Parenting The Kid In Front of You

Parenting The Kid In Front of You

Apr 11, 2024

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I often talk about parenting the kid in front of you, not the one you wish you had or the one you’re afraid they’ll become. Today, I’ll explain three thoughts that you’ve probably experienced when you don’t like your kid’s behavior or parts of their personality, why judgments about your kid aren’t helpful and what to do instead.

I just got home from a trip to Paris with my newly-turned-18-year-old son. I got to spend a lot of time with him, getting to see and know who he is right now. We had an amazing trip, and there were also times where I found myself feeling a little uncomfortable, sad or disappointed about his views or attitude toward certain things. 

I’m continuing to work through some of those feelings even after we’ve returned home, and I hope my experience will help you parent the kid in front of you, too.


Why Parenting The Kid In Front of You Is Important

When we’re in a relationship with someone and we make their behavior mean something negative, then it is going to sour the relationship and the way that we interact with them. 

When you perceive your kid in a certain way, thoughts and feelings come up, and these drive your actions. It's really important to work on how you think and feel about your kid and not put that negative attitude or judgment on their behavior.

This can be really hard because as a parent, it is your responsibility to help your kid learn how to be in relationship with themselves and others. You’re trying to teach values like politeness, generosity and kindness. 

But sometimes, you see your kid behave in ways that are opposite to those values. What often happens is that you get so caught up in the behavior and what it means that it prevents you from actually parenting and teaching them the skills they need in order to become who they’re meant to be. 

Your child is on a journey of development. In order to help them grow, you have to accept how they are right now, from a neutral place, and see it either as a part of their personality that hasn’t fully developed or a skill that they haven’t yet learned. 


3 Negative Mindsets to Avoid

When your kid behaves in a way you don't like, it's easy to make their behavior mean something negative - either about you as a parent, them as a person, or their future.

All of these negative stories impact how you show up as a parent; and have a negative impact on your child.

These are the three negative mindsets I see causing the most long-term harm. 


#1: Making your child’s behavior mean something about you. If you look at your child’s behavior and think, “I’m a bad parent,” it makes it feel really personal. It puts you into your own story and takes you out of what’s going on with your kid. 

You might find yourself overparenting, being overly strict, harsh or mean. Often, this is where I see parents skip past calm and connection and go straight to correction and consequences. 

Behavior is a coping strategy, and the behavior you’re seeing is just information, data about where your child needs support, tools and skills. 

Instead of thinking, “How does this behavior affect me? How does it reflect on me?”, try asking, “How is this behavior going to affect my child? What skill is missing here? What do they need to learn?”

When you see that they’re acting the way they are because they’ve overwhelmed and don’t know how to cope, you can show up with compassion and help them problem-solve. 


#2: Making their behavior mean something about the future. This is where you find yourself jumping to the worst-case scenario. You assume that this negative behavior will play out long into the future and become a part of their identity. One example is that your kid lies to you, so you think, “they are going to become a liar.” 

Instead of giving them this negative self-concept, acknowledge that this is where they are right now, and they have so much time to learn and grow. 

Think back to when you were in middle school or high school. I’m guessing there were times when you (like me) said or did “bad” or inappropriate things that you didn’t necessarily know were wrong. You needed to be taught. Think about how much you’ve changed since that time. 

We all go through different versions of ourselves, and we learn through mistakes. But our core self is true and lovable and worthy and wonderful. 

Your child’s core is unconditionally worthy of love and acceptance. And some of their behaviors might need work. Your job as a parent is to help your kid learn so that they can grow into the person they’re meant to be. 


#3: Making their behavior mean that something is wrong with them. You think they’re rotten to the core or disturbed somehow. That they aren’t “good”. We need to separate their actions from their core self. It’s the idea of, “I caused a problem, but I am not a problem.”

We cannot grow when we’re feeling judged, unworthy or bad. But when kids feel safe in their relationship with you, when you love who they are at their core, they can grow in the world. 

You can speak into your child's life what you want them to believe about themselves. For example, instead of saying, “You’re rude,” you can say, “You're being rude. Are you okay? What do you need right now? Do you need to take a break? Are you overwhelmed? Because I know you're not actually a rude, mean person.” 

Our kids (girls especially) need to be told that they are worthy, lovable and good exactly as they are. Even when they act badly, they are not bad.


If you’re reading these and realizing that you’ve done all three, I want you to know that I have, too. We all have. When your kid misbehaves, it’s normal for your first instinct to be to catastrophize the future or to make it mean something bad about you as a parent or to think, “My kid is just an asshole.” 

The challenge is to catch yourself when you slip into one of these traps. When you can become more aware of the thoughts, you can start to shift them into something more helpful. It’s never too late to commit to shifting how you think and feel about your kid. 

Recognize your child’s lovable, essential, worthy, perfect core self. Parent the behavior of the kid in front of you, and let the rest of the worry go. 


You’ll Learn:

  • The parenting advice I give the most
  • Why behavior is really just information - and what to do with it
  • How raising a kid is like baking a special kind of cake
  • The long term benefits of unconditional acceptance.


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Resources Mentioned: 

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