Five Parent Traps That Keep You From Connecting With Your Child

Parenting is full of pitfalls, but no matter our starting point we can learn how to improve our parenting skills. In the I CAN System, we nurture the bonds between parent and child by building up a “connection pyramid” layer by layer. At the foundation, we define our family values to clarify parenting goals. With this guidance system in place, we add layers to the pyramid: learning what drives our kids’ behavior so that we can be grounded in our parenting, solving problems by focusing on long-term results, developing the emotional maturity to manage our own feelings, and finally gaining independence as a parent—trusting ourselves, confident in our own parenting decisions!

Building and using the connection pyramid as a guide helps you create a special connection with your children. But along the way, there are several ‘parent traps’ that most people tend to fall for. These ‘parent traps’ can keep you from achieving the connection you want with your child. 

No worries! As a budding behavior detective, you’ll know what to look out for and how to respond.

Parenting doesn’t follow a nice, straight line (although we wish it did!). The layers of the connection pyramid build upon one another, but they’re not purely sequential. Because the layers are interlinked and nonlinear, there is a recursive element to the pyramid. So these parent traps can spring up anywhere. Each trap is usually associated with a particular layer of the connection pyramid, but they may arise (alone or in combination) at any point in your parenting journey.

Five 'Parent Traps' And How To Avoid Them

1. Unclear Family Values

One of the worst (and most common!) approaches to parenting is having no approach at all.

Parents deal with rapid-fire problems constantly, unfolding from moment to moment. It’s no surprise that most of us haven’t developed a comprehensive strategy that applies to all situations. We’re plenty busy managing problems as they arise!

That’s the beauty of explicitly defining your family values: the foundational step in the I CAN System course. Without this clarity, the never-ending crush of parental crises inescapably leads to an aimless and inconsistent approach to parenting. We’re just taking random shots in the dark.

Defining clear family values provide a parent’s guidance system that can apply to all situations.

Be explicit and clearly identify your values (the I CAN System journal and workbook are a big help here). You can align your parenting techniques with your values and get the long-term results you want! Your values will inform your overall strategy to address difficult behaviors. When your values are clear, parents feel grounded. Then you know where you stand and where you’re headed.

2. Disoriented - Not Being Grounded

It’s all too easy to take our kids’ behavior personally. In our most private moments, we may even wonder if they’re actively trying to make us miserable! But as random (or malicious) as our kids’ actions may seem, children engage in behaviors for a reason. They’re trying to obtain or avoid something.

Behavior is Purposeful, Not Personal.

When we take behavior personally, it’s based on unconscious beliefs and assumptions. Assumptions easily sneak into your thoughts and convince you that you ‘know’ why your child does that one thing that really bothers you. But assumptions are vague, emotional, and unsupported by evidence. Even so, they have a powerful impact on our parenting because they tap into our own personal feelings.

The I CAN System course will teach you how to disengage from assumptions and identify the specific behavior cycles that lead to, and perpetuate, problem behaviors. Here’s where you get to be a behavior detective—it’s your job to figure out the actual purpose of your child’s behavior.

Don’t worry. We’ll give you all the tools you need to figure out your kids’ behavior cycles. With a simple A, B, C, and D formula, you’ll learn that behavior is a form of communication aimed at achieving a purpose.

In the I CAN System Course and workbook you’ll learn:

  1. What happens before the behavior?
  2. How to define the behavior.
  3. What happens after the behavior?
  4. And notice if there are any “distant” factors influencing the behavior?

Misinterpreting behaviors and taking them personally is a HUGE parent trap. It’s important for parents to understand that behavior cycles and the purpose of a behavior is vital to improving behavior. If we don’t know what’s driving behavior how can we hope to change it?

3. Short-Term Results And Reactive Parenting

Reactive parenting is parenting in-the-moment. Parents ‘wing it’ to deal with immediate problems because they don’t know what else to do. They fall back on unproductive parenting habits, perhaps based on what their parents did or didn't do. We react based on the feelings and needs of our children in the moment---it’s not an effective long-term approach.

Short-term results as following the path of least resistance. But, unfortunately it only serves as a quick solution for right now! And ultimately fails at creating a connection with a child or teen.

