Dr. Wendy Mogel is an internationally acclaimed clinical psychologist, parenting expert and author of the New York Times bestselling parenting book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. Her follow up book The Blessing of a B Minus, teaches parents how to raise resilient teenagers. A popular keynote speaker, she lectures widely at conferences and schools around the world.
OVERPARENTING ANONYMOUS:An 18-step program for those who feel powerless over the new normal of overindulgence, overprotection, overscheduling and expectations of perfection in every area EXCEPT your child’s self-reliance and accountability…
1. Don’t mistake a snapshot taken today with the epic movie of your child’s life. Kids go through phases. Over and over and over again.
2. Don’t fret over or fix or try to improve what’s not broken. Accept your child’s nature even if he’s shy, stubborn, moody or not great in math. Think of children as snowflakes: no two are alike, all have a unique grace.
3. Recognize that your child’s grades, popularity or varsity ranking is not the measure of your worth as a parent. Your child is not your masterpiece.
4. Remember that kids aren’t hothouse flowers, they’re hardy perennials. Let them be cold, wet or hungry for more than a second and they’ll appreciate the chance to be warm, dry and fed.
5. Abstain from taking the role of sherpa, butler, crabby concierge, secret police, short order cook, talent agent, a crack team of defense attorneys, an ATM or a hospital staff member wiping the bottoms and dressing people large enough to do this for themselves. Your child is hard-wired for competence.
6. Before you nag, criticize, chime in or over-explain remember the slogan W.A.I.T.: “Why am I talking?”
7. Resist vibrating like an emotional tuning fork when your child tells you her troubles lest you unwittingly encourage whinging (a British term for the combination of whining and complaining). Listen with curiosity and kindness as you move from the role of manager to consultant.
8. For example, when your young child doesn’t get invited to her favorite friend’s birthday party or your older child doesn’t get the cool English teacher, make the team, get a big part in the play, or gets ejected from the in-group remind yourself that disappointments are necessary preparation for adult life. Freud described the goal of psychoanalysis as the conversion of neurotic misery into ordinary unhappiness.
9. Be alert but not automatically alarmed. Question yourself. Stop and reflect: is this situation unsafe or just uncomfortable for my child? Is it an emergency or a new challenge?
10. Don’t take what your child says about teachers at face value. Treat teachers like the experts they are. You’ll get on their nerves if you ask for grade changes…or homework packets for your vacation while school is in session. The curriculum is none of your business. Even if you have two advanced degrees in education.
11. Don’t confuse children’s wants with their needs. Privileges are not entitlements.
12. Just because your parents weren’t as attuned to your emotional needs as you might have wished, refrain from trying to be popular with your children. Watch out for the common “nice, nice, nice…furious!” trap.
13. Work up the courage to say a simple “No.” Don’t try to reach consensus every time. By the time they’re seven, they’re smarter than you are anyway. Refuse to negotiate with terrorists.
14. Learn to love the words “trial” and “error.” Let your child make mistakes before going off to college or university. Grant freedom based on demonstrated responsibility and accountability, not what all the other kids are doing.
15. Emphasize ordinary chores and jobs along with schoolwork and extracurriculars while accepting that with older children chores will get done on AST (Adolescent Standard Time).
16. QTIP (quit taking it personally) if your teenager treats you badly. They have pre-trip jitters. They’re getting ready for the journey of life.
17. Give your kids time to play…lest they sue you for stealing their childhoods.
18. Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your child. Being firmer and kinder and more consistent as a parent makes the job easier. Which will leave you with time to play too. Look at theonion.com for a laugh or whenparentstext.com for a tender, witty perspective on generational differences.