Little did we know on that first date as teens in November 1976 in Ithaca, N.Y. that we’d someday parent seven children and put together a book on just that subject. Thanks to all of you who humbled us through the years by asking for a product that connects the QBQ! message of personal accountabiity to the most critical job one can hold: raising kids.
Our twentysomething daughter, Molly, was in charge of a neighbor’s twelve-year-old boy for a weekend while his parents traveled. On Saturday morning, Molly brought him over to hang out at our house, along with his buddy Grayson. We’d never met Grayson, nor had we met Grayson’s mom and dad. We don’t know what they’re like, where they’re from, or what they do for a living, but we do know something about them. They left clear evidence—in Grayson.
We live on a couple acres of Colorado land with a big barn and a swimming pool. There are signs everywhere that this has been home to seven children: a trampoline, a rope to swing on, a well-worn four-wheeler, and lots of indoor “techno toys.” It’s a place that kids can really enjoy. So for many hours the boys had tons of fun and the day flew by.
Around 7 P.M., Molly yelled, “Guys, time to go!” Hearing high-energy footsteps and the swift opening and closing of doors, we assumed they’d all left the house, so we were startled when Grayson appeared in our living room.
“Thanks for letting me come over, Mr. and Mrs. Miller!”
“You’re welcome,” we replied. “Hope you had fun.”
“I sure did!”
“Come again, okay?” Karen said.
“I will. Thanks!”
“Terrific! See ya, Grayson.”
“Okay. Have a good evening. Bye!”
Hmm, did we just interact with an engaging young person who demonstrated courtesy and gratitude? Did he actually say, “Have a good evening”?
And instantly we knew this: He didn’t pick any of that up by watching television. He learned it from his mom and dad because, like children everywhere, he is a product of his parents’ outstanding parenting.
Some people will pursue endlessly the “nature versus nurture” debate, but we’re not going there in Parenting the QBQ Way. Sure, this trait or that characteristic might be born into our kids, but the danger in thinking about the impact of “nature” is that we’ll use nature as an excuse for whatever our children are like if we’re not careful. Since this book is focused on personal accountability in parenting, the last thing we’ll do is encourage any dad or mom—including John and Karen Miller—to look outside of ourselves and the way we parent to find reasons why our children think, feel, or act the way they do.
We know that this is a difficult notion for many parents to accept, so we’re going to say it early to set the tone:
If you have problems with your teen, you likely had problems with your toddler.
A parent writes this:
Our eighth-grade son is driving us crazy! Each week he’s supposed to empty all of the trash cans in the house, consolidate the garbage into bags—not cans—and place it by the curb for pickup. But he routinely places one of our large cans on the street instead, knowing it’s the wrong way to do it! When he doesn’t set his alarm at night and oversleeps, he blames his sister for not getting him up. If we tell him to stop playing games on the computer and do his homework, he ignores us and says that we’re “mean.” When he doesn’t practice his piano lesson, he takes absolutely no accountability for his lack of preparedness for the next time he’s with his teacher. What do we do? Help!
This is an awfully frustrating situation—and we truly feel for these parents—but problems like these don’t appear overnight. We don’t mean for this to sound harsh, but we believe problems like these are a direct result of the parents’ practices through the child’s lifetime. So the wrong questions to ask are “Why is my child so difficult?” and “When will he change?” while the right questions would be: “What have I done to create my current problems?” and “How can I start parenting differently?” Questions like these (we call them QBQs) not only represent accountable thinking, they lead to learning—and where there is learning there is change.
For many parents, one key change needed is the willingness to adopt this principle:
My child is a product of my parenting.
With this premise in place, regardless of the age of the child, any parent can become the outstanding mom or dad they wish to be by practicing personal accountability.
<excerpted from the “PQW” book>
John and Karen Miller
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