You may be an out-of-bounds parent if …

In the post-Tiger Mom era we’re all wondering where we fall in the spectrum of extreme parenting, whether we’re too strict or too loosey-goosey. Here are some signs that you may be missing the middle ground.

You may be an out-of-bounds parent if …

~ You set so many rules that you can’t possibly enforce (or remember) them all. Consistency is the big enchilada. If you go overboard with the regs they’ll have no trouble getting around them. Make a few key rules and hold your ground.

~ You regularly let kiddo call the shots – and s/he knows it. Your child doesn’t want to be in charge ’cause that’s a scary place to be. Step up and be the boss. It’s your job.

~ Your threats have no teeth. Empty threats are way more damaging than no threats at all. “You’re grounded for life” or “I’m taking away your video games forever” leaves you no room except to back down. Set appropriate consequences and make ’em happen. You’ll be glad you did.

~ You think it’s your job to decide what your child likes. Ballet – yes. Basketball – no. Sorry, that’s not the way it works. Encourage your little one to find extra-curriculars that are fun and challenging. Support and reinforce, but don’t try to choose for them.

~ It makes you desperately uncomfortable when your kid is unhappy with a decision you’ve made. If the idea of saying, “No, Sally, you can’t have a sleepover on a school night, even if it is the season finale of Glee” gives you abdominal pain, you need to get back in the driver’s seat.

~ You’re appalled at the middle school “no cell phones” policy. It’s soooo hard to go 6 or 7 hours without talking to him. And don’t even THINK about telling him to put it on vibrate and just text you in between classes. School is his job and he needs to focus without your interference.

~ You talk and don’t listen. If you tell your guys what to do and how to do it without asking for feedback about what it means to them, they won’t feel heard and will just stop listening. That doesn’t mean that when you listen to their point of view you’ll change yours, just that they’ll know you’ve considered it.

~ You forbid things. It’s perfectly okay to express your disapproval (and make some things unavailable to younger kiddos), but we all know what happens with forbidden fruit. From chocolate to toy guns to video games, the more you deny them, the more they want them. Explain your reasons, try to redirect their behavior, and trust that you’ve taught them well. You’ll never get your way all the time.

~ Bedtime is whenever they pass out from sheer exhaustion. No, it’s not true that children will sleep when they’re tired. In fact, many of them fight it tooth and nail and then pay the price. Decide on a reasonable tuck-in time, complete with rituals, and stick to it.

~ You’re wayyyy more worried about stranger abduction than you are about childhood obesity. 1 in 4 children in the U. S. will be obese, while 1 in 347,000 will be kidnapped or held by a stranger. I’m just saying. Most of us exaggerate some risks to our kids and underestimate others, so try to keep it real.

The good news? If you’re worried about being an over-the-line parent, chances are you’re not. None of us do it right all the time (for a look at some of my personal boo-boos see My 7 ‘Mommy Mulligan’ Moments), but if you stay mindful and be present you’re way ahead of the game. As Woody Allen once said (not that we’re taking parenting advice from the Wood-ster), “80% of life is just showing up”. 

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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