If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to slip into a habit of almost invariable negativity: Stop doing that. Don’t touch this. No, you can’t watch TV right now. Why isn’t your room clean? I’m sorry but I’m not buying this. I’m disappointed with how you did on this test. That is just not realistic, shouldn’t you think about trying something else? I don’t think so. You already know the answer…and the answer is “No.”
This isn’t because you’re a bad parent, but because you’re a good one. You have rules and you enforce them. You know what’s best. You want to keep them safe and you have a house to run. You are pushing them to be what you know they can be.
But still, if you’re not careful, it can come to be that almost every interaction you have with your kids is negative, that you, in the course of being firm and attentive, end up being discouraging and critical. Not only is that not who you are as a dad, but it’s also not the way to have a good, healthy relationship with your kids. (If you want a crowded table, if you want them to come to you with problems in the future, you have to learn how to be encouraging rather than discouraging).
So start paying attention. Be a fan—believe in them—as Jim Valvano’s dad did. Let the little things go. Be positive. Let them struggle a little bit. Let them learn. Find ways to say “Yes” even as you’re saying “No.” Be supportive. Be open. Engage with the slime.