way they parent for each of their children’s unique needs. Dr. Elaine Aron, Author of The Highly Sensitive Child recommends enlisting a parenting coach who understands child temperament to help you navigate the back roads!
14. And finally, when there is gridlock, they don’t dance on the highway! According to a professor of psychology at Stanford University, “Negative emotions involve more thinking and processing then positive ones, so they stick with us longer”.
We were having the worst day ever as we sat in that blizzard for almost five hours. I knew I had to paint the memory positive somehow, so I danced on the highway! Positive parenting works! How do I know? My silly little dance on the highway resonated with millions, but with my kids it created a memory that will last a lifetime!