Ah, parenting mistakes – if the average mom or dad had a dollar for every time they screwed up, they could pay for their child’s college degree with cash. The truth is it’s impossible to be a perfect parent, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try to get as close to perfection as we can.
One way to do this is by avoiding the most common parenting mistakes, including the following:
1. Invalidating your child’s feelings
It’s easy to invalidate your child’s feelings without realizing the damage. If your daughter tells you that her feelings were hurt at recess, it might feel right to tell her not to cry or not to worry about it. But the failure to empathize with your child backfires, leaving them feeling misunderstood and unwilling to share their insecurities in the future. Instead of dismissing her tears or concerns as no big deal, tell her that you can understand why she’s hurt and remind her that you are always on her side.
2. Neglecting your child
Neglect doesn’t need to be willful or intentional to leave a lasting mark; many parents neglect their children because other things, like career, get in the way. But any form of neglect, whether physical or emotional, sets children up for a poor sense of self and invites them to act out; after all, they have to get your attention somehow. One of the most important things you can do as a parent is listen – so, go on, and lend ‘em your ears!
3. Micromanaging their every move
Micromanaging is rarely successful, whether it’s done in your child’s bedroom or in your office boardroom. With kids, micromanaging leaves mom and dad doing too many things for their child, ultimately disallowing that child to learn things for themselves, discover their talents, and become self-reliant. The more your son or daughter sees themselves being successful, the more they’ll want to chase that success. And the more effort they’ll put in.
4. Playing the comparison game
Do you like to be compared to other parents? Probably not and kids feel the same way when you compare them to their peers. Children, like all of us, are individuals with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Pointing out that Little Martha is better than your child in math will only introduce low self-esteem. Besides, Little Martha still wears a diaper at night.
5. Making threats to get them to do what you want
There is a fine line between threatening a child and introducing consequences. Telling your son that he won’t get to eat dessert unless he finishes his string beans is not a threat; it’s simply showing him that he must earn his reward. On the other hand, yelling at a child that you’ll never fix them dinner again unless they clean their plate leaps way across the boundary. This kind of parenting won’t teach your child to be responsible for their own behavior; conversely, it’ll only promote an environment of fear.
6. Living through them vicariously
It’s only natural to want our children to succeed but we must give them space to succeed in the areas that interest them. Forcing your own wishes, desires, or “what might have beens” on your kid eventually leads to resentment. They might be as interested in baseball as you are; then again, they might prefer baking and choose oven mitts over leather mitts. Let them determine their hobbies and support them in those choices (within reason – you probably don’t want to support a child who decides their passion is jumping off the roof into the bushes below).
7. Over-scheduling them
Scheduling too many things is very common with parents – singing lessons on Monday, soccer on Tuesday, horseback on Wednesday, art on Thursday, and gymnastics on Friday. Yet being too busy can burn a child out and leave them bullying others. In order to avoid overscheduling, ask your child to pick one or two favorite hobbies and concentrate on those. They can always join the water polo team next year.
8. Allowing too much screen-time
It’s extraordinarily common to allow your child to spend too much time watching TV, playing video games, and surfing the internet. Let’s face it: When kids are distracted by their electronics, parents get a much-needed break. But too much screen-time can impair brain function, cause mood swings, decrease social skills, and trigger insomnia. It can also lead to obesity, as kids spend more time on the couch and less time on their bicycles.
9. Perpetuating inconsistency
Slow and steady wins the parenting race, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to stay on pace. A discipline style that rotates between “scary authoritarian” and “best friend” can’t help but confuse the child. Without consistent standards, they won’t know what to expect and, thus, they won’t know what constitutes good behavior and what constitutes bad.
10. Lacking rules
While raising your child in an environment that is overly strict isn’t fair, neither is one that reminds people of Lord of the Flies. Most children find it challenging to live without any rules, regulations, or limits. Rules, if nothing else, tell your child what to expect, helping to make the unknown known and heading off the threat of anxiety.
11. Yelling at your spouse
This is another often made mistake and one that most parents are guilty of at times. But fighting with your spouse in front of your child can negatively influence their mental health and teach them that aggression is the way to solve conflict. It can also increase the odds that they’ll end up in romantic relationships that are volatile and tense.
12. Not practicing what you preach
Kids learn most from observation, including watching what you do. If you tell a child that they can’t have their iPad at the dinner table and then sit down glued to your smartphone, you’ll confuse them. You’ll also cause resentment as they wonder why the rules apply to them but not to you.
13. Not forgiving yourself
Of course, all of this sounds easy enough on paper. In practice, however, it’s impossible to uphold while batting a thousand. Moms and dads, behind their parent exterior, are only human, prone to making mistakes. So, when you err, forgive yourself and then try to do better the next time around. This not only practices self-compassion, but it shows your child that it’s okay to screw up, make amends, and grow.
Parenting mistakes come with the territory; even if you’re the mother or father of the year, you’ll make them often. It’s hard raising children and it’s unfeasible to get it right 100% of the time. But the above tips can act as a guide, giving you the best chance to raise strong, self-assured kids and save all sort of money on therapy in the process.