As school starts up again, I see many parents in my office worried about the added stress that school brings. Things like getting out of the house on time, remembering school supplies, doing homework, focusing in class, eating their lunch, making friends, and getting off electronics to go to bed!
It got me thinking that it’s often all these “stressors” that begin to drive a wedge between parents and kids. Arguments, unmet expectations, disappointment all begin to strain the relationship with our kids. Here’s the surprising thing, we as parents, can unintentionally make matters worse. Wait-really? How does that happen? Our own stress and anxiety for their well being begins to show up in ways that push our kids away. I see it all the time.
All parents want to do their best, and the last thing we want is to break connection or add more stress to our relationship, so I’d like to share with you the TOP 5 BACK TO SCHOOL PARENTING PRACTICES TO AVOID and what to do instead.
Over the next several weeks, I will share one Back to School Parenting Practice to Avoid. I will provide some examples and some quick tips on what to do instead.
Many of these parenting practices have turned into habits and have become unconscious decisions. It’s impossible to change something we don’t see. So let’s build some awareness beginning with…
Parenting Practice #1
Focusing on the Negative-Forgetting the Positive
One way we tend to break connection with our kids is that we focus on the negative-it’s a natural thing to do actually, our brains are wired to find what’s wrong and what needs to be “fixed” way before we can see what’s going well-it’s a survival strategy that’s rooted in our primitive brain. And guess what? When we are stressed, our own fight or flight response is triggered more easily and sometimes "negative" is all we can see.
Here are some ways we can fall into this trap.
1.We highlight the negative...
- You notice the messy backpack before you acknowledge all the effort it took to actually remember to bring it home.
- You notice the homework that's not finished instead of focusing on all that is done already
- You notice the one low grade before you acknowledge all her good grades so far
- You notice the one day he didn't do his chores instead of acknowledging all the days he did
- You notice and react to the bad attitude instead of giving her space to just be or unwind
Our kids with ADHD receive continuous negative messages from others- all day long. I recently read that it is estimated that those with ADHD receive 20,000 more negative messages by age 12 than those without the condition. That is too much! Let’s not add to their already full day of negatives. Let’s be the positive in their day.
2. We use the word: “WHY”
- Why are you late?
- Why don't you listen?
- Why didn't you turn in your homework?
- Why do I have to tell you the same things 100 times!?
- Why can’t you just…
The word WHY assumes judgement. And if our tone is angry, frustrated, or just plain tired(and when is it not?), it now becomes a loaded weapon that communicates "I don't trust you to do the right thing" or "You are not living up to my expectations" or "I'm so sick and tired of dealing with you." What we're really saying is "something is wrong with you." I know it sounds like I might be exaggerating the impact this word can have on our kids, but I promise you, it is one of the most damaging words we can use. Try using these two simple words instead, "I've noticed," and see what happens.
How to Shift from Negative to Positive:
1.Build your self-awareness muscle. Pay attention to how often you correct, admonish, criticize, critique, or see what he(she) has done wrong. What are the things you notice most? Now ask yourself: what is he doing right here? How can I acknowledge his effort? What progress can I identify? In every negative situation there is always a positive. Always.
2. When you know better, you do better. Start with building your positive detector. The “shine the light on what they’re doing right” detector. Build it everyday. Set a goal for yourself: For example, “Before I correct, critique or verbalize a negative, I will notice and voice out loud 3-5 positives.” This hard work. It will take time, so be patient with yourself.
3. Finally, if you find yourself falling back into the “negative pit” ask for help. Parenting is not meant to be done alone. Sounds counter intuitive, I know, but it’s true. Ask you partner, your friend, another parent to help you “stay accountable” so that you can make the change you seek. If you’re still having a hard time, and the stress is wearing you out-make sure to seek professional help.
Here’s to a better year with our kids, a year of deeper connection and less stress!