10 Steps for Overcoming Sloppy Parenting Habits

Paying the price for sloppy parenting is no fun – for parent or child.

It would be nice to say this is a theoretical situation, just a teaching moment for parents needing advice, but that’s not the case. Once again, you get to learn from my mistakes.

I have issues with saying, “No.” It’s probably rooted in some big psychological issue a therapist could mine the depths of for hours. But there’s no time for that today.

With one of my kids, in particular, I’ve gotten sloppy. In the spirit of building trust and offering compromises, as well as good doses of conflict-avoidance and fatigue, I’ve neglected to give firm and loving “no’s.”

It’s easy to slide into bad habits that aren’t too noticeable at first until they come back around and bite you in the butt, which is exactly what happened last week.

During a visit with one of my best friends, my child’s behavior was beyond challenging. Out of our routine, lacking sleep, and eating differently were all factors, but it was clear this was also an ingrained habit.

Even parent coaches need coaching sometimes, and my friend is close enough to tell me the truth. “You’ve got to stop allowing him to negotiate with you. Remember, no negotiating with terrorists.”

It doesn’t help that this kid is very smart and, like two of his older brothers, he can make an incredibly convincing argument. One day this will be a strength, I’m sure, but it has become a rather exhausting way to parent.

It’s not fun having my weaknesses pointed out, even by a friend who loves me and loves my kids. It’s not easy shoring up my parenting skills in someone else’s home while my husband is out of town. But after a particularly trying day at the Seattle Center, there was no doubt about it, a firm and simple “no” needed to make it’s way back into my toolbox.

Thankfully, I’ve already had many opportunities to practice, in fact, they seem to come around constantly. I’ve created this problem and I need to fix it.

I’m following ten steps to get back on track.

10 Steps for Overcoming Sloppy Parenting

1.| Recognize the problem.

2.| Be kind to yourself and remember even great parents get off track.

3.| Talk it through with your spouse, a good friend, or even a parent coach.

4.| Determine your strategy for turning it around – I’ll share mine in a moment.

5.| Explain the problem to your child and your responsibility in creating it.

6.| Let him know the new plan. Have compassion; this may be hard for him.

7.| Remind him of your love and what a great kid he is.

8.| Do it – follow your plan. When you slip back into your sloppy habits, correct yourself and get back on track.

9.| Ask a friend or spouse to hold you accountable, or write a blog post for thousands of people to read so you won’t be tempted to give up.

10.| Follow through and patiently wait for the good to come.

I knew I had this weakness and it became glaringly obvious. My friend encouraged me to make changes – to say “no” and stick to it even if I regretted my answer or my son had incredibly intelligent reasons for me to say “yes.”

The night after our Seattle Center debacle, I sat with my son at bedtime. I told him how much I adore him, then explained it’s been hard to enjoy being with him because of his arguing and constant negotiating. I said we needed to change this bad habit and I would be giving firm “no’s” that he needed to accept. I took responsibility for allowing this bad habit to grow.

When he does a good job of accepting “no” I praise him in a low-key way, (good job accepting “no”), give him a hug, or give him space if he is unhappy. When he doesn’t accept it and arguing ensues, I use as few words as possible, and if absolutely necessary, walk away.

I do what I can to set him up for success by saying “yes” when I can and giving a firm “no” when I can’t.

It hasn’t been easy, and today, as the kids begin waking, I remind myself of this plan.

Today, my ‘yes’ will be ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ will be ‘no.”

How about you? Have you slid into parenting habits you need to break? Join me and let’s do it together!

I have a new Free download at The Adoption Connection, 8 Ways to Help an Adoptive or Foster Mom. I know how hard it is to ask for help. This resource includes a one-page sheet you can give to family and friends.

I also offer parent coaching and marriage mentoring on my resource site, The Adoption Connection, where we cut through the overwhelm, get into your specific needs, and make a plan to bring about the changes you desire in your adoptive or foster family.

Have a fantastic week – happy and consistent parenting, friend!


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Sarah Bramblett
    July 9, 2018

    Oh Lisa,

    I’m 30 years into parenting and my 15 year is a killer negotiator with no formal debate training.

    I’m digging out myself. RIGHT NOW. She wasn’t believing me when I said it was bad again. But each time I take her phone and up the anti, with further lost privileges or extra chores very quickly, she is seeing that I’m serious and it’s improving quickly.

    It’s SO EXHAUSTING. But I’ve owned my part too and tell her “I’m the adult and we’re not stuck… I’m going to make changes and YOU WILL get on board or there will be a big shift in your privileges” Or whatever it is that motivates that child.

    I’ve realized that my two issues are.
    1. Avoid conflict or minimize it. I’m dealing with with sleep apnea and am so exhausted.
    2. Not wanting to be harsh or make her not feel heard.

    But this Kids doesn’t do it to my husband because he doesn’t put up with it. So my H has encouraged me to just be firm. I’ve done enough listening right now. It’s not helping her to let her believe this is acceptable.

    So I’m right there with ya!!!
    WE CAN DO THIS. AGAIN😊😉👏🏻👍🏻🙃😏

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 10, 2018

      Yes, we can, Sarah! p.s. I hear you about the lack of sleep – not good for awesome parenting.

  2. Rebecca
    July 9, 2018

    Right there with you.
    Irony is I was that kid. My mom was more flexible than I think she should have been with everyone (read: got run over a lot by both adults and kids). I swore I wouldn’t be like that, but here I am. Feeling like every day is an exception and tomorrow will be easier. I also have a child with killer negotiating skills and plenty of really good, well thought-out arguments. He’s teaching his brother, too. 😬
    Just an hour ago (before I read your post) we reinstated a system that worked well but we slacked off on implementing when we thought we were out of the woods. We weren’t. This next few weeks may be interesting and is certain to be harder on the parents who have to stick with it.

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 10, 2018

      I was that kid too! Sometimes we just have to re-boot our parenting skills. I hope it’s not too painful, Rebecca!

  3. Ann Hodgman
    July 10, 2018

    My daughter was so nervous taking her driving test that the inspector finally told her to pull over and let him drive them back to the DMV. She refused to get out of the driver’s seat. After she’d argued for twenty minutes, he finally gave in and re-tested her. That time she passed.

    Oh, the many times after that when we had to say, “We’re not your driving instructor.”

    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 10, 2018

      That is hilarious! Thanks for sharing that story, Ann.


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