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's often these “stressors” that drive a wedge between parents and kids. Arguments, unmet expectations, disappointment all begin to strain the relationship. Here’s the surprising thing, we as parents, can unintentionally make matters worse. Our own stress and anxiety for their well being increases and we do "little" things that push them away. And we don't even know we're doing it.
That's why I’d want 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 every other week. I will provide some things to look out for 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 without acknowledging all the effort it took to actually remember to bring all the papers home.
- You notice the unfinished homework instead of focusing on what's completed already
- You notice the one low grade and forget to acknowledge all her good grades so far
- You notice the one day he didn't do his chores and never mention 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 children with ADHD receive 20,000 more negative messages by age 12 than those without the condition. That just breaks my heart. Let’s not add to their already full day of negatives. Instead, 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 when we feel judged, we become defensive. In addition, if our tone is angry, frustrated, or just plain tired (and when is it not?), the word WHY becomes a weapon that attacks our kids sense of worth. It 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've seen this word cause so much damage between parents and kids. Do your best to avoid using it.
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 building your ability to detect the positive. Practice “shining the light on what they’re doing right." In everything they do, seek the positives. 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!