Jonathan McKee understands the joy and the challenges of parenting and offers practical help to parents who would rather learn from someone else’s firsthand experiences in hopes of circumventing their own parenting mess-ups.
- The title of this book is so perfect! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want a DO-OVER, especially in an area as important as raising our kids. Tell us the back story on why you decided to write about this 20/20 look-back at parenting and the changes you’d make?
It was an amalgamation of several elements. First, my own kids, now 19, 21 and 23 were now out of the house, in college and making decisions on their own. As my wife and I watched this we couldn’t help but look back at our own parenting and ask, “Did we equip them for this?” Or “Could we have done this better?” At the same time, the nature of my job put me intermingling with parents almost weekly at my parent workshops or interaction on our website helping parents. In these interactions I began hearing the same regrets over and over again. A lot of, “I wish I had done this…” So I began a little experiment of sorts. At times I created a venue where parents were given the opportunity to share past regrets. It’s not something that happens often. But when it does, when a parent shares, “As I look back on all my years of parenting, the one thing I’d change is…” That always captivated parents. Parents want 20/20 hindsight! So, I decided to embark on a journey to not only share my own thoughts, but look for the common denominators that most parents seemed to wish they could “DO OVER.”
- In your book If I Had a Parenting Do-Over, you mention a parenting poll you conducted and the eye-opening results. Please tell us about this?
It was intriguing. I asked parents one simple question:
If you could go back in time and change one
parenting practice, what would you DO OVER?
It was fascinating, because out of all the hundreds of responses I received, I began noticing one overwhelming response. It was, “I wish I had spent more time with my kids.” I had answers all over the board, but well over a third of the answers were regrets that they didn’t spend enough time simply hanging out with their kids and bonding. The answer came in many forms.
“More time in conversation, and less time in front of the TV.”
“With a do-over, I’d jump in the ocean with them more instead of sitting on the sand watching them play.”
Few of the parents expressed regrets about “boundaries.” I didn’t hear a lot of people saying, “I wish we would have been more strict.” “I wish I would have had more rules.” And maybe that’s because of the crowd I surveyed. Because honestly, I was asking parents who were coming to our website for help, attending our workshops… so these were mostly Christian parents in the church who had been at the parenting thing for a while, if not empty nesters already. But less than 2% polled wish they had applied more boundaries. They just wished they’d gotten to know their kids better and built a relationship that opened the door to continual conversations.
- I think of all the chapter titles in your book If I Had a Parenting Do-Over many of us are going to be drawn to “Let it Go”. Many parents seem to struggle with this and if we don’t then somehow we might feel like we aren’t good parents. Why is that and what prompted you to include this as a chapter focus?
Because teenagers are a pain! You can always spot a parent of a teenager. They look tired and beaten down. Ask a parent of a teenager which is more difficult, parenting toddlers or teens! They’ll tell you. Parenting toddlers might be physically exhausting, but parenting teenagers is emotionally exhausting. They know everything! And they’ll disagree with you at every interaction. “I like your pants.” “Actually, they’re not pants, they’re jeggings!” And if you try to tell them what to do, they’ll resist at every opportunity. “I need you to pick up that stack of dirty laundry in your room.” “Why do you care. It’s my room!”
This is where all parents struggle. We all have responses we’d like to give to this little punk who just told us “it’s my room” …even though they’ve never even considered pitching in on a single house payment.” So I spend an entire chapter helping parents not get entangled in “the drama.”
“Put on your coat!” “I don’t need a coat. It’s not even cold outside. Just saying!”
We need to learn how to let it go. After all, in most of these situations natural consequences teach far more than any of our lectures. Let the kid freeze for a day. They’ll remember their coat tomorrow without you even reminding them.
- What happens when we don’t notice things our kids are getting into (even though we might notice other kids’ behavior and think that those parents totally missed it)? How can parents keep up and not let their kids fly “under the radar”?
I’ll be honest. Most parents, myself included, have very little idea what’s going on in the world of our kids. Parents often react to that statement. But the older our kids get, the more we realize it. Most of our kids have a device in their pocket that can access every type of media imaginable. And most parents have no clue what their kids our accessing. Most parents have no idea what music their kids listen to, the Netflix show they’re streaming, and the interactions they are having on social media. In my parent workshops I often give a quick tour of the top 10 songs at any given time, and parents are always shocked. Think about this for a second. I’m not even exposing deep dark secrets. I’m just showing parents what any parent with access to Google can find out at any moment. I’m just letting them listen to the lyrics of the newest Drake song they just heard while shopping with their kids at Wal-Mart. I’m just showing them a clip of the newest Ariana Grande video, the girl their kids grew up watching on Nickelodeon. I’m just showing them what their kids can click on from the SnapChat app, which is by far THE most popular communication tool kids use today. If their kids don’t have it, for sure their kids friends have it.
Parents need to simply put their own phones down, turn their own screens off, slide their bills aside… and take notice of their kid. I spend an entire chapter talking about what this looks like. Not putting a nannycam in their kids’ bedrooms or installing the newest spy software. Notice them.
Believe it or not, your kids want you in their lives. Shaunti Feldhahn surveyed about 3,000 teens asking them about their parents’ involvement in their lives. Almost all of them (94%) said that if they could wave a magic wand, the perfect situation would be one in which their kids worked to be involved with them. Not spying on them or acting like a parole officer checking to see if they finished their chores… but in their life. That “bonding” thing again.
For more information please visit www.TheSource4Parents.com