For years I’ve had a sneaky suspicion that I was a horrible parent. It wasn’t anything obvious. I never left my children in a car with the windows rolled up on a hot day. My kids always have money in their lunch accounts at school. We have a pool in our backyard, that’s something. We’ve even driven to Disney with them, in Florida, twice. Nevertheless, I have a nagging thought in the back of my mind, or in my horribly dark soul, that I’m really not cutting it as a parent.
Fortunately for me, I have discovered a book that has helped me to understand that I actually am a horrible parent. Just as Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has helped tens of thousands of people to look at their homes and offices to realize they are unredeemable slobs, reading Amy Morin’s book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do has helped me to finally particularize the ways in which I actually am the substandard parent I always imagined myself to be.
What are the 13 things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do..?
1. They don’t condone a victim mentality.
2. They don’t parent out of guilt.
3. They don’t make their children the center of the universe.
4. They don’t allow fear to dictate their choices.
5. They don’t give their children power over them.
6. They don’t expect perfection.
7. They don’t let their children avoid responsibility.
8. They don’t shield their children from pain.
9. They don’t feel responsible for their children’s emotions.
10. They don’t prevent their children from making mistakes.
11. They don’t confuse discipline with punishment.
12. They don’t take shortcuts to avoid discomfort.
13. They don’t lose sight of their values.
That describes most weekends at my house… that is… between my wife and me… we cover at least 9 of the 13 “things” at our house between Friday and Sunday night. I didn’t collaborate with Amy in writing this book but I’m pretty certain she has a webcam in my house that sees me remind my 8 year old to get off her I-Pad for the 4th time in an hour, or me giving my 11th grader a little too much help with his college essay, or scolding my 9th grader for getting an 87% on her science test and not crying about it. Yes, it’s confirmed, as I’ve long suspected, I am a fairly horrible parent.
But… there’s hope for me, for all of us. Morin’s book offers guidance that can help all of us become better parents. Many of her ideas are powerful and common sense things parents can do differently; some of her ideas challenge our assumptions about parenting. Consider this advice to parents who make their child the center of the universe: “Keep the emphasis on how kindness affects other people, rather than how great a person it makes the child for doing a good deed.” To parents who expect perfection, Morin encourages parents to tell their children stories about their own failures. We make our kids’ beds and do their laundry but we’re surprised when they
return to live with us well into their 30’s; Morin advises parents to give their children chores and responsibility.
I’m pretty sure you’re a better parent than I am but there’s something in this powerful book for everybody. Read it and also join us for a discussion at the Jericho Joint PTA Open Council Meeting in the Middle School Library on MARCH 18 at 9:30am. See you there.
(One last thought. I do not do Number 4: “allow fear to dictate my choices.” I’m trying to talk my wife into allowing my third grader to walk to school by herself; hey, I took the subway to Yankee Stadium when I was in 7th grade. I’m not winning this argument.)