The Habits of Effective Parents

I just read that Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has died at age 79. In tribute to the work he did to help individuals improve their lives, here are five habits of effective parents to stick to your refrigerator door!
note on refrigerator
1. Listen more than you talk.
2. Ask questions more than you issue directives.
3. Really listen your child’s answers. There may be a gem in there!
4. Use your child as a resource.
5. Speak in the tone you want to hear.

Now, how to go about using these magical habits.

First, know that changing a habit takes time, so go easy on yourself as you learn.  Second, make a commitment to absolutely getting what you want: a strengthened relationship with your child, and more peace at home. Third, read the five habits slowly three times right now.  Let them sink in to your memory, to a place where you can grab them again when you need them.

Here’s a point-by-point guide to adopting the habits:

1. Listen more than you talk.  Remember the grade school teacher that everyone loved?  She was soft-spoken, and yet she had complete control of 27 high-energy first graders?  What was her secret?  She listened to the children more than she spoke to them.  Try it three times today.  Listen when you would have normally been explaining the expectations over and over.  If you said it once, let it go.

2. Ask questions more than you issue directives.  If it’s time for bed, and kids want to stay up and play, ask a question, starting with “how”.  “How are you planning your evening so you’ll get enough sleep and be rested for camp tomorrow?”  “How do you think you’ll manage wrapping up your game in order for us to have time to read together tonight?”  Heck, you don’t even have to say, “It’s time for bed!”  Your question implies it, and your child doesn’t get triggered by the old language.

3. Really listen to your child’s answers.  There might be a gem in there!  So many times I’ve heard parents who have learned these techniques say, “I never thought I’d hear him say that!”  If you want to be among them, pause a beat to hear what your child has to say.  Letting your child’s thoughts “bubble up” with an idea takes some time, but it’s time well-spent. You’ll be rewarded with something to treasure.  And if the answer your child offers won’t work, don’t give up.  Ask another open-ended question about what he or she just said, and see if you hear a more-thought-out idea.  This is your child’s learning process at work.

4.  Use your child as a resource.  If you want to know something, and can take the time to just wonder aloud about it, you’ll be surprised how much your child has to offer.  Now, instead of a “commander-follower” relationship, you have a collaborative one – much more satisfying to both of you.  And it actually saves time.  If you let your child be right, just for the sake of building your relationship, you’re paving the way for the next cooperative moment.

5.  Speak in the tone you want to hear.  This one is often the most challenging.  Try recording yourself (so easy with a smart phone!) just to hear how you address your child.  Then ask yourself if that’s how you like to be spoken to.  If you like it, great.  If you don’t you have some work to do.  If you suspect that your child’s negative tone matches what she’s hearing from you, time to get honest about it.  Yes, it’s hard, but the rewards will be enormous when you have respectful conversation in your home.  (Don’t fall victim to cynicism when it improves … just enjoy!)

These five habits of successful parents can, all on their own, create previously unheard-of improvements in the tone of your home.  What do you have to lose?  If you would like more assistance in changing old habits, parent coaching can help. To learn the habits of effective parents,  click here for more information.


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