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What's wrong with my kids?

As a coach who helps parents to be more effective, I'm often asked the same kinds of questions. "How can I get my kid to listen?" "How can I motivate my kid to do homework?" Or, "why does my child get so angry with me?" While there isn't a simple answer to these questions, there is a path that parents can follow. They can simply take a close look at themselves.

One of the fascinating things about working with parents and kids is to see how parents help to "create" problems in their children. And one of the sad things is that parents often aren't aware of how they contribute to the problem.

Creating behaviors?
They use controlling tactics, and wonder why their kids aren't respectful and don't obey them. They nag at their kids endlessly, and wonder why they don't listen. And they constantly lose their temper with their kids, and wonder why their kids lose their temper with them. In fact, parents often help to create the very behavior in their kids that they say they hate.

Children are born with vastly different temperaments and styles. Some are clearly more difficult for parents to handle than others. And today's fast-paced and media-crazy culture creates many challenges for parents to hurdle. But if we're really honest with ourselves, we can stop asking questions about why our kids have problems.

Which issues need work
Instead, we can ask how we're helping to contribute to the problem and which of our own issues needs work. This is the biggest step toward improvement that parents can take. It moves the problem from "over there" with your child, to "all of us together," where it belongs.

To get started on this road to take responsibility as a parent, here are some ideas:

  • If you don't know what your issues as a parent are, ask yourself what makes you the angriest about your child. The answer is close by.
  • Have a heart to heart talk with your child. Ask them what you could do better and what bothers them the most. But don't let it get in the way of being a firm, loving parent who uses boundaries with their children.
  • Let your child know that you're working on improving, and that you realize it needs some work. Kids don't need perfect parents, just parents who try to improve.
  • Let your child know that while you work on your issues, you also have expectations for them. Convey the message that you believe in them.
  • Don't beat yourself up for your imperfection. Realize that your children give you the perfect opportunity to improve yourself. Be grateful for it.

Among the difficult choices we have as parents, one stands out as particularly important. It involves whether we choose to see the problems our kids develop as "theirs" or "ours."

The first choice carries with it a hint of blame and disconnection. It prevents parents and their kids from fully connecting, and it allows parents to feel "above" and apart from the problem.

Choosing to make it "our" problem takes more courage, and it gets better results. It allows us to help our kids while we improve ourselves.

Isn't that what we were meant to do?

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