Written by Lisa Bleich
Earlier this month I attended the Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA) conference and had the opportunity to hear Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and author, speak on the top five mistakes parents make and five survival tools to help them become better parents.
She calls them the “Overs”
I sat rapt with attention as I listened to her many anecdotes of common parental pitfalls relating to many examples that my friends and I have been guilty of committing!
McCready offered five survival tools to help parents break these habits.
1. Pause the praise. McCready recommends encouraging specific behavior. So instead of “You are smart!” when your child comes home with a good grade on a test or has improved his SAT scores, reply: “Wow, your extra studying and hard work really paid off. Great job!”
2. Establish fair and effective consequences. She sets out the five R’s to create these.
- a. Respectful. Treat your kids with respect when instituting the consequences.
- b. Rules that are consistent. E.g. all cell phones charge overnight in a central location after 10 pm.
- c. Related to the misbehavior. Failure to bring your phone to charging each night will result in loss of phone privileges for the following day.
- d. Reasonable in duration. Grounding a child for a year may not be a reasonable punishment for staying out past curfew the first time. It may also be hard to enforce.
- e. Repeated back to you. This makes it clear that your child and you are on the same page and he/she knows what is expected and what will be the consequence for not following the rules.
3. No rescue for failure. How many times do you bring a forgotten lunch or homework assignment to school for your child? Or reached out to a teacher to argue about a grade because you think it will hurt his chances for getting into a “good college”? The irony is that most parents “rescue” their kids because they don’t want them to fail. However, in not allowing them to fail and rebound, you are preventing them from learning the precise skills they will need to be successful once they get to college and beyond.
4. Decide what you will do. Communicate this clearly to your kids. If your child likes to wait until 10 pm to ask you to help with her homework, but that is too late for you, let her know that you are prepared to help with homework from 6:30-8 pm. Then, stick to your guns when she makes requests outside of the time range.
5. Convince me. If you tend to be “over-protective,” ask your child come up with a plan to allay any of your fears. If you don’t want your child going across the country for college, but she has her heart set on a school 3,000 miles away, outline your fears or concerns and ask her to convince you otherwise. One of my NJ clients used this approach by creating a Power Point to convince his parents to let him go to UCLA.
A few days later, as I was driving my oldest daughter, Rebecca, home from college, I asked her if I did any of the “Overs”?
“No way.” She said
“Yup! In fact, my boyfriend and I joke about what you will nag at me to do next whenever I get off the phone.”
“Come-on, I’m not that bad.” I replied in my defense.
“Well, you don’t micro-manage everything, but you definitely do try to control many aspects of my life. At least you don’t do the other four!”
When we got home I asked my two younger daughters how I did in the “over” categories. My middle daughter said I didn’t do any of them and my youngest just scoffed and said, “you barely pay any attention to me at all!”
“Well, Rebecca, I guess it’s a hazard of being the first child.” I felt somewhat vindicated.
“You don’t do this to the girls?” She asked in disbelief.
“At least I learned from my mistakes!” I offered.
“Lucky me for being first!” She replied with sarcasm, only mildly amused.