Parenting Audit Part 2 – Tips and Tools

Posted on January 12, 2018

Last week we gave you a half-dozen questions so you could do your own 2018 Parenting Audit. This week I’m excited to share some perspectives, tips, and tools to help you get through some of the not-so-great moments of raising kids, so 2018 can be a more enjoyable parenting year for you.

  1. What is the speed of life in your household?

–   Slow and calm?

–   Relaxed or rushed?

–   Always busy and overscheduled?

If the speed of life in your household is always slow and calm, you’re golden. But I very much doubt that’s the case, since the speed of daily life today is the biggest reason for chaos and disconnection between parents and children. We and our kids are all rushing from one task to another—trying to get everything done and to do it right! The price we pay for this is disconnection with our kids. And that is just not worth it!

Be clear about what is happening and slow down as much as you can, by taking one or two activities, classes, or to-do items off your schedule and that of your kids. Tell your children that your parenting goal for the year is to spend more “free” time with them and that, for example, you have cut down your working hours by one hour every Thursday. Now ask your child—if he or she is old enough—which activity can be deleted from their schedule so that you both can fit in some time to just hang out and do nothing…no-thing! If you have a younger child or children, decide for them and tell them why.

This will be the best New Year’s parenting intention you can set—one that will lead to connection and continued success in your relationship with your kids. Remember, there is never a lack of time. Time has been, is, and always will be the same. The change has to come from how we decide to spend it.

TIP: Connections with kids need an investment of “free” time from parents.

TOOL: Take 5  minutes a day to do no-thing to start feeling the benefits of time dedicated to connecting with your children.

  1. What do you think about your kids? Of course, you love them, but do you…

–  Accept them in your heart as they are?

–  Constantly want them to improve?

–  Compare them to other kids?

Parents often do not see their kids as equals. We tend to have an authoritarian, superior mentality, mostly because we are older and have more life experiences than they do. Yes, we teach, guide, and shape our children, but we forget that they teach, shape, and guide us just as much. This teach-and-learn relationship extends in both directions. Haven’t your kids activated your hidden inner potential? Are we not more patient, kind, caring, and empathetic because our kids have challenged us and inspired us to step up? Do they not teach us to keep life lighthearted, to smile and laugh out loud? We really wouldn’t be who we are without their presence in our lives.

Our existence is certainly not more important than our kids’. Just because we are older doesn’t mean then we are superior or in control. We are in charge for sure but not in control! We come into parenting with such fierce authority, however, that we cannot accept our children as equals, and we forget to accept them as who they are. We are constantly telling them what to improve and how to change while comparing them to their siblings and friends, peers, even neighbors’ kids! How would we feel if they—or for that matter, anyone—constantly nudged us to be like someone else.

Honoring our children for who they are is at the very core of mindful and conscious parenting, and if we are to have a connected relationship with our kids, we need, first and foremost, to accept and respect them just as they are. When we commit to this, we teach our kids to honor themselves and their differences, instead of constantly trying to copy their peers. This is how we plant in them the seeds of self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, and self-love—setting them on the path to personal connection and authenticity. At the same time, accept and respect not just their personality and differences but also their feelings—which are neither right nor wrong. Dealing with their feelings (link) is being emotionally intelligent. We also know what research (link) says about children’s academic and life success when we and they are emotionally intelligent.

TIP: Give up any pre-conceived expectations of how you envision your children to be, and embrace them as they are. Each child has his or her unique essence that is waiting to be nurtured by you.

TOOL: Dealing with the Feeling is a great tool of emotional intelligence. Follow the steps of “Spot it, Say it, and Okay it” to build emotional vocabulary and validate feelings.

  1. How do you generally speak to your kids?

            –     Are your words respectful or demanding?

            –     Is your tone of voice kind or unkind?

Seldom do we realize the importance of words and tone of voice in parenting! We order our kids around and expect that they should comply. However, the human psyche—especially that of kids—is simply not designed for this. When we give direction using harsh words or an unkind tone of voice, we are activating our children’s emotions. The likelihood of their following directions or taking your guidance then falls sharply. So don’t set yourself and your kids up for failure. Connections are built on kindness and mutual respect. Be sure to use words that align with your intention of love and connection. Our tone of voice and our body language carries a vibe—a frequency—that our kids can feel. They can sense our underlying anger or irritation just as we can sense theirs. We could be saying, “I love you,” but if we spit it out as “You know I love you” in an authoritative tone of voice, our children will not feel our love and our words will have no power. It is our tone of voice that powers our words. Be genuine and respectful. Pick your words mindfully, and adjust your tone of voice consciously.

TIP: Every word has power and the way we speak to our children becomes their inner voice. Leave emotional legacies for your kids that are worth passing on.

TOOL: When you’re right, practice being kind first! Take a deep breath and put on your genuine, kind voice when directing kids.

  1. How do you speak to your kids when they make mistakes?

                        –   Are you bossy or understanding?

                        –   Are you able to have discussions or talks, or do you argue a lot? 

When our children make mistakes, we tend to become their boss, pointing a finger and saying, “I told you so” or “I knew this would happen.” This immediately activates fear in our children, and that emotional cloud then prevents them from accessing their intellect. None of us can learn when we are afraid. So when children have made mistakes, take the opportunity to turn it into a teachable moment. Take off your boss hat and put down your judge gavel. Being bossy and judgmental will not help you get through to your kids! Instead, it leads to misunderstandings and arguments instead of discussions and talks.

If you want your children to learn from their mistake, then you have to walk on their turf with empathy and understanding. Put yourself in their shoes, and decide what you will do by dialing into how you would have like to be treated or talked to if you had made such a mistake. Empathy comes naturally to humans—especially concerning our kids—but we tend to use it with them mostly when they are physically hurt or unwell. It’s a good tool at all times!

TIP: A mis-take is a take that is missed this time. Mistakes are huge learning moments and red carpet invitations to growth. Respond to your kids instead of reacting. Always remember that kids are scared when they make mistakes. Match that fear not with more fear but with love and respect.

TOOL: Use your sense of touch. When your child has made a mistake, no matter how wrong they are, be sure to keep your hand lovingly on their back while you are having the discussion. This lets them know that you love them and are there for them, no matter how big the mistake. In other words, touch says, “I’ve got your back.”

  1. How do you speak about your kids to others and refer to them on social media?

                        –   Are you empathetic or do you complain about them?

                        –   Are you sarcastic and condescending?

                        –   Do you shame them?

Sure, there’s value in complaining to others to get things off your chest. But when it comes to your kids, check your intention and be mindful of whom you talk to! Is your intention to share and lighten your emotional load, or are you complaining because you like to complain and it feels good? Sharing is ok if you wisely choose the person you speak with—someone who doesn’t egg you on and shift your energy away from parenting with love, someone who doesn’t pile on with how awful and ungrateful their kids are as well, and so on. Talk like that doesn’t solve anything. If anything, you will end up feeling worse. If you are sharing with a close friend who has your best interest at heart, be sure to keep strong boundaries around how and how much you share, always keeping in mind what might be detrimental to your child. Will this person share your comments with others or gossip about your kids?

We need to maintain respect and honor for our children behind their backs as much as we do in front of their face. This is called being authentic. After all, how would we feel if our kids talked badly about us to others? This internal compass of respect should always be pointed in the direction of connection with our kids—keeping in mind that emotional moments are fleeting and they will pass without permanent damage if we set our personal boundaries intentionally.

And when it comes to social media, I have one overarching blanket rule: Don’t talk shit about your kids on social media, ever!! First, that does not align with respect for your kids. Your commenters will stop by for a moment, throw their thoughts your way, and move on with their day. They are not the parents of your children. You are. You know best how to handle your kids. Take time to dial inward and think about yourself and your strongest gift—your parenting intuition—to look for answers. Second, anything you post on social media lives there forever. Don’t wash your dirty laundry in public where the stains will never come out. Third, and most importantly, know clearly that no matter how “nicely” you are sharing your problems, your children will be shamed by it. How would you feel if your kids just “mentioned” or “shared” how rudely you spoke to them? When our personal lives are shared publically, we feel a sense of shame, no matter how old we are. So social media is off limits if you are ticked off at your kids.

TIP: Shame makes kids feel that they are unworthy and not good enough. This damages their self-esteem and self-worth and paves the way for repeated behaviors. Complaining to others about your child’s issues or challenges in front of them or behind their backs is a breach of the sacred trust between parent and child. Trust is a pillar of connection in relationships.

TOOL: Before you talk to someone else about your child, check your intention: Are you sharing or complaining? Take a deep breath and a step back; pause and ask yourself if complaining will help the relationship or hinder it. There’s a difference between sharing to seek advice and complaining to seek attention.

  1. How do your kids respond to you?

– Are they respectful or rude?

– Do they listen to what you’re saying or roll their eyes?

– Do they follow directions or just ignore you?

My perspective about this question is related to your responses to the preceding five.

If your answers to questions 1-5 were in the range of “I do this sometimes,”

all you have to do is follow the tips and tools above, and I promise you will notice a 75 percent improvement in how your children respond to you! When we slow down, honor our children for who they are, use a kind tone of voice and words, are not bossy or judgmental when they make mistakes, and don’t complain about them all the time or shame them, they will feel the love and authenticity that we bring to the relationship. Our kids will sense the conscious effort we bring to our shared space, and they will be respectful and polite back. They will listen and not roll their eyes, and they will not ignore you.

After all, isn’t what we give out what we receive back? Yes, life has a boomerang effect! So give out your best 75 percent of the time, and cede the other 25 percent to “life happens.” Then get set for a rocking 2018 with your kids!