Here is the full text and summary of clinical psychologist Becky Kennedy’s talk titled “The Single Most Important Parenting Strategy” at TED conference.
Listen to the audio version here:
All right, quick poll. Raise your hand if you have a relationship in your life that’s meaningful to you. Okay, I assumed, but always good to check our assumptions. I’m saying this because while I’ll be focusing today on a parent-child relationship, please know that everything I’m talking about is applicable to any meaningful relationship. So with that in mind, let’s jump in.
So it’s Sunday night, I’m in my kitchen, I just finished cooking dinner for my family, and I am on edge. I mean, I’m exhausted, I haven’t been sleeping well, I’m anxious about the upcoming work week, I’m overwhelmed by all the items on my unfinished to-do list, and then my son walks into the kitchen. He looks at the table and whines, ‘Chicken again? Disgusting.’ And that’s it. I snap.
I look at him and I yell, ‘What is wrong with you? Can you be grateful for one thing in your life?’ And things get worse from there. He screams, ‘I hate you’, he runs out of the room and he slams the bedroom door, and now my self-loathing session begins as I say to myself, ‘What is wrong with me? I’ve messed up my kid forever.’
Well, if you’re a parent, you’ve probably felt that pain. For me, it comes with an extra layer of shame. I mean, I’m a clinical psychologist, and my specialty is helping people become better parents. And yet, this is true as well. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Mistakes and struggles, they come with the job, but no one tells us what to do next.