January 23, 2023

What Don Draper Taught Me About Parenting

My kids — ages 9 and 12 — don’t want to do a lot of stuff. They hate showers (until they’re in them). They drag their feet going to school (but then generally enjoy it). They dread going to bed (even with the stars!).

For a long time, I dealt with their complaints by trying to be strict or being a cheerleader or listening to their negotiation pitches — “Mommy, just hear me out” is Anton’s famous line — but finally, after more than a decade of parenting, I figured out an approach that works for us.

I remembered this handsome fellow:

As Don Draper says, “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.”

So, now when Anton or Toby complain about something, instead of saying, “Well, you have to!” or “Stop complaining” or “Just do it!” I’ll tell them: “You DO have to do it but how can I help?”

Suddenly, we are not debating whether they have to do it. Instead I’m supporting them and we’re all moving forward. Bonus: I also like that it puts me on their side — instead of being the enemy. Now I’m the person making it BETTER, not worse. We’re all in it together!

As they grow up, this style of thinking also helps my kids learn how to tolerate something they don’t want to do and make the best of it. Win/win.

Here’s an example: “You DO have to go to school, so how can I help make it feel easier?” Then I’ll give some options: “Would you like to eat cereal in bed?” “Can I help you find your socks?” “Want to play Would You Rather on the walk to school?”

Another scenario: “You DO have to do your homework, so what will make it feel better? Would you like me to sit with you? Or to have a newly sharpened pencil? Or a glass of fizzy water?”

And a third: “You DO have to take a bath, so how can I help? Should we light a candle? Want a colander to make it rain? Afterward, want to use my hair dryer to dry yourself off?”

What do you think? Have you tried this before? What other parenting tips and tricks have helped you lately? I always love love love to hear…

P.S. 21 surprising parenting tips, and three words that changed how I parent.

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