The single most powerful tool for combating the tendency to be a helicopter or drill sergeant parent is to memorize the following:
Oh, no. That's got to feel ___________. What do you think you are going to do?
The next time someone else’s problem comes your way, experiment with saying these words with sincere empathy. Simply fill in the blank with whatever emotion you're guessing the person is feeling. Then give suggestions while allowing the person to own and solve his or her problem.
Sincere Empathy Makes All the Difference!
We can hold our kids accountable for their poor decisions. We can expect them to own and solve the problems they create. Sincere empathy allows us to do these things without losing their love and respect. It also allows us to discipline without having to feel guilty.
Consultant Parenting (Love and Logic Parenting)
Consultants are always available to give suggestions and offer options. They also know when to zip their lips and let their clients make the final decision.
Consultant parents know how to zip their lips too. They are willing to share alternative solutions to problems. They are willing to describe how they would solve the problem, if it were their problem. Then consultant parents say, “It’s your life. You get to decide. Good luck!” Nothing more is said.
One crucial difference between consultant parents and helicopters or drill sergeants is ownership of a problem. Helicopters and drill sergeants both claim ownership of a child’s problem. Consultant parents let the child retain ownership. Allowing a child to keep ownership of a problem sends an implied message. That message is, “You are wise enough to make good decisions. I trust you to know how to handle this.” This implied message builds a child up instead of putting them down.
Three Rules of Consultant Parenting
Used regularly, these three simple rules can prevent power struggles. If you’d like to try being a consultant parent, I suggest you experiment with following these three rules:
1. Take good care of yourself.
2. Provide your child with choices you can live with.
3. Take action.
When taking good care of yourself, you inform your child of what you are going to do, rather than tell them what they will do. When you provide options and alternatives, children use their energy to control their own lives. They use their brains to weigh their choices, and are too busy thinking to argue with you.
A Couple with Different Parenting Styles
There’s good news! Parents don’t have to be clones of each other to raise great kids. Thank goodness! My father (yes, that’s Jim Fay!) often remarks about how very different his own parents were. His father parented with lectures, threats, and plenty of decibels. His mother was pretty much a Love and Logic natural. What made it possible for them to raise such a ﬁne man? Simply put, my Grandma Marie did her best to make grandpa look good. And to the best of his ability, Grandpa Frank did the same for her.
The very qualities that pull us together often become those that threaten to push us apart. What an irony! Fortunately, kids don’t need carbon-copy parents... as long as their parents agree to live by some basic guidelines:
1. Agree to make each other look good in the eyes of your children.
When we’re upset with our spouse, we must resist the incredibly attractive urge to agree with our kids when they say things like, “Dad doesn’t understand” or “Mom’s mean!” When we’re upset with our spouse... or ex-spouse... we must discuss it directly with our spouse... or ex-spouse. Let’s keep our kids out of the middle.
2. Agree that consistency and follow-through are more important than “perfect parenting.”
Because they disagree about discipline, some parents make the mistake of undermining the limits and consequences set by the other. This always backﬁres and creates kids who disrespect both parents. Deep in their subconscious minds, children begin to reason, “If my parents aren’t strong enough to support each other, how will they ever be strong enough to keep me safe and show me the way?”
3. Agree to be different.
Our world is ﬁlled with different types of people. Some are easy-going. Some are not. Some are very warm. Others are a bit cooler. Some have very high expectations. Some don’t. Do we do our kids any favors when we try to shield them from this reality as they are growing up?
When parents agree that it’s okay to be different, and they don’t fall into the trap of undermining or complaining about each other, their children have a powerful opportunity to learn how to get along with different types of people. Have you ever met an adult who never learned this?
4. Remember that lectures work no better with spouses than they do with kids.
People often ask, “How do I get my spouse to use Love and Logic?” it’s best to take a low-key approach and to remember that modeling is the most powerful tool for creating change in resistant kids... and adults. Let your spouse see you having more fun and fewer power struggles with the kids. Share some Love and Logic only if they ask about it.
5. If you can’t agree to make each other look good, go to couples counseling.
When parents sabotage each other, their children always suffer. It’s also not uncommon for kids to be blamed for the problem. Too frequently, I hear people complain, “The kids are driving us nuts. If they weren’t so difﬁcult, our marriage would be okay.”
While difﬁcult kids can really stress a marriage, the following statement often rings truer: “If our marriage wasn’t driving us nuts, the kids wouldn’t be so difﬁcult.”
It’s almost impossible to be a healthy parent when one’s marriage is unhealthy. If this is the case, give yourself... and your kids... a gift by seeking couples counseling.
Nothing is Guaranteed
Being a consultant parent is no guarantee your kids will turn out great. Does it up the odds? Absolutely! Children raised by consultant parents grow up to be adults who:
Remember you don’t have to be a perfect parent to raise great kids. You just need the right amount of Love and Logic.
Thanks for reading our blog series Parenting Styles! We hope this gives you some ideas about your own parenting style. You can find more strategies in the audio Helicopters, Drill Sergeants and Consultants.