Life has taught most parents that when it comes to motivating children, it’s never effective to threaten, yell, or cuss at them, call them names, or hit them in any way. In fact, we often think of ourselves as good parents largely because we don’t do any of those things.

What we often fail to realize is there are other ways we behave as adults that can often be harmful to our children. We may not even recognize how much of an impact our behavior can have. We don’t share these as a way to throw shame, or cause self doubt, but to give a clear picture of what we sometimes don’t realize that could be contributing to a disconnect with our kids. We’re treading lightly as we share these, knowing the truth can bring about change you’ve been wanting.

Examples of less-than-healthy parenting include:

  • Reacting when angry. There’s no worse time to discuss a situation than in the heat of the moment. We can’t connect with our kids when we’re seeing red, and we certainly won’t be effective when we are reactively parenting.
  • Punishing instead of disciplining. Punishing is lashing out at someone who made you angry and is punitive in nature. Discipline is about helping them recognize and correct behavior in productive ways.
  • Screaming, “Calm down right now!” If you’re obviously not in control, how can you expect them to regulate themselves? Screaming for them to calm down, never, ever calms a relationship or situation. The best way to begin calming someone is to remain calm ourselves.
  • Pontificating with wise lectures, rather than listening. Please, listen to hear, rather than to respond, lecture, teach, compare, and even relate with stories of your own. Kids want to feel heard first.
  • Saying, “You’re just like …” Comparing them unfavorably (or even favorably) to their sibling or your spouse can damage their self-image and their relationship with them. Allow them to be themselves – without falling into the comparison trap.
  • Building a wall. Stonewalling, isolating, withdrawing, or ignoring them won’t solve the problem, and will teach them that in order to get attention that certain expectations must be met – and this leads to performance based behavior as adults. Good boundaries are the foundation of healthy relationships and setting of safety needed for making wise decisions.
  • Holding grudges. Holding grudges doesn’t help you … and does nothing for them. Reminding them of mistakes is not only unproductive, it can build resentment and a mindset that perfection is needed for love and acceptance.
  • Blaming the bad guy. Bad-mouthing your spouse (or your ex) in front of the kids can hurt your relationships with them … and their ability to form their own relationships as adults. Stay away from bad mouthing another parent.
  • Playing the good guy. Saying “I’d let you, but (your mom) wouldn’t like it…” is just as harmful as blaming the bad guy. Stay true to yourself in the decision you make instead of teaching passive aggressive decision making.
  • Giving them a loaded gun. Providing unlimited, unrestricted access to devices is like handing them a loaded gun. There is danger in unrestricted access. Set boundaries. Be involved.

Looking for a better way to communicate with your kids or to build a stronger relationship for the future? Several of our counselors have special training in parenting issues and will be happy to sit down and discuss your situation. Feel stuck and not sure what next step to take, or feel overwhelmed and not sure where to start?  Scheduling an appointment is as easy as emailing, or clicking here.

April Bordeau is a licensed therapist with more than 25 years of experience serving teens, marriages, and families.

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