Parents, have you mastered The Look yet?
Meaning, does your child respect you, know when you mean business, understand full well when he/she has pushed a boundary too far, and believe that your “no” means no?
I hope so, because that’s strong parenting—and it’s greatly needed today.
A key part of strong parenting is not letting the child become the boss. If children don’t know when Mom or Dad means business, they most likely are in charge, which is not the way it was meant to be.
A Parenting Story
Never take your child’s behavior—or misbehavior— personally!
I was privileged to spend a day watching Archie, our 15-month-old grandson that I couldn’t love and adore more. But love and adoration do not preclude this authority figure from giving this beautiful child The Look.
As a toddler, our grandson spent the day—as my wife, Karen, likes to say—doing a really good job being a one-year-old. Especially when he hit me. (Don’t worry, I’m okay!)
As Archie and I sat on the living room carpet watching sports (he wasn’t all that interested), I gently took a remote control away from him. He then raised a chubby paw and slapped me on the forearm.
I responded with what has become, I fear, an underused sentence by parents today: “No.”
You see, Grandpa was in charge. Not the toddler.
But then The Little Learner raised his hand again, and that’s when he got The Look.
You should’ve been there—his hand stopped in mid-slap. He stared at me. I stared back. Then he s-l-o-w-l-y pulled his little mitt back … and reached for a toy to enjoy.
Strong parenting had triumphed.
A boundary had been drawn and enforced—and learning had taken place, on his part. He learned he’s not in charge.
When Archie’s twenty-something mom texted to see how the day was going, I shared I’d been challenged, but had responded with loving firmness. I added, tongue-in-cheek, “But don’t worry, we then explored his feelings together.”
She came back with three big smiley faces. You see, she’s read Raising Accountable Kids.
Note to All Young Parents: My generation may have failed you by giving everyone a trophy for showing up, but please please please don’t fail your kids by confusing strong parenting with “harshness.”
Seeking peace in parenting by asking children questions, engaging them in conversation, and letting them share their feelings is all the rage—but here’s an undeniable truth: Sometimes a child needs to hear “No” and maybe receive The Look, as well.
A Final Visual Lesson
While watching a TV drama, I saw a mom instruct her 14-year-old son to get up and do something. When he continued to sit and stare at his iPad, the mother gave him The Look—which I recognized from my own childhood.
She then delivered these powerful words: “Young man, do not make me repeat myself.”
When the boy sprang into action, I thought, Now that’s strong parenting! And there was nothing harsh about it.