7 Parenting Mistakes Everyone Makes But No One Talks About
As parents, we all want the best for our kids. But we all make mistakes. And while parenting mistakes may not be brought up at birthday parties and playdates, you can be reasonably sure most parents have struggled with at least a few of these.
1. Protecting Your Child From Every Risk
It's hard to see your child going through anything difficult, from getting a bump or scrape, to dealing with the mean kids on the playground. A common parenting mistake, however, is protecting your child from any hard situation. Recent research shows that insulating our kids from adversity may make them less resilient in the long run, leading to depression when faced with the real problems in life.
Start building resilience in your children early on by allowing them to take risks, and to experience and solve problems by themselves. At the same time, ensure that they feel loved and accepted, which will help them to have the courage to tackle challenges outside the home.
2. Structuring Too Much of Your Child's Time
In today's climate of "tiger" parenting, it can often feel like you have to schedule your child for every activity in order to get ahead. But research shows that over-structuring your child's time — whether with violin lessons, language studies, art classes, or sports teams — can actually harm his or her "executive function," the ability for the child to self-direct their own activities. Research shows that self-regulation and free play are vital for the child's future independence and academic achievement. So let your child enjoy being in charge of his/her own little world.
3. Praising Your Child in the Wrong Way
We know that parental approval and praise is an essential part of building a child's self-esteem, but we have to be cautious of how we dole out that praise. Excessively praising everything your children do can actually damage them in the long run, causing them to be afraid of trying new things or challenging themselves, for fear of losing their parents' approval. Recently, studies have shown that excessive praise can feed narcissism and over-inflated egos. At the same time, withholding praise can also cause insecurity. So how should we praise our kids?
Experts tend to think that praising their effort is the best way to praise our children. Instead of saying "You're so smart!" or "You won!" focus instead on the effort that your child put in to achieve their goal. Praise kids in proportion to how much they deserve it — don't make a big deal out of something that should be a routine responsibility. Tell them you're proud of them when they treat others with kindness and generosity. Tell your kids often that you love them, but don't send the message that they are better than or superior to other children.
4. Shaming Your Child
We all want our children to behave, but sometimes the methods we choose can have lasting consequences. Embarrassing your child in public may force them to behave as you wish in the short-term, but is unlikely to improve your relationship in the long-term. Shame is one of the most painful and anxiety-causing experiences of childhood. Because shaming attacks the person, rather than the behavior, it can damage a child's self-esteem. And because shaming denotes a lack of respect for the child, it can in turn cause the child to lose respect for the parent.
If you find yourself yelling phrases like, "What's wrong with you?" or berating your child in public, you may need to check your own behavior. It can be hard to be kind when you're frustrated, but be mindful of how you speak to your child. Treat him/her the way you would like to be treated, and use words that foster mutual respect.
5. Not Taking Time to Empathize
One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to be empathetic to your child. Empathy means truly listening to your child, understanding how he or she feels, and putting yourself in your child's shoes. The problem is, it's not always easy to empathize with your child when you're tired, busy, in a hurry, and your child is screaming their head off in the Target checkout lane.
Remember that children aren't necessarily trying to push your buttons — they just don't have the tools to manage their emotions yet. Get down at your child's level, look into their eyes, and try to understand how they're feeling. We all need to have our feelings acknowledged by a loving, accepting, parent. While you may not agree with the feelings or behavior, and will still need to enforce boundaries, simply letting your child know that you see how he/she really feels will go a long way towards fulfilling their emotional needs.
6. Refusing to Admit You're Wrong
As parents, we want to hold onto the authority in the household. But as role models, if we never admit our mistakes, how can we expect our children to? Admitting when you're wrong, apologizing, and working to right that wrong, shows our children that we respect them, and that we are willing to accept responsibility for our actions. We need to teach our children how to learn from their mistakes, not to be defensive and evasive when we've done something wrong. In addition, swallowing our pride shows kids that we love them more than we love being right.
7. Being Driven by Guilt
We're all flawed humans, no matter how perfect your friends' parenting may seem on Facebook. Don't dwell on your mistakes and let guilt drive your relationship with your kids. Instead, enjoy your time with your children, and remember that tomorrow is another day. We're all trying to do the best job we can, so cut yourself a little slack.
What parenting mistakes do you struggle with?
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