As a child therapist, I get to talk to a lot of parents. I mean tons. They talked to me about their kids, about their lives and most importantly about their parenting.
I then meet their kids. I get a rare inside peek into the kid’s perspective. What do the kids find effective? What do they secretly admit doesn’t work? What do they wish their parents would do differently?
I am often shocked by the honesty and insight kids have about how they are being parented.
Here are the top 10 mistakes kids say parents make:
“She threatens to take things away, but she never does.”
This is by far the #1 complaint I hear from kids. They aren’t going to take you seriously if you don’t follow through.
I always tell parents – if you say it, you need to do it.
I often recommend a three strikes you’re out policy. That way kids are given a chance to correct their behavior and you can limit the amount of threats you deliver.
“I don’t listen to my mom until she starts to yell and then I know she means business.”
If your kids are waiting until you lose your mind before they’ll listen – there is a serious problem. You want your kids to respect what you say, even when you are calm and cool headed. The key is to limit how many times you redirect behavior (3 strikes) and what you do after they don’t listen multiple times (consequence after 3 strikes you are out). You don’t have to get angry to be an effective parent.
Having said that, we all get angry sometimes. Who doesn’t?! But, it shouldn’t be at the crux of your parenting tricks. Parenting by intimidation will lose its power once they hit those tween years. Save yourself some grief and develop alternative parenting tricks before that time.
If your child is not listening, you can calmly say something like, “I asked you to pick up your toys. If I ask you again that will be strike one.” When your child gets three strikes, you deliver a consequence.
Or conversely, you can leave the strikes out altogether and say something like, “I asked you to clean up your toys. If I have to ask you again you will not be able to watch TV for the rest of the night.” The key is to follow through with your consequence.
“If my dad says no, my mom will say yes.”
Kids love to play parents against each other. It is your job to not allow that to happen. Regardless of any disagreements you and your partner might have, be united in front of the children.
“They ground me, but then they always forget.”
This is the death blow to effective parenting. Your consequences have to stick. If you forget, get lax or undo your partner’s consequences your kids won’t take you seriously – ever.
“If I ask her enough, I can wear her down.”
Kids admit this to me all the time!
This starts in toddlerhood and revs up from there. Some parents give in to their toddlers because frankly, they can be exhausting. It is a slippery slope, however.
Your toddler is developing a framework of how you parent. If whining and screaming are effective, they will never move out of that stage. And trust me, a 10-year-old having a toddler tantrum – isn’t cute. No should mean no. Regardless of how annoying their whining may be.
“I don’t have to clean up my room because I know my mom will do it.”
I am always shocked when kids tell me this. Not because their moms clean their rooms, but because the kids know it and expect it.
Who hasn’t caved when the odor from your kid’s bedroom is palpable? Who hasn’t gotten fed up and finally picked up all those empty and disgusting dishes from under the bed. I get it. It is gross. The only problem with this situation is that kids love to have a live-in maid.
Tell your kids they don’t have to clean their room, but they can’t go out or do anything fun until it is clean. It is still their choice.
“My parents don’t ask me to do chores, so I don’t do anything around the house.”
Parents will often complain that their kids are lazy. “They don’t help out. They walk right past trash and toys all over the floor.” When I talk to their kids, the kids will say things like, “They don’t tell me to clean up?” Or “I don’t have any chores?”
I know we would love our kids to be these innately responsible people who just go around pitching in because it is the right thing to do – but it frankly doesn’t usually happen that way.
Tell your kids how you want them to help and then hold them to it. Teaching life skills and independence will pay off when they get older!
“My parents have no clue that I am up late at night talking to my online friends.”
Ahh, the lovely teenagers – and the naïve parents. I can’t tell you how many parents tell me their teens aren’t on their phone at night or aren’t on social media. Most of the time, this just isn’t the case. I know this – because the teens tell me so.
Teens are up. Talking to god knows who at all hours of the night. Don’t be fooled – even good teens do this.
Have all phones and electronics checked in at night. If you need to, turn your router off when you go to bed.
“My parents take things away, but I know it will be simple to just earn it back.”
If kids think they can just earn it back, they tell me they don’t care what you take away.
Parents want to see good behavior and they want to see it right away. So a quick way to do this is to have kids earn their privileges back.
The struggle with this approach is that kids bank on this behavior. Kids will often tell me that they don’t care if they are grounded because they know they can earn it right back.
Set short consequences (as long consequences lose their effectiveness) and don’t let kids earn their way out of them.
“If I create a big enough scene, my parents will totally cave.”
Kids can be relentless. They often tell me that they will throw such a big fit that their parents will eventually cave. They especially like to do this when you are the most vulnerable – grocery stores, in front of your friends etc.
I have had the privilege of seeing this behavior first hand in my office at times. Kids nag and nag and nag until the parent says, “Fine! We’ll stop and get some on the way home!” Avoid being wishy washy. Give your kids a clear yes or no and then stick with your decision.
Did you make the list? I know I did! There is no way anyone can be a perfect parent all of the time. I strive to keep my “No” a “No” and I strive to be consistent, but life gets in the way and so does my fatigue.
There is no such thing as perfect parents, just parents trying to do it perfectly. Hopefully these tips will help you come close to that lofty goal.
What do you think your kids would say? Leave a comment and let us know. Any tips on how to help with these issues? We are all in this mess together.
Know some parents who could benefit from seeing this list. Share it with them!
Do you know an anxious teen? Give them the only self-help book teens are likely to read: