Each generation has power struggles with the next. But it seems as if ours are escalating, thanks to the way the human brain has evolved, our exposure to more and more information, and the advent of increasing amounts of technology. Today our kids have a stronger “mind of their own” than ever before. They talk back more than ever before. They argue more than ever before. They curse more than ever before. They express their opinions sans invite. They’re outsmarting us ― especially when it comes to technology!
And how do parents respond? They say:
“How dare you speak to me like that? You’re grounded.”
“You have no respect for me. You’re grounded.”
“Don’t play me. I’m not an idiot. You’re grounded.”
“You lied to me. That’s it. You’re grounded.”
“I’m so done with your foul mouth. You’re grounded.”
This is not just a power struggle, it’s a trending super power struggle. And parents are overwhelmed because they can’t keep up. There are many contributing factors: Parents, on average, are older today than before. More children than ever before have two separate households to call home. There’s been an increase in single parenting and out-of-wedlock births. Parents are confused by various styles of parenting. (Think attachment, helicopter, authoritative, authoritarian.) They ask themselves, “What type of parent am I? What type of parent should I be?”
So what do parents do? They hop online to look for answers.
That’s not easy either. Everyone’s situation is as unique as a thumbprint, so looking online and finding what works for “my kid” and “my family” in “my situation” can be extremely frustrating. This search for answers, however, has given birth to a whole new parenting industry. You’ll find…
- Mom bloggers (3.9 million. You heard that right, though only 500 are considered “influential.”)
- Dad bloggers
- Online parenting courses
- Parenting groups and conferences
And when we don’t find answers in those resources, we run to marriage and family therapists (more than ever before); clinical psychologists (a record number are focusing on parenting); parent coaches (you can now get certified by attending a parenting coaching institute); and parenting experts, myself included.
Yes, it’s great to get guidance and counsel and have someone to share your challenges with. But the truth is, as I imply in the title of my book, The “Perfect” Parent, you are the perfect parent for your child, because you are the only parent of your child. No therapist, psychologist, or coach is going home with you. You may pick up some tools and techniques from bloggers, conferences, courses, or books that help you get through a hump, but none of those will work all of the time, every time. So the big question is: What will?
Here are three parenting principles that will carry the day, the month, and the year. These three timeless principles will outlive you and leave your kids with something they can be proud to pass along to your future generations:
1. Be mindful and conscious, which in action simply means aware of your own inner landscape—your thoughts and feelings—while being interested, engaged, and present to your child’s inner landscape. Even though you may feel that your “souls are one,” you really are two separate individuals. Each of you wants your own respect; you want to shine your own light and experience your own experiences while learning your own lessons. Use this attitude to…
2. Nurture a healthy environment at home ― one that will help your child to thrive, not merely survive. That means some structure and routine, fewer rules and more guidelines, less scorn and more laughs, more appreciation and fewer complaints. Most important? Be more flexible, less rigid.
3. Be a role model before a rule model. Speak to them kindly ― no matter how they’ve wronged. Don’t play them. They’re smarter than you imagine. Don’t lie to them. They can feel it. Don’t curse at them or in front of them, that is, practice verbal hygiene. And instead of issuing irate grounding commands to your kids, have respect for them. Switch “you’re grounded” to “let’s talk.” Discussion and open communication are the only ways to keep kids grounded. (If you commit to being mindful and conscious, this should happen naturally.)
With these three principles, you won’t have to look outward for direction. You will be fully empowered, and so will your kids. And there can be no struggle for power when we each have our own.
Remember, we have nothing to teach our kids; our only job is to create a semi-structured learning environment for them. And for that, the lens should only be focused on ourselves. As they watch us trying to figure out our own lives, they are getting the only lesson they need in figuring out their own.
Read more from Tools of Growth.