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May, 2015

3 critical concepts to not mess up our kids.

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I had an ironic conversation with a mom in for her adjustment this week. She was really stressing about her first born and what she should do.

This blog is in response to reflecting back on that conversation.

The irony was that I was plesantly surprised by my response to her concerns.

I guess I must be learning something as I do life:) I wish I was this smart 15 years ago when we started having kids.

Coming clean

Confession. I’m a bit over the top on trying to have all the answers.

So when we found out we were going to be parents we started loading up on parenting books.

Back then, we actually went to the book store, stared at the spine’s of hundreds of books and would spend a few hours in Chapters reading some of the into’s to see if this was “the” parenting book for us.

That’s how we rolled “back in the day”. No Amazon, express delivery and no Kindle, hard to imagine existing in such a day. . . .

Here’s the hilarious thing. . . . .

I actually though we could figure this parenting thing out by reading a few books.

If you are not a parent yet or a first time parent, read all you can. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to improve yourself. What this blog is about is perspective and hopefully you learning from my mistakes.

My #1 mistake was thinking that an author was an expert just because they wrote a book.

The parenting book industry should be forced to issue a warning on every publication. A warning that the publication you are about to read is an opinion piece NOT a textbook.

3 kids later. . . . .

So my first recommendation is consider the source and apply plenty of perspective to any advice.

Cry it out

One strategy that we read was to let our kid’s cry it out.

Unfortunatly, given my “personality” of liking structure in my life, we over-applied this to our son.

He cried it out all right. It was horrible. It may work for some kids but I believe it caused more harm that good.

There is not a week that goes by that I wish we had a “do over” with him. We did not do that with our girls.

For me, that advice from that “expert” was just mean.

What I put my son through was completely unacceptable. The frustrating thing is that author is still selling a lot of books to a lot of unsuspecting parents.

There are first time parents that let their kid “cry it out” last night. They will regret it.

One mistake shouldn’t replace another. . . .

But there is another extreme, and I’ve seen it in some of my patients.

They have a 2 or 3 year old that is still not on ANY type of schedule.

The parents are sleep deprived and the health of the entire family is suffering because of “no rules or routine” parenting.

When routine does fit

Routine’s are helpful when they are serving the family. Used with caution they are helpful.

Routine providies rhythm.

Our nerve system requires it to self regulate and grow a healthy body and brain.

Our physiology blooms under an appropriate routine.

Research has long shown that shift workers who flop back and forth from nights to day’s suffer ill health and shorten their lifespan. 1 2

So figure out what routine you need.

Think about how much sleep do mom and dad need to be healthy? How much sleep does baby need to grow and develop. Feeding schedule, exercise schedule, all this needs to be considered but not overdone.

Some families will need more, some families will need less.

Health building routine

Read a book, read a blog, listen to a parenting podcast but whatever you do trust what you feel is right for your family and child. When you’ve establised a “health building rhythm” for both parents and baby, stick with it and forget the “experts”.

They are not you and they are not raising your kids, you are.

You can always listen to advice, but you need to reserve the right not to follow it, no matter how well meaning.

My second learning on “not messing up my kids” is to take a breath.

This may seem obvious to all you really mature people out there, but it’s really helpful to consciously take a moment before responding to what my kids have done or said.

In fact, the pause is the difference between RESPONDING or REACTING.

I can’t tell you how important this has been for me and when I don’t do it I leave a mess.

This is more then just counting to 10. It’s a conscious mental activity of considering my response to my kids action or words. Sometimes it’s even calling a timeout on myself so I can have a conversation with my wife or just leave the room and come back more composed.

Usually after that “mental moment” I can respond with respect to my child and even some humor to put the situation in perspective.

Another helpful hit here is to remember to take the situation serious, NOT take myself serious.

My last learning is a simple one too, always share with my kids who I see them to be.

Casting vision is not just for politicians, business leaders and NFL coaches.

John Maxwell is a guru in positive leadership. For years he’s taught leaders to envision people with a 10/10 on their forehead.

As parents, I think we need to change that number to a 12/10.

Maybe it’s just me but it seems that our culture is more about judging our kids then celebrating the positive.

Test scores, team tryouts, qualifiers every time our kids turn around, the list is endless.

When I think about how many times today’s kids face possible rejection in their short lifes (compaired to what I went through), no wonder they have self image issues.

My job as a dad is to celebrate even the smallest win, give them a high five when ever I can and cast a vision of how incredible they are.

This is not fake, trying to boost ill confidence. It’s honestly looking at their day and providing a positive spotlight on where they won.

It could be as simple as chosing to go and play outside with a friend and get off their iPad. That’s a win in our house. Putting relationship above technology.

You get more of what you focus on.

Another business application is “you get more of what you focus on”.

If you want responsible behaviour then notice the one time they made their bed in two weeks.

Notice when they fed the dog, put their dishes in the dish washer or held their tongue when their sister or brother said something rude.

That’s a huge win in our house. When they choose to ignore an offense.

Parenting can be incredibly stressful BUT it’s critical that you set your own course and not be overly influenced by so called “experts”.

And if you have the opportunity, sit down with parent’s who’s kids are grown and succeeding. The gem’s you will get from an hour over coffee will be priceless.

I’d love to hear in the comments what secrets you discovered in raising your kids.

Many of my posts have more great stuff in the comments than I can ever come up with.

Share with our tribe what’s worked for you. That’s how we all become better parents.

 

Notes:

  1. Frank A.J.L. Scheer PhD, associate neuroscientist, Division of Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston.
  2. Bøggild, H. Scandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health, 1999: vol 25: pp 85-99.

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