Have you ever stopped in the midst of yet another moment of Parental Outrage over something your kid has done, thinking up disciplinary action with finger still wagging, and wondered 'what am I even doing in the first place?' Have you ever been frustrated with your kids and just gave up trying to change the situation because you couldn’t remember why the fight was worth it? I think a lot of parents find themselves in this place way too many times. They know they “should” discipline their children for actions that are done or not done, but they’ve never taken a moment to verbalize why that discipline is so important. This is where knowing your Parenting Mojo (or Values), and how they are prioritized, is essential to how you parent. It is the definition of your WHY.
The process of sitting down with yourself and your partner or spouse, and really putting some thought into what kind of values you want your family and children to emulate creates the bow you’re shooting your arrows from. It gives direction and a launching pad for all other actions, including how you shape your rules and expectations - as well as your responses when holding your children accountable. A clear idea of Parenting Mojo closes the gaps when trying to explain to children the importance of their actions and puts gas in your tank when you’re running low on the desire to put effort into correcting the behaviors or the mindsets of your kids.
And the craziest part - it’s truly not that hard. When I work with my one-on-one parent coaching clients, I explain the principal of knowing their Parenting Mojo BEFORE we can set family rules and expectations. Once that clicks, they can usually whip up a good list pretty quickly. Most of us are looking to do the same sorts of things in raising kids, right? We want them to be respectful, honest, kind, helpful, and motivated to try hard in the things they do. We want them to be accountable for their actions and not run from their mistakes. We want them to be grateful, polite, and eventually a contributing member of society, correct? These are the characteristics most parents are looking to build in their children through the process of parenting. But I think, in most cases, parents have never taken the time to put into words what those values actually are.
The problem is, when you’re not thinking about these values and keeping them front and center (basically, not working from that Parenting Mojo), you begin to feel frustrated and confused about where to put your energy in regards to expectations and disciplining of your children. We start thinking things like, “Oh, well, what’s the big deal? They didn’t pick up their stuff when I asked them to, I’ll just do it for them.” Or the old, “Maybe we’re being too hard on them when they won’t put the toothpaste back after brushing. It’s really not an earth-shattering issue.”
In both of these cases the individual problem isn’t, in fact, a big deal. However, if you look back and remember those values you’re trying to teach - like the importance of following through on expectations, not leaving tasks unfinished or respecting the requests and spaces you share with others - then it is a big deal. Letting those seemingly small things go sends mixed messages about what you really want your kids to believe. They do not have the brain development to differentiate between the big and small things, or to decide when following through on their responsibilities is important, really important or no big deal.
Now on the other side of this, you could get totally fired up when your kids are being too loud and noisy. Or you could get upset when your child is starting to grow some independence and does not agree with you about something. And the kicker here is that, unless you have family values about being quiet or your children always agreeing with you, you may be trying to skin the wrong cat. You may end up putting a great deal of misaligned energy pointed at the wrong target. However, if you’ve asked your kids to quiet down and they’re supposed to be respectful of your requests - or you have a child DISRESPECTFULLY disagreeing with you - then that’s a whole other story.
So there are some clear lines related to knowing the values you want to instill in your family and the daily parenting choices we make. Clarifying that Parenting Mojo helps parents feel like their actions, even when they’re stressful or hard, are still incredibly purposeful and also imparts a sort of magical parental confidence when we could otherwise just feel like the bad guy. This clarity helps keep us out of the rollercoaster of parenting-from-our-emotions and grounds us in knowing we’re accomplishing something bigger. And, finally, it creates the road for your children to become the people you want them to be in the end game. People you like. People you respect. And people who can show the rest of the world what your family is all about.