Jonathan McKee: If I Had a Parenting Do-Over (Part 3)

John FarrellBy John Farrell10 Minutes

John Farrell: What did you learn about yourself from writing If I Had a Parenting Do Over?

Jonathan McKee: Well, one thing, it was actually comforting when I interviewed other parents and I’m like, “Phew, I’m not alone.” That was the one thing that was interesting. But about myself … it was interesting being introspective and looking back and going, “What would I do differently?”

It’s always therapeutic for me to write out what I would have done differently. I don’t know how much I learned about myself because I guess I would say – I’m not trying to sound like a know-it-all or anything – but I knew my flaws and I knew that I didn’t like them and I wish I would’ve done something different. I guess what I learned wasn’t so much about myself, but I learned more that other people are going through these too. And as I was researching, “Well, what do we do instead of just yelling at our kids?” I learned there are some things where we as parents, if we realize we’re not alone in this, there are some good habits that we can begin to practice. Some habits as simple as self-control.

One of the things I learned, I don’t know if it was about myself, but I learned and thought, “Here’s what I wish I would have done.” What I implored other parents was that you don’t have to just say the first thing on your mind when your kid does this. I talked to them about some steps you can take. And that’s what really these seven steps are. It’s simple stuff like.

Imagine, if you will, what it would be like in your house when your kid did something wrong. If you were to press the pause button on your response for a moment and instead of flying off the handle, you actually had practiced an “I love you. I know we talked about this, and you obviously disobeyed me. I’m really upset by this, but because I love you so much and I don’t want to say something stupid, which I probably will, I want you to put your phone on the dinner table and go up to your room. Let’s talk about this later. Let me think about this. Let me pray about this.”

Then I give them some steps so when they come down hours later after you’ve calmed down and you’ve thought about it and you prayed about it. Maybe even ask some friends, “Hey, what should I do?” Which by the way, you’ll get different answers from every single friend. But you thought about it and then you bring them down and listen to them. Go, “Tell me what happened.” Even at that point, sometimes just listening to your kid, you’ll say, “I didn’t realize that.”

When we’re flying off the handle, we don’t even pause to let them have their side of the story heard. So, trying to get some practical examples of where I failed and what I finally learned and started trying these things, I was amazed how well some of these disciplines and some of these practical steps of hitting a pause button, hearing out your kid, making sure you express empathy and unconditional love actually worked better than just saying the first thing that comes to your mind as you’re flying off the handle. So, that’s kind of what I learned, going through it and forcing myself to find, “Okay, this obviously didn’t work. What are the practical steps that do work?”

That’s what that book’s all about. Seven changes I would definitely make navigating parenting today in a world full of screens.

JF: Did you have any fears or worries about what you were writing or were there any chapters in particular that you might’ve struggled with writing more than others?

Jonathan: I think the “Press Pause” chapter more than anything else because that was the most vulnerable chapter with me talking about my failures. My first parenting book, it’s not even out anymore, but it’s called Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent. It was me looking and going, “Hey, this ain’t right. What are some of the basics that I need to do again?” So, I’ve definitely come clean.

Anybody who’s heard my parent workshops, most parents walk up to me almost surprised after one of my workshops and they go, “Wow, that was different than what I expected. I expected you as some parenting guy to have perfect kids and to tell us how our kids can be perfect like your kids. But instead, you talked about here’s where I blew it and here are some things I’ve learned along the way and these have helped me and maybe they’ll help you too.” And parents, I think, are kind of relieved by that. They feel like I’m a fellow struggler who’s along the path with them and I think it’s more attainable, more realistic. So, for sure the “Press Pause” chapter was one that was kind of me being vulnerable and saying, “Blowing up doesn’t help so here’s some things I’ve learned.”

It’s funny that this book for me wasn’t as difficult to write. The book I wrote to parents after this one, the one on bullying was very difficult. I actually saw a counselor after I started writing The Bullying Breakthrough because I went back and started digging into my past. I dug up some deep stuff, deep angst, because I was bullied really bad as a kid. I  kind of had dismissed it and thought I dealt with it and realized I hadn’t. There are actually spots in that book where you can see me talking about something and I go, “I really should deal with this. I don’t think I really have yet.” It was almost like a work in progress and it was because in that book I interviewed – interesting tangent whether you find this interesting or not – I interviewed over a hundred people that have been bullied and other people were like this.

I remember this one guy in particular who was overweight and had been teased for his weight. I’ve been teased for my teeth because my teeth were really bad as a kid. On the back of my bullying book, if you look at the cover, there’s a picture of me as a kid and people are like, “Oh my gosh!” Just so they could kind of fathom why when I walked in a room little old ladies were like “Poor boy” out loud. So, this kid who was overweight, all of his friends were always making fun of his man boobs, and they just ridiculed him really bad and he said, “There’s people I haven’t seen in 20 years that I hate.”

He said that. When he told me that my first thought was, “Wow, that sounds really unhealthy.” My second thought was, “Yeah, I can name three right now.” I can name three. I still have dreams about kids that did this. So, it’s interesting that that one brought up some deep angst. But with Parenting Do-Over it was tough to think about some of those mistakes, but the bully one was really the tough one.

Order your copy of If I Had a Parenting Do-Over: 7 Vital Changes I’d Make by Jonathan McKee