My concept of Plugged-In Parenting is built upon the premise that parenting is not a spectator sport. If you’re not parenting with a plan based upon long-term goals and daily action steps, then you’re really just babysitting your kids. I know this sounds harsh, but you only get one chance at parenting your children. If this is your one shot, doesn’t it make sense to plug in and put some thought into it? I see most parents rushing around at warp speed with no clear destination. It’s no wonder they feel lost and panicked. Panic is not the best choice when little people are dependent upon you. If you don’t have a path based upon goals for your kids, then you never have a sense of being in the right place.
I’m not talking about the goals that our success-obsessed society keeps throwing at us: be thin, be clever, be busy, go faster, and make more money. I’m suggesting that you set goals based upon the adult you want your child to become. Figure out who that person is and devise a map to that future adult based upon your family values. Then slow down and create daily tasks that follow that path. The following are the Top Ten values that shaped my parenting plan.
- Spend Time With Your Kids: Since we all have a choice in how we spend our time, I highly recommend choosing to spend time with your kids as much as possible. You will never regret time with your kids when you’re sitting in that rocking chair at age 85.Where could you carve out more time with your kids right now? Find little snippets of time. Choose coloring over social media or have them help you make dinner. Every five minutes counts.
- Respect for Self: Self-respect includes a practice of self-care. This looks different for everyone, but some form of quiet reflection is something you can do for yourself without spending any money or much time. Where do you take time for quiet reflection now? Do I hear crickets? That’s okay; you have to start somewhere! Take 5 minutes today (set a timer) and sit down with a pen and paper. Start with 3 deep breaths, and then just write whatever pops into your head when you ask yourself the question, “What do I really want?”
- Respect for Others: Celebrate the artist in everyone. Until you can appreciate that everyone is special for their own unique talents, you won’t value your own. Teach your children to surround themselves with friends they respect and who also respect them-just the way they are. Teach your kids to value connection over competition; this will make them a good friend. To make good friends, you have to first be a good friend. Respect others enough to ask for help. We cannot raise our kids all by ourselves; even supermoms need help!
- Responsibility for Your Actions: Tell the truth and apologize when you make a mistake. If you never let your kids fall, they will never learn how to pick themselves back up again. The most successful people in the world are the ones who aren’t afraid to fail. Read the biographies of Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan or any other superstar you can name. They were all great failures before they became great successes.
- Rules are Good; Consistent Rules are Better: Develop rules and a system of discipline that are consistently applied and appropriate for the age of your child. Consistent rules give your kids a solid foundation, and they also act as a protective force field when other kids ask them to do something that feels wrong. They can say, “I can’t do that; my mom would kill me!” Rules create consistency, and consistency creates a foundation that your kid can count on when things go wrong.
- Family Values Create a Happy Home: Come up with a list of traits and characteristics of the perfect friend or mate, and then work backward to figure out what values and beliefs those traits have in common. Establish your values; then come up with traditions that reflect those values—and stick to those traditions! Don’t forget to hug your kids every time they walk by, and tell them every day how much you love them.
- Ride the Change Cycle, and Teach Your Children to Do the Same: The Change Cycle is a tool I spend a third of my book explaining. The short version is that mastering change is infinitely more useful that trying to force control. Especially, if you have teenagers.
- Examine Your Own Thoughts before You Confront Your Child: If you think that your way is the only right way, you are falling into a thought trap. There are always options. If you think you have to suffer to be a good parent, I am here to tell you, “That’s a crock.” They don’t give out points for suffering in Heaven; I’m pretty sure that suffering is on the schedule of a more southerly celestial destination.
- Listen to Your Teen Twice as Much as You Talk to Them: This math is simple to understand, but difficult to apply. There’s a difference between talking with your teen and talking at your teen. If the reason you’re having a conversation starts with a feeling of righteous indignation or you need to “sit them down and show them where they’re wrong”, you can bet you’re about to talk “at” them. Take the energy you would have put into that confrontation and go examine your motivations. Then talk with your teen.
- Stay in Your Own Business: When your teen is having an issue at school, or with their friends, remember to stay on the sidelines. If your kids feel like they’re drowning, you can’t help them if you jump in the pool with them. If you stay on the side of the pool, you can easily throw them a life preserver and help both of you successfully.
Everyone’s parenting plan will be different, because every family has different values and goals. Right now, sit down and imagine some future momentous occasion where your successful adult child is talking about his childhood. What is she saying about you and how your parented her? What are the values he’s listing that you feel are important? Now write down those values. This is your outline for your own plan. Now set daily action steps to march slowly down that path. Use some of my top ten, or don’t; I don’t mind. Start today to plug into your parenting, because you and your kids are worth it.
PS Join me to learn how to create a closer and more joyful relationship with your teen. I will share what has worked, and what hasn’t worked, while raising four teenage daughters and what works for my clients. Click here to RSVP for the free call on September 10.