Are there days when you think your parents had it easier than you do when it comes to parenting? They said 'jump' and you jumped. That's how you remember it, anyway. "When I was a kid..." starts sounding good and simple; however, given the world and the time you live in, it's not necessarily good, nor is it simple.
In the face of today's too busy, too much technology, too many temptations, too little time and energy, too much stuff and too much sass, they sure seem like the good old days. I admit I sometimes go there, even get a little whiny about it. In the end, though, I have to make adjustments. As Byron Katie says, "When you argue with reality, you lose... 100% of the time." Let's take a deeper look at how to stop fighting with what is, live in the present, and pay attention to the essential questions that will make today the good new days.
When I was a kid. Those words make our kids' eyes glaze over and they want to run screaming from the room. When they want something, they don't care about how it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago; however, when making decisions we often default to our own experiences.
That is where our adult minds go. We compare to our past, and understandably so. The world is changing so quickly around us and the past provides a familiar framework. We are, in fact, hard-wired to resist change. We are comfortable with the status quo. Even when it isn’t working, it’s what we know and we tend to stay there.
The reality is that we live in a different world and we have been parenting differently. We give in more than we'd like to. We provide more than is necessary. More of us are working and have less time together as a family. We are more fearful than our parents were. Our priorities have changed.
This topic came up at my workshop, "Love and Limits in the Age of Technology". The differences between how our parents made and enforced rules for us and how we do this with our children is stunning - deer in the headlights stunning. Many parents want to default to their parents’ approach, "These are the rules," and "Because I said so." It certainly feels easier to just lay down the law.
But laying down the law isn't working. The fact that it (mostly) worked when we were kids doesn't matter if it's not working for us now. Are you parenting in the world you live in, or according to the world you used to live in? You have a choice to make: stay stuck in the past and live with more frustration and conflict now, or adapt to today's reality.
Adapting to today’s reality gives you the opportunity to deepen your relationship with your child. Rather than ‘my way or the highway’, you can teach valuable skills about effective and loving communication, problem-solving, resolving differences, negotiating and more.
It helps to keep the end result in mind. What do you want to accomplish? Is what you're doing taking you there? If not, it's time for some adjustments.
Here's another question to ask yourself -- "Why do you really want this outcome?" If your goal is to reduce the amount of time your kids spend on devices, think about why it's important to you. At the Love and Limits workshop, parents discovered that the motivation for this goal was more complicated than they thought:
1) They believe that excessive screen time (however that is defined) is bad for kids and families at many levels.
2) They want their children to spend time doing other things.
3) They want more uninterrupted family time.
Those insights shifted the focus from "How do we control screen time?" to "What do we want more of?"
(NOTE: This doesn't mean that you don't reduce screen time. You do, but it's not all or nothing. It's best done incrementally, unless you want an all-out rebellion in your home.)
Spending more time outdoors, reading, crafting, family game night, movie night, b-ball in the driveway... there are meaningful, healthy and productive activities to replace screen time. A little less screen time, more of what you value. It reduces or eliminates the power struggle. It takes the edge off wanting to eliminate those devices altogether. It's a win-win.
The good old days. When I was kid. Those days don't exist anymore. It's up to us to create the good new days.
Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.
Learn more about coaching and classes at www.fernweis.com. And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit www.familyrecoverypartners.com.