This book is a list of 13 bad parenting behaviors and what you can do about each behavior as a parent. I like that its totally practical and you can immediately run out and start applying Amy Morin's advice.

By the way, I see plenty of my own flaws listed in the 13 bad kid behaviors. Thats a little uncomfortable.

The author is a therapist who specializes in children.

cover art

1. Don’t condone a victim mentality

Victims give up control and feel powerless to change things. One reason parent’s might encourage this is because they can’t bear to watch their child struggle. Rescuing a child too quickly means they never learn the skill and depend on others.

How to parent better:

  • No pity parties
  • Focus on the positive + gratitude
  • Teach kids to focus on what they can control. Ask “what can you do to prevent that from happening?”
  • Don’t rescue them too quickly from bad feelings, frustration, struggle, problems with other kids, etc.
  • More unstructured play time with no adult intervention.
  • Show empathy. Its always ok for kids to think or feel what they are feeling. But their actions and response to adversity are different and should be thoughtful and appropriate.

2. Don’t parent out of guilt

Don’t avoid short term discomfort (as a parent) for long term pain (at the expense of the child).

  • Americans spend more time with their kids than any other country.
  • Studies say how much time parents spend with their kids doesn’t translate into academics, emotional health, or behavior.

How to parent better:

  • Forgive myself for parental mistakes. My son will model his behavior after me.
  • Don’t force my kid to apologize.
  • Don’t compare myself to other parents
  • Quality time over quantity of time

3. Don’t make a child the center of the universe

Kids who feel extra special are more likely to lash out when criticized. Being nice to my kid doesn’t mean he will be a nice kid. The need for admiration is never satisfied. Instead it leads to less empathy, more dissatisfaction, and the kids don’t persist at hard things – these kind of people are not happy people.

Things I can do better:

  • Don’t tell him he is the best/smartest/cutest/fastest (stuff he can’t control).
  • Praise things he can control.
  • I should praise efforts not results.
  • Teach him to think from the other person’s point of view; praise compassion/empathy.
  • Make time for myself. Its good to model this so when he is an adult he knows to take time to take care of himself.
  • Teach awe/gratitude/passion. Happiness comes from this not from the opinions of others.

4. Don’t allow fear to dictate choices

Parents can be overprotective and over involved if they make decisions based on avoiding anxiety instead of what’s best for the kid.

Things I can do better:

  • Teach courage by overcoming fears gradually/incrementally.
  • Recognize the body’s reaction to fear and then think if that fear is rational or not before making the decision to act.
  • Calculate the actual risks don’t just get emotional.

5. Don’t give a kid power over myself

This happens when parents don’t want to be in charge, lack leadership skills, or lack emotional support and try to get it from their kids.

Kids should have as much power as possible so they can learn to be independent (Montessori). But too much power is a problem too. Kids who don’t have enough rules struggle with lack of self control. For example this can lead to health problems if they choose junk food, video games, and not to brush their teeth. Kids without enough rules also tend to have anxiety, depression and risky behavior.

Things I can do better:

  • Kids don’t get an equal vote on adult decisions. Examples: if he will brush teeth, where the family lives.
  • Use rewards instead of bribes. The difference is a subtle, but the change in wording communicates where the power lies.
  • Establish a clear hierarchy. Feedback welcome, but a family is not a democracy.
  • Don’t have long arguments/power struggles. There should be clear red lines and clear consequences that reliably follow.
  • I will point out manipulation to my child if he is calling me names, getting physically aggressive, whining, threatening, embarrassing me in public or using other “secret weapons” and tell him they won’t work. (Being flexible sometimes is fine – being flexible every time is not fine)
  • I will teach him how to argue his case, but that won’t always convince me either.

6. Don’t expect perfection

One reason parents do this is because its hard to know how high to set the bar. Often they compare their kids to other kids to figure that out but every kid and situation is different and so kids will perform differently. Another reason is parents making up for their own childhood. Examples: tiger moms, stage moms, sports dads

Demanding perfection doesn’t lead to perfect kids. Kids who strive to be perfect are at higher risk of anxiety and depression, binge eating, procrastination, and interpersonal conflict. Kids who feel they can’t live up to parent’s expectations grow up to never feel satisfied despite their accomplishments. Kids who are trying to appear perfect will hide these problems and won’t ask for help. They are not mentally strong, they are just acting tough for approval.

Things I can do better:

  • Don’t compare my kid to others.
  • Focus on effort not outcome. Teach perseverance.
  • Teach him to do great not be perfect. Perfectionists are all or nothing and see themselves as complete winners or total failures – teach shades of gray. One error does not mean complete failure.
  • Teach him to celebrate other people’s successes instead of comparing himself to people at the top.

7. Don’t allow a child to avoid responsibility

Parents who do this don’t realize teaching responsibility takes prolonged effort and doesn’t happen by itself. Also they focus too much on grades, colleges, and jobs, and not enough on teaching skills that apply to other parts of life. “Just because your teen gets good grades and is good at sports doesn’t mean she’s equipped to become a responsible adult.”

Kids who don’t do chores stay immature and never develop accountability. “Your child’s future boss – or partner – isn’t interested in someone who still relies on his parents financially, physically, and emotionally.

Things I can do better:

  • Let a repeat offender suffer natural consequences.
  • No nagging, pleading, reminding, anger or punishments. Instead he will gain privileges when he decides to earn them. For example, “you can play outside when your room is clean” instead of “you can’t play outside until your room is clean”.
  • Kids should have chores and should start at age 3 or 4. Chores are how you teach kids all the skills of being an adult. This includes money/accounting/taxes.
  • Let my kid practice failure by giving him difficult tasks.