We often parent in the present, losing sight of our child’s future. A child’s psychological and emotional development will last them for a lifetime. The argument is often forgotten the next day. Many common parenting mistakes arise from situations where we make short-term decisions in a desperate attempt to either get our child to behave or protect their feelings. If your child throws slams a door when they don’t get what they want, you can choose to surrender to end the problem. Or take a firm stand explaining to them why their reaction is wrong. The former might be made with the best of intentions. Its positive effect is temporary at best and can have consequences in your child’s view of entitlement and how to behave in a relationship.
Admittedly, parenting is one of the most sensitive jobs out there. But this does not mean that parents don’t have room to make mistakes and learn themselves. Neither does it mean that every error a parent makes causes irreparable damage. Children can be more resilient than they’re given credit for. In an interview at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s annual meeting, Dr. Karen L. Weihs of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona remarked that she and her colleagues found a higher impairment threshold among children than had been previously reported.
7 Most Common Parenting Mistakes Parents Make
Every parent loves their child. This can sometimes lead to mix-ups where parents are soft when they should be firm and vice versa. The goal is to find a balance between softness and firmness that benefits both you and your child. Here are some common parenting pitfalls to look out for:
- All advice and no modeling. Giving sound advice to your child is wonderful, but the child needs to see you taking your own advice. Children mirror their parent’s behaviors. As an extreme, telling your child hitting is wrong, and then you use spanking as a corrective tool. To say to them that they must eat their vegetables as you don’t. Shouting at them for being lazy, when they have never seen you in a pair of trainers. Think about that lazy boss at work who passes judgment on you. Do you respect them or, in time, ignore what they say. Stepping in to correct the child would show up your inconsistent parenting. We talk about the importance of modeling here.
- Stepping into the best friend role. Trying to double as your child’s best friend comes with its pitfalls, though it can seem sweet on the surface. As a parent, you need to set and enforce boundaries, and you can rest assured that your child will test those boundaries every chance they get. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a friend to your child, but if you find yourself avoiding important difficult conversations for fear of losing their friendship you have made a common parenting mistake. Where another parent would hold their ground, the parent doubling as the best friend may falter. This usually happens because the need to keep the peace outweighs the need to enforce the rules and risk upsetting the child.
- Trying to live through your child. Parents don’t always know when they’re doing this. Perspective can be lost as parents do what they think is best for their kids. This leads to a situation where parents pursue their own goals through their child without being conscious of it. “Often we start thinking about our kids as our’ second chance’ to succeed in accomplishing those goals,” says Lucia Giovannini, a doctor of psychology and counseling and the author of A Whole New Life. “This makes kids feel torn between what they would like to do and what their parents want them to do. When you want to give your child advice about making life choices, check with yourself to make sure you are setting your own goals aside and being present for him or her instead.”
- Overusing positive reinforcement and praise. A lot has been written about using positive reinforcement, which essentially involves catching good behavior and praising your child for it. Make sure that you applaud effort rather than tell them that they are brilliant all the time. Labels can become a burden to your child in the long run. Labels come with expectations, and your child may become afraid of not living up to them. This can make them withdraw from trying as they feel pressure for perfection that they can not match.
- Taking on your child’s battles. This is a common parenting weakness. Parents’ instinct is to always protect their children from the bad and the ugly. But that instinct can grow into an overprotectiveness that hinders the child from really experiencing the world. This can translate into parents doing their child’s homework, stopping the child from playing, or restricting their social circle. Because this is coming from a place of love, parents can often be blind to the implications. The implication is that the child won’t get to make their own mistakes and learn. One of the biggest lessons mistakes teach children is that actions have consequences. Making mistakes also teaches them resilience. If your child struggles to make friends you should give them the skills for life rather than solve the problem in the short term.
- Disagreeing with your partner in front of your child. Disagreeing with your partner in front of your child is like giving your child the ammo to divide and conquer you both. If your partner bans your child from watching TV for four weeks and you think that’s too much, don’t say it in front of the child. Even after speaking to your partner alone, avoid saying something like, “I told your dad that four weeks is too long,” as a way to pacify your child indirectly. This tells your child that you can help them avoid accountability if they push hard enough. We talk here about why parenting must be joint.
- Lying and tricking your child. This is one of the worst parenting mistakes you can make. Your child trusts you to help them understand the world. Lying or deceiving them can cause resentment when they find out later. Research done in collaboration with Canada’s University of Toronto and the University of California suggests that lying to kids makes it more likely that they’ll hide the truth when they get older. Assistant Professor Setoh Peipei, the research’s lead author, remarked that “Parenting by lying can seem to save time especially when the real reasons behind why parents want children to do something is complicated to explain. When parents tell children that ‘honesty is the best policy’ but display dishonesty by lying, such behavior can send conflicting messages to their children. Parents’ dishonesty may eventually erode trust and promote dishonesty in children.”
Final Thoughts on Common Parenting Mistakes
A lot of parents beat themself up for a long time because of a common parenting mistake they made. Holding on to these mistakes sometimes hinders the growth of your relationship with your child. Understanding that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent can be the first step to forgiving yourself. Mistakes are part of parenting. When it does happen, recognize it and interrogate yourself to find out why it happened. Then begin to make amends by apologizing and discussing with your child to determine how it affected them. Learn, take reparative actions and try to move on from it.