Here’s How To Stop Feeling Like A Lousy Parent, And Become The Kind of Parent You Always Wanted To Be

Why is it so difficult to parent your child?

Are you the problem?

Do you have a difficult kid?

This isn’t what you dreamed it would be like to have a kid: the constant negotiations, battle of wills, bargaining and bribes.

Where you expected cuddles and connection you are getting battles and frustration.

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Why is parenting so hard? How do you make your kids LISTEN instead of RESISTING?

The fact is that nearly every parent thinks they’re doing a lousy job or just “not getting it right.” Parenting is hard work, and parents can be very hard on themselves.

This little person you live with has the ability to push your buttons better than anyone else.

This is a given.

How you respond, however, is up to you. And how you respond has everything to do with how you feel about yourself.

That’s right—how you feel about yourself as a parent isn’t about how your kid behaves—it’s about how YOU do.

And if you’re like the thousands of parents I’ve worked with, your behavior as a parent will fall into one of three categories:

Which Parenting Style Do You Fall Into?

As a parent, you’re likely to play out one of three roles: The Lawyer, The Dictator, and The Captain. Let’s take a quick look at the first two:

  1. The Lawyer
  2. Taking on the role of lawyer is exactly what you’d expect: you’re trying to convince your child to accept your point of view. You start out with a pretty solid argument:

    “Jenny, you need to finish your homework now, because once it gets too late you’ll start getting tired and then you won’t want to do it.”

    When Jenny counters with her own argument, a debate begins. You try to make the child think they shouldn’t be thinking what they’re thinking. Soon enough, you’re in an all-out power struggle with each of you holding court, and the homework is not getting done. You feel defeated.

  3. The Dictator
  4. If you’re not winning your case as the lawyer, you might slip into the role of the dictator. Dictators and tyrants rule by intimidation and threats.

    “Jenny, there will be no T.V. for the rest of the week if you don’t complete your assignment right now.”

    On the surface, the dictator seems powerful, but he is really powerless because nobody likes him or trusts him.

    Jenny may get her homework done, but it probably won’t be very good, and the distance created between the two of you is painful.

Why You Fall Into These Fruitless Parenting Modes

When you’re parenting as the lawyer or dictator, you’re bound to feel like the worst parent in the world. It’s easy to get down on yourself.

But you probably learned these modes from your own parents. I’m sure you’ve heard the sound of your mother’s voice when you get angry, or your father’s when you become critical.

Because most of us never receive any training or education as parents, we fall into these default modes as adults.

When you grew up, you probably never heard your parents try to empathize with you or understand where YOU could be coming from when you were misbehaving.

So, the first thing I tell parents is this: It’s not your fault!

The problem is that if you continue to parent as the lawyer or dictator, you’ll get caught in a whirlpool of frustration with your children, and you’ll get even less cooperation from them.

Then you feel even worse about yourself.

The Greater Danger In Parenting As Lawyer Or Dictator

Children need to feel secure—safe in the knowledge that their parents are confidently in control.

When you’re parenting as the lawyer or dictator, you feel panicked, desperate, or out of control. In turn, your children feel a lack of stability. They don’t feel they can count on you as the grownup who can lead and take charge.

When children don’t feel that the adults around them are capable, they’re much more prone to anxiety, school trouble, and falling in with the wrong peers.

When you’re coming at your kids with bribes and threats, they’ll be much more inclined to seek comfort and advice from their peers or other adults you might not approve of.

There’s A Much Better Way: The Captain

When you’re in lawyer or dictator mode, you wind up feeling deficient as a parent. You’ll be cranky, frustrated, and disconnected from your kid.

In short, you end up feeling like you never measure up and that you’re doomed to be locked into a war of wills with your kids. An endless game of battleship.

That is, unless, you’re parenting as the captain.

When you’re the captain, you’ll feel confident and energized. You’re in control, at the helm. You’re lovingly, calmly, and confidently in charge. You’re also flexible.

Being the captain still means you include your kid’s input (“Would you like to do your homework before or after dinner, sweetheart?”)

Parenting as the Captain has far-reaching benefits that extend beyond whatever issue is at hand.

When you’re the captain, children understand there’s a grown up in the room. Because you’re not needy or desperate, they sense that you’re sturdy enough to manage and contain whatever storms of childhood they pass through.

Be The Kind Of Parent You—And Your Child—Will Be Proud Of

You don’t have to parent like your parents—or their parents. You can have an entirely different dynamic with your child—one that is nurturing, empathetic, and fun.

When you hold a safe space as a deeply attached anchor for your child, everything goes better. Your child won’t feel tempted to turn toward his peers for guidance; she’ll want to reach toward her parents instead.

In my program Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes, I’ll teach you how to embody the role of captain so you can stop feeling like a parenting failure and start enjoying one of the most incredible journeys of your life.

This program is not about training yourself to memorize lines. Life isn’t like that. You can’t script everything. I’m more interested in empowering you to look at what’s derailing your ability to stay available and sturdy in the heat of the moment.

To that end, we’ll closely examine the specific triggers that launch you into the ineffective lawyer and dictator parenting styles, and we’ll deal with the reactivity at its root.

Typically, you’re triggered not by what your kid is doing (even though it may at first seem this way). Instead, you’re panicked about the MEANING you’re making out of the behavior. Deep down, you may be thinking that if your kid doesn’t do her homework, she’s going to be a dropout, or you’ll be shamed as a parent.

You might have deep-seated beliefs that nobody respects you or that people take you for granted. There’s a slew of possible reasons for why you react the way you do, and these reactions are really at the core of what’s making you feel like a lousy parent.

In Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes, you’ll watch me coaching other parents on the spot about these very issues. You’ll learn how to easily and painlessly shift into captain mode in a way that at once heals your underlying triggers AND gets you your desired response from your child:

Get Your Kids To Cooperate

As the captain, you can prefer that your child act a certain way, but you don’t NEED it. Her behavior won’t escalate your reactivity, which in turn goes a long way to ultimately getting the cooperation you want…and making you feel a whole lot better about yourself in the long run.


Susan Stiffelman

P.S. Kids have to deal with being told what to do all the time. Defiant behavior can be a means to reclaim some amount of autonomy. But when it goes too far, what do you do?

In Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes, you’ll learn how to strike the right balance between being in control and affording your child enough of her own sense of control:

Keeping the Peace At Home

Parent Without Yelling, Power Struggles and Guilt

  • Critical skills to raise happy, healthy kids
  • Make parenting the most fun you’ve ever had
  • Ensure your kids feel loved, accepted and understood
  • Co-parenting secrets to help your kids thrive
  • Common parenting mistakes you must avoid
  • Less tantrums and tears, more snuggles and laughter

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