Hello, 2019! The ONE question that will make you a better parent this year!

The beginning of a new year gives us a moment to reflect and hope; this includes our parenting. So to start off the new year well, you need to look back so that you can be more productive in avoiding the pitfalls of the past. Here is the one question that will change your parenting and relationship with your kids:

Ask your kids how you did well and how you did not so well parenting them this year! This will be an awkward conversation for you, but remind yourself of the bigger picture--To Be A Better Parent.

Here’s how the conversation can start:

“I love you so much. I know that I make plenty of mistakes, but ultimately my only goal is to raise you to be healthy and a good person. So help me to be a better parent to you; tell me the good and the bad. How can I parent you better? Of course keeping in mind that as your parent I still need to make decisions you may not like but that are ultimately in your best interest. Like not letting you eating candy for dinner every night! So help me, what do I do well, and what can I improve on?”

Keep in mind they may not be able to communicate in the moment, give them time, allow them to write it in a letter. Opening up the opportunity for your child is the main objective, if they share their thoughts then that is just a bonus!

Prepare your heart to hear things you want to defend and grieve. Whatever you do, do not be baited by your desire to argue. Instead, focus on listening. If it takes you writing everything down so you can stay focused on the statements and not your emotions, then do it! Respect your child’s perspective even if it is a bit distorted and backwards.

Once you hear their comments, take time and explore them. Try to avoid focusing on the details of their statements, ie ‘You never let me spend the night at my friends house,’ instead look at the bigger picture of what they feel, ie ‘I feel like I’m missing out of fun experiences with my friends, and I feel like I’m the only one who doesn’t get to spend the night.’ When we see the heart of the issue it’s easier to address and solve!

In this particular case of spending the night at the friends house, you don’t trust the parents of this friend or you don’t like the character traits of this particular friend. Here is a good compromise that addresses your child’s complaint and allows you to still make a wise parenting choice:

“I can see that you are frustrated I don’t allow you to spend the night at Ben’s house. I can imagine you feel like you are the only one that doesn’t get to spend the night at friend’s houses. So let’s come up with a compromise, something where we both get a little bit of what we want. How about Ben stays the night here instead?”

Let your child discuss their frustration and grief if this compromise doesn’t appeal to them at first. However, stand firm, and allow them the choice to accept the compromise or to deny it. Empowering them with the choice teaches them natural consequences. And ultimately, once they rid themselves of their stubbornness, they will hopefully come around to the benefits of still having access to their friend.   

    Here’s another example, your child tells you they feel like you are always yelling at them and telling them how they are always doing everything wrong! This is especially a sentiment teens have with their parents.

Here’s how to navigate this topic:

“I’m sorry you feel like I’m disappointed in you. I’m actually very proud of you and who you are becoming. How can I show you or say that in a way that you can hear? Can I say certain words, or at certain times? How about you tell me in the moment you feel like I’m yelling or saying you are a ‘failure’?”

Teens have such a sensitivity to their polarizing emotions. Many times their reaction has nothing to do with your interaction, but rather they are still upset about seeing a picture of all their friends hanging out without them. So again I’m calling you, as the parent, to look beyond their initial reactions and statements, and see the bigger picture of a hurting heart. Staying calm, and asking what they need is sometimes enough to soften their resolve and truly let you in to love them well.

This new years activity will drain you and cause many emotions. But the potential benefit far outweighs the momentary negatives. My hope for you as you open yourself up to hearing criticism, is to earn more connectedness to those you value most, your children!

Paige Clingenpeel

Teen Therapist working with teens and parents on TV, Radio, Web-Based Media, Blogs, and Print. Presently a monthly contributor to the women's parenting & marriage site iMom.com, and host of TBN's Tween show iShine K'Nect. Paige also provides individual therapy at LifeSprings Counseling Center, and works at Parkview Health as a student assistant counselor assigned to Carroll High School. Paige is married to Ryan and has two daughters and two sons!