Parenting is hard; it can be both magical and miserable all in the same day. There are some aspects of parenting that can become habitual if we are not careful - ways of parenting that are not effective, but we continue to do them simply because we always have. Today we will affectionately call them, "Parenting fails."
Parenting fails are parenting strategies that are easy to fall into, but do not turn our children into the darling little angels we all pray they will become. Parenting fails should not be treated lightly, as they can gift the perpetrator with guilt, an overall sense of "not being good enough," and sometimes even weeping.
It's time to abolish them now and forever. Here are three that come to mind:
1. Jailhouse rock
OK, we get it. Toddlers should not be left on their own with knives or household cleaners, but if you have locks on your cupboards for your 6-year-old, there might be a problem there. Our homes should feel like homes, not jails. If there are locks on the fridge, microwave, and pantry along with four different types of locks on the front door, you might need to look at a different parenting strategy.
Sure, it's a pain when your kids get into the Halloween candy the day before Halloween and there's nothing left for the trick-or-treaters, but locking it up isn't teaching the correct behavior, it's simply prohibiting it. Child-proofing your entire house may seem like the easiest fix, but it's not easier if you are thinking long-term. Rather, teach your child that there are consequences for their actions and always follow through.
2. Liar, liar pants on fire
Do your kids trust you? Do they know you will always follow through? Or, is this a common scenario: "Don't make me pull this car over!" Ten minutes later, "If you don't stop whining I am pulling this car over!"
My own mother was good at following through with this one. And she didn't just pull the car over, we had to get out of the car until we worked it out. I think I might have been scarred for life as a teenager when we were on family vacation and my mom made me get out of the car to work out an argument with my little sister. We were in the middle of the desert and I'm pretty sure at least three people stopped to ask if we had broken down. My mom just replied, "They are just learning how to get along."
As logical as this theory sounds, it's amazing how hard it is for most of us to follow through. Be realistic. It would be better for you to pause and tell your child you are thinking up a good consequence, than to shout out something bogus like, "If you don't stop that, I'm going to come back there and wring your neck!"
Which brings me to the most epic parenting fail of all time:
3. I scream, you scream, we all scream for ..
wait. What? According to a study out of the University of Pittsburgh, screaming at your kids is actually very harmful. I think we all know this one already, but it can be one of the hardest habits to conquer. Why? Because there's just something about seeing poop smeared all over the wall that makes your blood seem to boil.
When these moments present themselves, don't hesitate to give yourself a timeout. In desperate moments, RUN to timeout and lock the door. Take chocolate with you. Just do what you need to do, but try not to lose your cool. Also, making a habit of not repeating yourself can help. If you asked your child to clean their room and they did not, simply follow through with a consequence rather than repeat yourself (which only leads to screaming for them to listen to you).
The great thing about these parenting fails is that they work together. Once you get good at following through, you should find that you naturally yell less.
Overcoming ineffective habits can be challenging. Don't be too hard on yourself. Start one at a time and if you completely lose it and go to bed feeling like "monster mommy," then try again the next day. Rumor has it that it takes 30 days of consistency to create a new habit!