When it comes to being a fantastic parent, clinical psychologist Erica Reischer believes it's essential that you focus both near and far, balancing both the short game as well as the long game of parenting. Focusing on the short game is dealing with how to problem-solve challenging behaviors, including whining, tantrums, and not listening or cooperating. The great moms and dads know that the long game of parenting is not only raising kids who are really kind, happy, confident, and good citizens, but also having a really great relationship with your kids that's based on mutual trust and respect.
Erica, who is also the author of What Great Parents Do: 75 Simple Strategies For Raising Kids Who Thrive, explained to POPSUGAR the importance of parents realizing that what they do in the short game seriously compromises their long game. These are the five behaviors that all parents need to stop doing before it's too late.
Erica realizes that day-to-day life with kids in particular can be beyond hectic. "You're trying to help another person develop, and you're trying to just get them out the door, get them to school, get yourself to work, start all over again at night, and then it goes on again the next day," Erica explained. While anger and frustration are common responses when children aren't listening — and yelling repeatedly will eventually solve your short game to get them to stop whining — it will also begin to affect how your children view you.
"They're going to see us as people who yell and they're going to see yelling as acceptable behavior because we do it, so why can't they do it?" explained Erica. It also creates a problematic communication dynamic because in a sense when you yell at your kids, you're doing it because they haven't been listening to you and they've been ignoring you instead. So unintentionally, you're teaching them to wait until you yell because usually parents ask a bunch of times, then yell sometimes, and then either drop it or only really yell when they mean it. "So when that happens, you're teaching your kids that you only really mean it when you're mean, so they're going to ignore you until you yell because otherwise you might drop it," Erica said. That's compromising your long game because now you have this dynamic where you're frequently yelling at your kids and that doesn't feel good for either you or your child as your relationship develops.
If you're overfunctioning or always rescuing your kids when they forget lunch or have an unfavorable interaction with their teacher, it can end up being problematic for both you and your child. Instead of jumping in to solve every upsetting possibility in the short game, you aren't considering what the future ramifications of not letting them go through the situation are.
Even if it's unpleasant at the time, you can actually be doing your child a favor because constantly trying to shield them now could end up stunting them later in life. As Erica explained, instead of preparing them for life, you're leaving them ill equipped to deal with these situations instead of giving them the tools and guidance. "Parents need to think about what are the long-term implications of not letting them experience that situation, the feelings of disappointment, sadness, anxiety that comes with it," Erica said. "They need to learn how to cope with those feelings and kind of muddle through in order to figure out ways to deal with that with our coaching to help but not do it for them," Erica said.
3. Underestimating the Little Things
What many parents know but don't recognize in the moment is that the small things really do add up and can become a huge reason kids think that their parents don't get them, like them, or even love them. "These become the types of teens and adults that will still go spend time with their family, they'll still go home for Thanksgiving, but they don't really enjoy it," Erica said. "They're kind of feeling a little emotionally guarded, and it's often because of a small thing that the parent did again and again, like not listening or not meeting feelings their feelings or having empathy."
4. Looking at Just the Singular Problem
By solving immediate problems without considering the big picture, you're not thinking broadly about what's the long-term approach of doing this regularly. "That's one of the big things great parents do is that they try to think about the long-term implications of the day-to-day because little things add up," said Erica. When you approach the current problem at hand by just trying to get through this moment, this day, this problem, your narrow view might be easier now but can cause big, harder to solve problems in your future.
5. Not Meeting Feelings With Feelings
Empathy is the idea that when someone is really upset about something or is having strong feelings — usually negative feelings — we don't try to talk them out of their feelings. This is especially important when adults are talking to their children because oftentimes the problem that is bringing them to tears seems more minor to us. However, it is very important that we don't always dismiss their concerns and invalidate their feelings by telling them to calm down and realize it isn't a big deal. "We do that to kids all the time, and these little people have really big feelings about things that we don't have big feelings about," Erica said.
A common example of this is when a child flips out after dropping their coveted ice cream cone and an adult tries to help with the situation and calm them down by saying, "Don't cry, sweetheart; it was just an ice cream cone."
Although we mean well when we say that, that isn't always how children perceive it. "We're trying to help them see that it's not a big deal. But for many kids, when we say that to them, it can make them feel not understood, that we don't respect their reality, which is different than our reality," Erica said. "Our reality it isn't a big deal; their reality, it's a big, huge deal. And so empathy is not trying to meet feelings with thinking and rationality, but meeting feelings with feelings." This simple and very subtle shift can make a big change in any relationship.
lmk how that looks!