5 Parenting Warning Signs That Your Kid Is In Trouble

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Welcome to Tuesday’s Tips, the one-day a week when I dispense useful, actionable and empowering tips!

This article is not going to focus on your teen or tween. This article is going to focus on you, the parent. There are a million articles that describe problematic behavioral symptoms in kids – this one is going to focus on problematic behavioral symptoms in parents.

As many of you know, I spent the first 14 years of my career working with adolescents and their parents, two populations that I absolutely love. And over the course of those years, I’ve identified 5 parenting common denominators that point to trouble. If you have 3 or more of the issues below, you are in trouble, even if your child isn’t acting out or exhibiting symptoms. Take this as a wake up call. These are, hands down, the strongest indicators that problems are looming, and they are listed from most alarming to least:

  1. You and your partner have different parenting philosophies and styles. You know how this goes – it’s the Good Cop, Bad Cop couple, and it is hands down the biggest problem among parents whose kids wind up on a shrink’s couch. It’s not cute when 1 parent undermines the other’s authority or when 1 parent administers consequences without first consulting the other parent. Children don’t divide and concur. Parents fail to have a plan or a parenting strategy. Would you start a company without a business plan? Of course not. Sit down with your partner and come up with a game plan. It will involve compromise on both parts, but you must be on the same team if you want your kid to have a fighting chance.
  2. The vast majority of your conversations are complaints. For every complaint you express to your child, you need to have 3 compliments just to break even, because complaints hold more memory weight than compliments. You know this because your last review at work, while glowing, contained 1 needs improvement and for the week following your review, that was the only thing that swam through your head. Humans hang on to the negative more than the positive. Keep that in mind when you express a complaint, and perhaps you’ll be more selective in what comes out of your mouth. You need to catch your kid doing 3 things right for every complaint. It’s that simple.
  3. You fail to follow through on consequences. There’s nothing worse than making a threat that you don’t follow through on. Parents who do this teach their kids that they don’t mean what they say. It’s far better to tell your child that you’ll give them a consequence after you’ve had time to think about it, but if you say that, you’d better come back to them with a verdict. So the next time your kid does something to warrant a punishment, think long and hard before announcing that they’re going to be in lockdown until their 18th birthday. It’s worse than giving no punishment at all.
  4. Mealtime is used to vent about what he / she hasn't done or should do. I know it’s hard to get a few minutes of your kid’s attention, but you have to find another way. If you keep using dinner as a logistics meeting, your kid’s going to skip the meal altogether. Dinnertime needs to be a time when your child feels safe and it needs to be a positive experience.
  5. There is no family mealtime. I know we live busy lives and each of your kids has a different afterschool activity that makes having a family meal seem impossible. It’s not. You just have to be creative and stop expecting it to be at 5 or 6. Instead, give them snacks at that hour and extend dinner to an hour when the majority’s together, even if it has to be at 8 or 9 at night. Pretend you’re European. Those kids don’t die from eating late at night. Having a family meal is one of the greatest predictors of a teenager’s wellbeing. If our President can manage to do it, you can.