As you work your way through the I CAN System course, we’ll address parent traps in each layer of your connection pyramid. As you strengthen your foundations, you’ll feel more grounded and learn how to create a new plan based on your values and long-term goals.

Don’t be fooled! Reactive parenting can feel like it’s working.  It does seem useful when we get immediate results. But, beware it’s a parent trap! 

Yelling at your kids or passively giving them the iPad might get them to be quiet for the moment, but it’s a short-term fix. If you don’t address the root cause of the behavior, it tends to re-emerge. When you have a plan, you won’t need to ‘wing it.’

4. The Emotional Immaturity Trap

Letting Our Fears and Insecurities Drive Our Parenting

Sometimes the most challenging part of parenting is managing our own emotions. But our thoughts and feelings influence our parenting. And here’s the thing, our feelings are usually misguided—based on unrealistic fears and insecurities. We want our parenting strategies to be rooted in our values and grounded in reality. For this to work, we need to gain the emotional maturity to manage our feelings about ourselves and our parenting.

Our feelings often take the form of an inner voice that we call “self-talk.”

You may or may not be aware of this inner voice giving a running commentary on your life. We call this internal chatter “self-talk” because basically, that’s what we’re doing—talking to ourselves (often unconsciously). Self-talk combines conscious thoughts with unconscious beliefs and biases. This internal voice can be supportive, or it can be unproductive, harmful, and self-defeating. Unfortunately, self-talk tends to be more critical than helpful because it’s based on a distorted perspective.

For more information about negative self-talk, read my blog on how to stop feeling guilty about your parenting

Negative self-talk is something we all experience, but it has an extraordinary impact on parenting. 

We spend most of our time in autopilot mode. Parents mostly don’t know when they are experiencing unproductive thoughts or how it affects their parenting. The I CAN System Course shows you how to set up an alert system. This helps you snap out of these unproductive thought patterns, reframe them in a way that is helpful, and get back to your plan

5. Dependence: Overly Reliant Parenting

Stop Grasping at Straws; Understand Your Children’s Behaviors and Make a Plan

There’s nothing wrong with seeking guidance from other parents or professionals. The problem is when you don’t trust yourself. Continually shifting strategies or blindly relying on others’ advice without any real understanding is what I call “reliant parenting.” Instead, independence is what will boost your connection with your child.

The I CAN System course teaches you how to understand your children’s behavior patterns so you can be an example of independence and feel more confident in your parenting. My role here is to be your behavior coach. You will learn how to be decisive in your parenting choices. I will not give you generic advice or a one-size-fits-all solution.

I want you to really understand what drives your kids’ behaviors. I’m here to show you how to develop your own plan based on the actual data that you collect in a Routine Log throughout the I CAN System course.

Once you understand behavior cycles, you’ll be less reliant on external validation or reassurance. It’s being a “behavior detective” with techniques learned in the I CAN System. Be more independent and confident in your parenting.


Do You Want to Risk A Disconnection?

Parents can easily slip up when things are going great with their kids. When you put in the work your connection can be so strong! Surely you’re done, right? Everything’s fixed!

Not quite. You’ve come a long way and established an authentic connection with your kids, but the five parent traps above can risk the connection you’ve built.

Keep the polar pyramids in mind as you watch out for these traps, but remember that the traps can happen at any point.

Remember that connection is subjective. It can look different for everyone. Early in Module One, I’ll ask you to define what connection means to you. As you progress you should periodically review the polar pyramids and look back at your definition of “connection” so that you can see how your progress is lining up with your goals.

Stick to the Plan!

When things are going well it’s easy to become complacent. You may get comfortable and slowly resume old habits.

This is when challenging behaviors are likely to return. If this happens, don’t worry! Just come back to the I CAN System.

Remember that parenting (like all relationships) is an ongoing, dynamic process. You’ve already done the hard part; don’t let it fall apart now! Avoid the temptation to feel like you’re ‘done.’ 

New issues are bound to arise, but now you have new tools! 

Keep applying the I CAN System. Go back to the journal. Examine the behavior cycles. Think of it as getting an oil change rather than waiting for the engine to explode. Minor tweaks at this stage will keep things humming along smoothly!

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