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Go Ahead – Let Your Kids Grade Your Parenting

By Jim Daly
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Focus on the Family President Jim Daly shares about asking his kids to grade his parenting. When done right, this can be a meaningful and growing experience for you and your kids.
Focus on the Family President Jim Daly shares about asking his kids to grade his parenting. When done right, this can be a meaningful and growing experience for you and your kids.

Should a child ever “critique” or “review” their mom or dad’s parenting? Should your children “grade” your parenting?

Yes — if done so in the right spirit and in the right way.

In the corporate world, it’s known as “360-degree feedback” or a “multi-source assessment” — basically, a thorough review of one’s professional performance from a wide-range of people, including subordinates — in addition to one’s colleagues and supervisor.

As a father, I’m keenly interested in how I’m doing as a parent. It’s not that I’m hungry for affirmation or even acceptance from my sons. Instead, I want to make sure that I’m being as effective and as impactful as possible in certain key areas of their lives.

To be sure, this type of evaluation isn’t for the faint of heart, but if it’s administered and managed properly, a regular “parent check-in” process can prove tremendously helpful — not only to the moms and dads involved, but also the children participating in the exercise.

Your Parenting Report Card

Since our boys, Trent and Troy, were young and receiving school report cards, I’ve asked them to turn the tables and grade me. I call it “Dad’s Report Card” and I’ve asked them to assign a letter grade for each category ranging from an “A” to “F.”

Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive at first. After all, nobody’s perfect and we all have blind spots. But I’ve found it to be tremendously practical as it not only lets me get a sense of what’s working and what’s not – but has also provided me a game plan on how to be deliberate in the ever-fleeting days of their childhood.

Trust me when I tell you this — the years with your children will fly by like a bullet train. It literally seems like only yesterday that I was jumping with Trent and Troy on the trampoline in the backyard. They’re now 19 and 16 and well on their way to complete independence.

7 Categories to Grade Your Parenting

Here are the seven categories for evaluation:

1. Spending Time Together

In my role at Focus on the Family, I travel quite a bit, but what about the weeks I’m home? How are we spending our evenings and weekends? I’ve been grateful to bring them on some ministry trips — and I’ve always blocked out weeks of vacation each summer.

2. Spiritual Training

Are we reading scripture and praying together as a family? Am I stepping up to lead our boys towards a personal relationship with Jesus? You don’t have to be a seminary graduate to read and talk about the Bible. You also don’t have to have formal devotional time. It looks different for each family, especially based on children’s ages and stages of development.

3. Having Fun

When was the last time you laughed with your kids? It can be as simple as setting up a slip-n-slide in the backyard or going to the park around the corner from your house. What about some good, clean practical jokes? There’s a reason the Bible says a “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Lighten up. As Vin Scully, my favorite old baseball announcer says, “When you smile, that makes everybody else feel better.”

4. Feel Supported by Me

Am I my child’s worst critic or best cheerleader? Do they feel like I’m rooting for them or running them down? Support comes in many forms. It might be a short text or an encouraging note left on their bathroom mirror. Be generous with affirmations. To adapt the old business adage, catch them doing something right — and praise them for it. As you ask your kids to grade your parenting in this area, you may be surprised at what they say.

7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment

Good parents aren’t perfect. There’s no formula to follow, but there are ways you can grow every day. Focus on the Family’s 7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment gives parents an honest look at their unique strengths, plus some areas that could use a little help.

5. Teaching/Mentoring Life

I recently heard a father say he wasn’t interested in raising great kids — he wanted to raise kids who became great adults. Are you working yourself out of a job as a parent, teaching your sons and daughters how to “do life” down the road? Does your son know how to change the oil? Greet someone at a party or engage in conversation with a guest at the dinner table? Does your daughter know how to manage her finances? Be diligent and deliberate in making sure your kids are equipped for life. I’m talking practical stuff.

6. Recreation/Physical Activity

Our health is vital to our overall well-being. Watching movies together can be fun — but don’t be a couch potato family. Take a hike, ride your bikes. We’re an outdoor family and have explored numerous national parks — on foot and via ATV. There is something majestic and wondrous about exploring God’s creation together with your children.

7. Listening Well

It’s tempting to do a lot of talking when you’re a parent, but actually hearing your children — their hopes, dreams and even fears — is critical to making a strong personal connection. You may say they don’t talk much? It may take some time. Go out to breakfast together. Don’t turn it into an inquisition but ask questions — and listen carefully to their answers — or even what they may leave out.

Be Ready for Growth

Okay. If you asked your son or daughter to grade your parenting, what “grade” would you receive on the above report card? Brace yourself. Life is all about growth and improvement.

The lowest I’ve received is a “C” — in the category of spending time together. It was a particularly busy season and one of the boys let me know I was falling short. I appreciated the candor and made immediate adjustments.

I think this is a practical set of criteria — but be creative and don’t hesitate to revise it in order to best suit your situation. Most importantly, don’t shy away from constructive feedback. You and your kids are influencing one another every day and you can quickly get disconnected by misunderstandings and distractions.

For more practical parenting tips, I hope you’ll tune in to our daily radio program, download the podcast or go to www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting.

© 2020 by Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. 

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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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