Now the “try not to do’s” list

There is a reason I call this list, the “try not to do” list instead of the “don’t” list.  It’s because even the most qualified, rested, well-meaning parents make mistakes and no one gets this stuff right all of the time.  But this list will remind us what we should try NOT to do.

1) Don’t tickle and joke with your child while you are telling him or her not to do something.  I see this a lot actually.  I was once in the waiting room with my daughter, and I saw a mom with a young toddler who kept misbehaving.  He would run away from her and try to leave the room.  She’d grab him and tell him no and then tickle him.  He would laugh and then disobey her again.  Kids get very mixed messages when you do this: They are hearing you say “don’t do this” and then being tickled and hugged on for disobeying.  Huh?  Just be firm and matter of fact when disciplining.

2) Try to avoid talking to your friends or spouse or family about your child’s weaknesses in front of your child.  Sometimes we convince ourselves that our child isn’t paying attention, but my experience is most kids don’t miss a thing being discussed, especially if they hear their name.  It’s best to save the discussions about your child’s problems or weaknesses when they are out of earshot.

3) If you are divorced or separated (or married in a high-conflict marriage), please don’t disparage your ex-spouse (or current spouse).  Kids know they are 1/2 mom and 1/2 dad.  If you are trashing their other parent, that puts a ding in your child’s self-confidence.  He experiences it as criticism of himself.  And it also creates a loyalty conflict where the poor kid feels like he has to choose sides.  Save the trash talking for when you are with your loyal friends, your cat, or for your journal.

4) Try to avoid “empty threats.”  “Do you want to leave the party?” (knowing full well there’s no way you’re leaving).  “Do you want a spanking?”  “Stop that or no dessert.” (knowing you’re not going to mess with her dessert).  It’s okay to give warnings, warnings are good.  But don’t threaten something you have no intention of following through with.  This teaches your child you don’t always mean what you say.

5) Try to avoid physical punishment.  All of the research shows spanking results in short-term compliance but not in long term behavioral change.  It also has the potential to be used much too frequently when the parent is angry, which results in a frightened child.  Finally, research shows children who are spanked are likely to be more aggressive themselves.

6) Try not to compare your children to each other, even in subtle ways.  “Wow, look Janey got an A on her science paper.  You can tell she really studied for it.”  (Hint, hint, “if you studied maybe you could do as well as your sister.”)

7) Don’t yell and scream at your kids.  We all know it feels good in the moment and it somehow makes you feel like you are really showing your kid how mad you are.  But it really damages your kid’s self-esteem and makes them more likely to be a “yeller” themselves.  We could all benefit from the “take a deep breath, count to ten, and remove ourselves from the situation if we have to” philosophy.

8) Don’t drop your kid off to school or tuck them in at night with an unresolved fight or after yelling at them.  That’s like sending them off with a black cloud over their head and they are not going to be their best at school or have a good night’s sleep.  Even if you say, “You know we are disappointed in your behavior but we love you no matter what.  We will discuss this more in the morning, but we know everybody makes mistakes and we will help you figure this out” that’s okay.

9) Don’t do everything for your kids.  Many parents baby their kids out of habit.  They make their food, pour them drinks, pick up their dirty clothes, etc.  This leads to self-entitled teenagers who come across as lazy.

10) Don’t beat yourself up for not doing everything right as a parent.  Don’t feel like a failure and feel guilty for all of the mistakes you made that day with your kids.  Just vow to try harder the next day and learn from your mistakes.  Hey, your kids won’t remember most of the specific incidents from their childhoods anyway.  What they will remember is if you were there for them, if you loved them, if your home was a happy and safe place to be, and if you took care of them.

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2 Responses to “Now the “try not to do’s” list”

  1. jennylovesjohn Says:

    Nice header!! 🙂 And great list- thanks for the encouraging word!! 🙂

  2. leighn3 Says:

    Nice list…I do disagree with #5 but then again you already know that 🙂 Also, for us, it has really become just like everything I’ve ever heard…you spank more frequently in the beginning and then it tapers off to where it hardly ever happens b/c the behavior has been improved. It is very rare for us to spank the kids now but we have done it more in the past…

    I think #9 is excellent! I fall into that habit of just doing it myself b/c it’s faster. But last night I saw Drew’s sweat pants on the floor so I picked them up and almost tossed them in his hamper but then I stopped and actually tossed them in front of him and just pointed to them for him to get the idea he needs to put them in the right place 🙂 Giving them independence does go a long way!

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