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How often have we heard complaints like these?
“Why don’t my kids do what I say?”
“Who made the mess in here?”
“When will my teen make better choices?”
These are the kinds of questions that parents ask that lead not only to complaining, but to victim thinking, procrastination, and blaming. The solution: Learn to parent the QBQ® way – and bring personal accountability to life within our families.
Based on the same concepts that have made John Miller’s signature work, QBQ: The Question Behind the Question, an international bestseller over the last decade, Raising Accountable Kids provides the tool called the QBQ or The Question Behind the Question that will help every parent look behind questions such as “Why won’t my kids listen?” or “When will they do what I ask?” to find better ones—QBQs—like “What can I do differently?” or “How can I improve as a parent?” This simple but challenging concept turns the focus – and responsibility – back to parents and to what they can do to make a difference.
With thoughtful commentary, observation, and advice, illustrated with engaging and memorable anecdotes that are the hallmarks of John Miller’s previous books, Raising Accountable Kids provides all moms and dads with the means and inspiration to be more effective parents – as well as teach their children how to practice their own brand of personal accountability – to create a happy, healthy family for a lifetime.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Karen G. Miller has served as a mentor to other moms in MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and MOMSNext. She has held leadership positions in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and taught parenting classes at Champa House, a home for single moms sponsored by the Denver Rescue Mission. Karen was a registered nurse for sixteen years. She now spends her time helping young parents raise accountable kids and reveling in grandmotherhood.
Read an Excerpt
á Chapter One á
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
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 didn't know what they were like, where they were from, or what they did for a living, but we did 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 our kids-Kristin, Tara, Michael, Molly, Charlene, Jazzy, and Natasha-have truly enjoyed. 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' parenting.
Some people will pursue the "nature versus nurture" debate, but we'd rather not go there in this book. Sure, some traits or characteristics 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 how to raise accountable kids and embracing personal accountability in parenting, we prefer to encourage all dads and moms-including ourselves-to not look beyond how we parent for reasons why our children think, feel, or act the way they do. Today many people talk about "character building" for children and that's important, but the truth is, the character of a child is rooted in the way he or she is raised.
We know that this is a difficult notion for some parents to accept, so we're going to say it early to set a tone of personal accountability:
If parents have problems with their teen, they likely had problems with their toddler.
Recently, a parent shared this with us:
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 them 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! And this isn't the only area we see this sort of behavior. 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 instead, he initially ignores us and then says 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. They are a 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?" (We refer to these kinds of questions as Incorrect Questions, or IQs.) The right questions would be "What have I done to create my current problems?" and "How can I start parenting differently?" Questions like these, which we call QBQs and will explore in-depth in Chapter Four, not only represent accountable thinking but also 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.
We know that some will want to debate this, pointing to other influences in a child's life. It's understandable. But we've found it's easier to practice personal accountability in our parenting by not fighting this principle and instead embracing it. 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. And that is where raising accountable kids begins-with the parent.
á Chapter Two á
Parenting Is a Learned Skill
Before I got married, I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.
Karen settled into her seat for a two-hour flight. Directly behind her sat an adorable little boy, about four years old, flanked by his parents. Like most normal little guys, he was pretty active. Karen knew this because he was kicking her seat nonstop and they hadn't even lifted off!
This continued for several minutes until the dad threatened his son:
"If you keep kicking the lady's seat, Santa won't bring you anything for Christmas."
Overhearing the father's statement, Karen felt bad for the child. She was tempted to turn around to say, "It's okay. No problem!" but before she could, the behavior worsened-not the child's but the parents' behavior! The mom chimed in with this menacing message: "If you don't stop now, the police will come and take you to jail."
After the flight got under way, the little tyke settled down with a coloring book. All was peaceful, until the mom admonished, "You're coloring too hard. You're going to break the crayons. And stay inside the lines!"
About twenty minutes later the boy was given a DVD player with no headphones and allowed to loudly broadcast a movie for the next hour, disrupting the conversations, thoughts, and sleep of passengers all around him!
