I work with a ton of families. I see parents who are loving, passive aggressive, guilt-inducing, abusive, you name it. There are a few behaviors, which I see that are always a mistake no matter what kid of family, parent or kid you have.
1) Losing Traction for Leading Topics
So many parents have the right motivation when trying to communicate with their kids, but the wrong method. They begin to talk to a child or teenager and they start with what I call a leading topic instead of an open one. You always want to have open communication, leading topics are dangerous because it sets your child up to either disagree with your or keep it inside if they are not on your level.
Bad Leading Topic: Catch anything?
Better Open Topic: How did the game go?
Bad Leading Topic: Don’t you think what that girl did was terrible?
Better Open Topic: What happened with that girl at school today?
Bad Leading Topic: Do you think Facebook gets rid of privacy?
Better Open Topic: What do you think of Facebook?
It is usually hidden in smiles and presents. But it is there. Momvy, or mom’s who are jealous of their children. I challenge parents to get real with themselves on whether their children’s success brings them happiness or envy or a little bit of both.
3) Mirroring Pressure
Do you pressure your child to be like you? It is one thing to encourage your child to be the best they can, or succeed, it is another to encourage them to be like you or have the success that you always wanted. The best way to ward against this is to ask your children who and what they think is successful and then encourage them based on their standards not yours.
4) Know When to Shut Up
I know that sounded harsh, but it is so hard to get kids to open up sometimes I see parents interrupt their kids just as they are about to say something good. Like this:
Mom: What do you think about Facebook? (Good leading topic and a good start…)
Kid: I don’t know its fun and cool.
Mom: Ya that’s true, it has definitely changed what people talk about. What do you talk about?
Kid: Sometimes clothes, or friends or this weekend. Sometimes I guess it can get personal…
Mom: I know, when it gets personal isn’t that scary?
Ruined! Leading topic and interrupted a stream of thought that could have opened up into what the kid thinks about personal information.
I see this most often with single parents or only children, where the parent is dependent on their child as much as the child is dependent on them. This can be emotionally or logistically. This is poison for your family tree.
6) Nothing is a telltale sign of something
I am not saying to go look for something. But often times if your kid says ‘nothing’ it is not the truth. I would be upfront about this with them if nothing is an answer to these questions and tell them you think nothing is a sign of something, let them help:
What are you thinking?
What are you doing with your friends tonight?
7) Being Fair
Parents should not be fair to their kids…sorry, I know harsh again. It is not tit for tat, parents should be fair in their parenting styles, but the should not make their relationship fair. If one does something bad and then something bad is done in return this is a relationship with no trust or emotions. It also puts a focus on revenge rather than forgiveness.
8) Thinking Parents Matter More Than Friends
Friends matter more than parents, especially after age 8. I know parents do not like to think this, but it is important to face head on how important friends are to your child.
9) Labeling Without Thought
We throw these terms around, but kids are like sponges. If you keep calling your child lazy they will never prove you wrong.
10) “Don’t tell your dad/mom”
Mom and dad should be a team, always. Pitting your child against your spouse even if it is a small secret can put your child in a very difficult position, undermines your spouse and puts your judgment into question.
What are some mistakes you have made? How have you overcome them?