Discussion Questions on “Parenting Backwards”

It is insightful to consider the concept of parenting backwards, and think about the behaviors/values that are important to teach our children now so that they can grow up to be productive, responsible adults. Can you each give an example of one value that is important to you and share with us ways that you are teaching this to your child/children?

When you are not sure how to parent your child in a certain moment, the most important thing to do is to keep calm (acting like you know exactly what to do so that your child cannot tell even if you are uncertain). Since reading this book, have you had a situation where you asked yourself, “What would Bette say”?

Do you understand the concept of a “Love Tank” that Bette writes about? How can you work towards filling up your child/children’s love tank?

One of the common themes in “Parenting Backwards” is the idea that a mother needs to take care of herself. She tells us to be selfish at times in order to help kids learn that adults come first. In the “Letting Go” chapter, Bette talks about teaching kids to be independent as they grow and not losing sight of your own interests. Find your passion and remember to laugh! What are you doing on a regular basis that is just for you and not your child/children?

One of my favorite concepts in the book was the idea of a “tool belt.” Bette’s parenting tool belt included having a support network; empathy; patience; perspective; night out; love for her kids; humor; listening; leading by the shoulders; uh oh!; and “Let me know.” What is one parenting tool that you learned to work on or can relate to after reading this book?

Bette reminds us to choose your battles. Will this matter 30 years from now? Give an example of behaviors or reasons why you may struggle to set limits and say no to your children? Or give an example of a battle worth fighting.

Bette says to please remember, “When you can tolerate your kid’s discomfort, you will give them the greatest gift of their lives—the ability to tolerate discomfort themselves!” She also says that “Any behavior that is fed will grow!” What is one technique we can use to teach good behaviors?

How do we know in which direction we are headed? Bette compares our tempers/actions to be headed toward either Mt. Vesuvius (the site of dangerous volcanoes in Italy) or Mt. Olympus (the legendary home of Greek gods). To help us direct our focus with our children towards Mt. Olympus, she recommends developing a family mission statement. What are your thoughts about having a family mission statement that summarizes your family values?

In chapter four, Bette talks about how we can teach our kids to be a member of the family team by showing them some of our passions. Share with us ways that you incorporate your children into some of your own passions/hobbies/activities.

Bette reminds us that traditions that you do with your kids help make the family glue stronger. Do you have a tradition from your childhood or in your family today that you will always cherish and want to pass on?

Another concept Bette writes about is that of “Don’t go down the rabbit hole.” When you or your kids are frustrated, or angry, don’t yell back at your kids. She recommends staying calm to limit anxiety and teach coping skills. For example, “I’ll just sit here and wait until you’re ready.” Chapter five discusses coping skills including label the feeling, acknowledge, limit-setting, values infusion, and recovery. What are ways that you can help yourself stay calm in a high-stress moment, and make that time a teachable moment?

Bette says it is okay to make mistakes in front of our kids so that they can also see us learn. Kids become what they see. Per chapter three, we are like mirrors. If we look and see ourselves in our kid’s behavior and don’t like what we see, then we recognize that we need to make a change in order to see change in them. Did this book help you to internalize and recognize your kid is doing what he sees?

Bette says that when your child misbehaves, ask yourself, “How would I want my child to handle this if someone else did it to him?” Reflect on that statement and how you can apply it to your parenting tool belt.