When the flight ended and the deplaning process began, Karen heard the couple say this: "Now I know why my parents gave us a shot of brandy before we traveled. Maybe we should try that next time!"
We all know that flying with small children can be challenging, but certainly we can all agree that the parents in this story could have handled their young son in a more effective manner. There is no doubt that they could benefit from a few parenting tips-but what mom or dad can't improve? The truth is this: Parenting is a learned skill. When moms and dads just "wing it" and don't seek any training to be the best parents they can be, the results they get may not be the results they hoped for when they chose the job. The truth is, we can all absorb new ideas, implement new practices, and form new habits-and when we do, both the parent and the child win.
á Chapter Three á
They're Watching Us
Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.
Hearing the phone ring, the parent yells to the eight-year-old, "Tell them I'm not home!"
A decade later, the parent yells at the eighteen-year-old, "Where did you learn to lie?"
Here's an unyielding, never-changing principle:
Modeling is the most powerful of all teachers.
So often we hear people blame Hollywood celebrities, politicians, and famous athletes for being poor role models. "How dare famous people fall off their pedestals and fail our kid," they lament. (Of course, these are pedestals that we should never have put them on in the first place.) Some parents even point fingers at teachers, coaches, clergy, neighbors, relatives, and family friends for "setting a poor example."
Who is the most critical role model for your child? Any answer other than "Me!" is a form of blame. If we want to raise accountable kids, we must avoid using other people and outside influences as excuses for what our child is or becomes. The outstanding parent who knows who the real role model is for their child asks this accountable question-a QBQ: "How can I set a better example today?"
Here's an idea: Before we worry about the negative impact those outside our families might have on our children, let's consider:
If I don't want my kid to text while he drives, I'd better not do it myself.
If I don't want my kid to go to R-rated movies, I should not see them, either.
If I don't want my children to speak harshly to each other, I should watch my tone. If I don't want my kid using foul words, I might want to keep my language in check.
If I don't want my kid to complain about others, I should temper my own criticisms.
If I don't want my kid to blame, I shouldn't scream at the ref during the Little League game.
If I want my kid to get more exercise, I better dust off my bicycle and take a ride.
If I want my kid to be friendly and outgoing, I should go meet the new neighbors.
If I want my kid to handle money well, I need to do the same.
Identify the behaviors you want your child to exhibit and then ask, "What can I do today to engage in these behaviors in my life?" That's accountable parenting, and that's how we raise accountable kids!
Remember, they're watching us.
á Chapter Four á
QBQ! The Question Behind the Question
A prudent question is one half of wisdom.
Personal accountability is a powerful principle, one that we want our children to learn and learn well! As parents, we teach accountability to our kids by eliminating victim thinking, complaining, procrastination, and blame from our parenting. When we lament about what our children are doing or not doing, when we delay action while waiting for others to "do something," when we point fingers looking for "whodunit"-we are not putting personal accountability into action.
But we can, and we do it through a tool called the QBQ.
QBQ stands for "The Question Behind the Question," and here's how it is defined:
QBQ is a tool that enables parents to practice personal accountability by making better choices in the moment.
And we accomplish this by asking better questions of ourselves. When faced with a parenting problem or frustration, our minds first tend to fill with questions like "Why won't my kids listen?" and "When will they do what I ask?" These questions are natural and understandable, but by focusing on everything and everyone except the person asking them, they demonstrate a lack of personal accountability. It's only when we stop and look behind those first questions that we find better ones-QBQs-like "What can I do differently?" and "How can I improve as a parent?" Asking these questions turns the focus back on ourselves and to what we can do to make a difference. It's nearly impossible to overstate the positive impact this simple change can have on our lives-and on our families.
