We marvel that the list has only eight items, but website We Have Kids lists eight warning signs that you are a bad parent. You’d expect things like neglecting or abusing your kid, sure. But some are surprising, like “irresponsible financial behavior.” We have personally witnessed hundreds of examples of bad parenting, often from visiting tourists on our Virginia Beach boardwalk. Yet we prefer to focus on those parents who get it right, who let their kids know how proud they are of them. Here’s how they do it.

Practice Perfecting Praise

One of We Have Kids’ trouble signs is too much pampering and indulgence. Think how meaningless a never-ending stream of effusive praise is:

  • You almost passed that Algebra exam! Way to go!
  • Great work tying your shoes, my 15-year-old!
  • I just love how you breathe in and breathe out so well!

Kids see through it, almost instantly. Then they discount everything else you say. Parents magazine offers these and other tips for perfect praise:

  1. Say ten positive things for every negative comment (this forces you to focus on what is working well)
  2. Praise practically, without effusion: “I really like that you are working on remembering to feed the dog and fill her water bowl every morning. I know sometimes you forget, but you did it five out of seven mornings last week.”
  3. Keep it age-appropriate: the 15-year-old wants a subtle, sincere look and a slight nod of approval, while the 15-month-old wants endless cuddles and cooing.

Avoid Side Effects

Have you ever worried that your daughter is that kid in class, the one nobody else can stand to be around? Perhaps you are behind some of the problem, based on your insincere praise and constant cheerleading.

Parenting For Brain recommends sprinkling praise and pride with sincerity and honesty. If your child is potty training, then praise for poops makes sense, but honestly, does a six-year-old need to hear “Good job, buddy!” when the toilet flushes?

Show your pride in them realistically. Avoid word extremes, like “genius,” “gifted,” “never,” “always.” No child can live up to the unrealistic utterances of some parents:

  • “My little girl is an angel!” — In most religions, angels are spirits of dead people; what are you telegraphing to your daughter?
  • “My guy in T-ball is a major league powerhouse!” — He’s four; the bat weighs more than he does
  • “You do perfect work every time!” — Has your boss ever said that to you? How authentic does that sound?

When you praise and boast of specific achievements, your child realizes a few things:

  1. Mistakes are part of learning and growing
  2. Growth is great
  3. My Dad notices a lot of what I do

Say your child did fail that Algebra exam. That’s not good, and you cannot get around that. But maybe your child has been struggling and is getting better. Try this:

“Look, I know you failed the exam, and that’s rough. But you did increase your study time, you missed harder questions, and you got a lot of questions right that you once got wrong. You are making progress, and that makes me proud. Keep at it.”

Appreciate Your Children Now

As children, we never, ever knew our parents talked quietly to other adults about our shortcomings. They knew we had a cowlick, or could not catch, or always lost our sneakers. They knew. But we never knew they knew, because they showed unconditional love for us in the here and now.

Avoid treating your child like some work in progress. You are not “waiting around” for the butterfly to emerge from the chrysalis. You enjoy and love your child in the moment, now.

Show encouragement and appreciation for who your little man is now, for who your little girl is this day, not ten years from now.

Every day, let them know that you are pleased with their daily successes, says the website. Express confidence in their abilities and skills. Encourage them to transfer those skills to new challenges.

What can you find to appreciate in an 11-year-old? How about newfound independence, increased personal responsibility, and even the occasional disagreement with your point of view?

But I Have a Teenager!

Teens are tough, sure, but remember: if you do your job, they will be gone in a few short years. You will miss them terribly. Appreciate them now and show your pride in them without embarrassing them. Understated, brief comments work wonders.

HuffPost recommends three simple phrases:

  1. “I believe in you.”
  2. “Please show me how you did that.”
  3. “I love you.”

Awwww …

At The Firm For Men we want our male clients to be great Dads. Virginia’s children deserve to hear from their fathers, just as Virginia’s dads deserve excellent family law representation. Please contact us online, or telephone our Virginia Beach office at 757-383-9184 today.