During this time of “shelter in place,” I’m tempted to give myself a bigger break than usual when it comes to parenting. Then I remember two things: one, we don’t know how long we’re going to be dealing with this, if this is, in fact, the “new normal,” and two, if I relax my parenting now, I might be giving myself more work for later to fix habits I’ve undone in a couple of weeks (screen time, anyone?).
So to help me stay “strong,” I’m falling back on some great guidance I once found in “13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do” by Amy Morin, a foster parent, therapist, and social worker. I’ve read a few parenting books and Amy Morin’s book definitely falls into the authoritative parenting category (as opposed to permissive or disciplinarian). I’m not always a mentally strong parent, but I certainly aspire to be!
The best thing about her book is that it’s practical and usefully laid out. For each “thing” that mentally strong parents shouldn’t do, she lists examples of ways we actually do what we shouldn’t do – without even realizing it. You will almost always find yourself in some of her examples. She shares a detailed story highlighting that “thing” parents shouldn’t do and then provides a variety of tips and guidance for what you should do instead. First, if you just want to read her list, see below. But the list doesn’t mean much without the context she provides in each of the chapters. She really brings each of these “Don’t Do’s” to life with lots of example situations and personal experience.
13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, according to Amy Morin:
- They don’t condone a victim mentality
- They don’t parent out of guilt
- They don’t make their child the center of the universe
- They don’t allow fear to dictate their choices
- They don’t give their child power over them
- They don’t expect perfection
- They don’t let their child avoid responsibility
- They don’t shield their child from pain
- They don’t feel responsible for their child’s emotions
- They don’t prevent their child from making mistakes
- They don’t confuse discipline with punishment
- They don’t take shortcuts to avoid discomfort
- They don’t lose sight of their values
I’m dissecting my own behavior around this list as a form of parenting self-analysis. Starting with the #1 Thing that I should try not to do too often. . .
#1 They Don’t Condone a Victim Mentality
My kids will moan and complain that it’s their worst day ever. That it’s everyone else’s fault but their own that they weren’t focused during a basketball game. That their math book is stupid and that’s why they’re frustrated. Or they’ll let their sibling push their buttons until they explode while their sibling sits smugly and happily in the other room.
Morin calls a victim mentality a learned behavior that can be learned from parents unfortunately. Some things that I’ve been guilty of as a parent:
- Making excuses for my kids’ failures or shortcomings (yes, I’ve blamed their terrible tempers on their father and their negativity on genes from my pessimistic mom)
- Thinking that my children are helpless sometimes
Instead of giving time to these thoughts, I should be helping my child focus on what he can control in his life. For example, being trapped more or less in our home now, I’m trying to empower them with how not to be fearful of coronavirus. I’m telling them that we have to train ourselves to wash hands automatically, not touch our faces, and to be mindful of space and contact with others at all times. If the kids get into fights with each other, I can ask them to think of what they can do to make themselves feel better and not expect me to solve it or punish the other child.
I’ve had lots of opportunity to work on my parenting these last few days, and without getting too ahead of myself, I want to say that I’ve noticed more independent behavior. I’ll be sure to have another post on “#2 They don’t parent out of guilt” which I already know will give me some cringe-worthy self-reflection. . .