The QBQ is a practical parenting tool that has three easy-to-apply guidelines to show us how to construct accountable questions:
1. QBQs begin with the words "What" or "How"-not "Why," "When," or "Who."
a. "Why?" questions lead to victim thinking and complaining, as in "Why is parenting so hard?" or "Why isn't my child a better student?"
b. "When?" questions lead to procrastination, as in "When will my kids start doing what I ask?" or "When will someone take care of that problem?"
c. "Who?" questions lead to blame and finger-pointing, as in "Who did it?" or "Who's going to help my child get better grades?"
2. QBQs contain the personal pronoun "I"-not "they," "you," or even "we"-because I can change only me. Example: "What can I do?"
3. QBQs always focus on action. Personal accountability is all about engaging in positive behavior now, making it possible for us to contribute and make a difference.
The underlying concept of the QBQ is this:
The answers are in the questions.
When we ask better questions, we get better answers. The QBQ guidelines show us how to build-and ask-better questions. We'll also explore the types of questions to avoid asking, but first here's a key point: QBQs are questions we generally ask of ourselves. The QBQ is a tool designed to help us reframe our own thinking. Certainly, there are some QBQs we can speak out loud-such as "What can I do to serve you?"-but more often than not a QBQ is a better question that we each ask of ourselves, because it's all about us discovering those better answers.
Furthermore, just as the QBQ helps us ask better questions, it guides us in making better choices. Parents have countless opportunities each day to make choices. And what is it that we are always choosing? Our next thought. A compelling opportunity for change exists in these individual moments when we can change our thinking. By helping us make better choices, the QBQ enables us to take charge of our thoughts and literally transform our lives-and our parenting.
We know that moms and dads are looking for practical tools, and it's our belief that the QBQ is the how-to needed to parent more effectively. And to learn how to apply the QBQ, we must have some language and structure. "Incorrect Questions" (IQs) are the "Why?," "When?," and "Who?" questions that lead to victim thinking, complaining, procrastination, and blame. If you compare IQs with QBQs, you'll see how simple it can be to put the QBQ into action:
Why doesn't my daughter ever take my advice? What can I do to understand her needs?
When will my son open up to me? How can I build a more trusting relationship?
Who made the mess in here? What can I do to help my child learn good habits?
Take a moment to review the IQ/QBQ comparisons above. Be aware of how it feels to ask an accountable question, a QBQ. Imagine the difference bringing more personal accountability to our parenting will make in our families. And rest assured, employing QBQs is a practice one can engage in immediately!
Cory, a thirtysomething salesperson and father of two boys, attended a corporate QBQ training session. Recognizing the value of the QBQ beyond the workplace, he was excited to try it with his family. With the notion of IQs and QBQs fresh in his mind, he pulled his sons to his side and asked, "Boys, what can I do to be a better dad for you?"
Table of Contents
1 Personal Accountability 1
2 Parenting Is a Learned Skill 6
3 They're Watching Us 8
4 QBQ! The Question Behind the Question 11
5 "Why Me?" 16
6 Learn to Earn 19
7 No Complaining 23
8 Procrastination: The Friend of Failure 26
9 The Urgency of Now 29
10 "Whodunit?" 31
11 No Excuses 34
12 Parental Abdication 38
13 Never Forget the "I" 41
14 Life Is Fair 44
15 QBQ Humility 47
16 Be Present 50
17 Becoming a Strong Parent 54
18 Do the Hard Stuff 59
19 Strong Parenting Begins with Strong Values 61
20 No Enabling Allowed 64
21 Elevate Your Expectations 68
22 QBQ Encouragement 72
23 Let Them Be Them 75
24 Flipping the Switch 78
25 Speak Well 80
26 Team Family 83
27 Family Stress Is a Choice 86
28 Regrets No More 91
29 Truth Builds Trust 95
30 Trust Is Earned 97
31 Blending Is Hard Work 100
32 The Grandparent Factor 104
33 The Financial Piece 108
34 Equipping for Life 113
35 The Ultimate QBQ 117
36 Teaching the QBQ 120
37 Adopting the QBQ 127
38 Practicing the QBQ 130
Personal Reflection and Group Discussion Questions 139
Getting More Out of QBQ 155