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Stop Making Your Child’s Problem Your Problem

Stop Making Your Child’s Problem Your Problem

I met with a parenting counselor this week.

That’s right, I’m the CEO of a company called, The Mom Complex, and I still haven’t figured out how to be a mother. No, the irony is not lost on me.

At the beginning of the appointment, Suzanne, the counselor, asked for the basics: the names and genders of my children, the nature of my relationship with my husband, if there was drug or alcohol abuse in the home. It was her next questions that made me squirm: 

Suzanne: Do you work outside the home?

Me: Yes

Suzanne: What do you do?

Me: I own my own company.

Suzanne: And what does that company do?

Me: It’s called The Mom Complex (sheepish grin). I help develop products and experiences to make the lives of moms easier (gulp).

I felt a little foolish asking for parenting advice, given my career choice, but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that people who don’t ask for help don’t get help.

Which then made me wonder, why are mothers so afraid to ask for help?

Far too many of us think we’re supposed to have it all figured out. Forget that. People like Suzanne are always going to know more than us. Her office was filled with parenting books on topics ranging from ADHD and dealing with divorce to homework help and how to find your happy place. This made me smile. I didn’t want to read the books. I wanted Suzanne to read the books and tell me what to do.

The issue that brought me to Suzanne’s office was impatience. I’m tired of losing it with my kids. 

For instance, they typically drop something and I fuss at them, they don’t eat their vegetables and I lose my mind, they resist a shower and I huff and puff my way through forcing them to do it. I even yell at them while saying things like, “Stop yelling at each other!”

Lovely, I know.

But according to Suzanne, the greatest parenting stress and frustration occurs when we make our children’s problems, our problems. Your son doesn’t like broccoli? That’s his problem, but you make it yours when you yell through dinner, insisting he take one more bite, and then one more bite, and then one more bite…until you eventually lose the battle and crumble in defeat.

Instead, Suzanne suggested distancing yourself from such problems. So the next time your child pitches a fit over, say, broccoli, and you feel yourself about to engage and explode, follow these two steps:

1. Acknowledge your kid’s feelings. “Wow, I know this sucks, I’d probably feel the same way you’re feeling right now if that happened to me.”

2. Help them help themselves. Try giving your child options to choose from or let them figure out the issue on their own. The important part is to remember that it’s their problem, not yours. They need to solve it.

So put into practice, when dinner rolls around and you set the food down on the table, say, “You don’t have to like what I make for dinner. You don’t even have to eat it. You get to decide if you want to eat it. But if you don’t eat it, you have to go to your bedroom because we’re not going to debate it at the table.”

As Suzanne says, we don’t work for our kids. We’re not their employees. What is our job, it’s to help them work through their issues. “This will make you feel less crazy and your children more competent,” she says.

It’s OK to not know what you’re doing as a parent. That’s why the Suzannes of the world are ready to lend us a hand.

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Katherine Wintsch