The 4 Worst Mistakes Good Parents Make

We all know that kids don't come with instruction manuals. And now that my daughter is three, I could sure use some guidance more than ever. What I've learned in my short time as a mom is that we're all doing the best we can to be good parents. But the truth remains: Even good parents make mistakes. Here are some common ones you can start working on today to benefit everyone in your family. (See also: 13 Parenting Hacks That Will Save You Time)

1. Hovering

Children of all ages need to develop a sense of autonomy in the world. They need alone time, even in small doses. Parents need alone time, too. Yet, many awesome moms and dads hover around their kids all hours of the day so they won't miss out on all of life's milestones. Or, in some cases like mine, out of mere habit. Over time, this constant attention creates stress that kids pick up on in both big and small doses.

Letting go can be hard, especially with toddlers and preschoolers, but some scheduled independent play can help everyone. If you create a safe space free from obvious dangers (and maybe rotate some fun toys and art supplies), you can begin the process with confidence. Start with 15 minutes to a half hour on a Saturday morning and go from there. The amount of alone time will depend on your child's age and personality (take his or her lead), but he or she will probably enjoy the space as much as you will.

2. Over-Scheduling

Extracurricular activities are fun. They provide unique outlets for kids to develop interests in areas outside of academics and simple play. However, when well-intentioned parents sign their kids up for all those ballet classes, soccer teams, music lessons, scout troops, and other groups — they may be doing more harm than good. In fact, too many structured activities may "hinder children's executive functioning." In other words, they disrupt the development of those critical skills that revolve around decision-making, planning, prioritizing tasks, and more.

Researchers suggest that when kids control how they spend their free time — playing independently, for example — these important areas hone accordingly. There's even evidence that children with higher executive function will be "healthier, wealthier, and more socially stable throughout their lives." So, sign your little one up for a few fun things throughout the year, but keep some free time in the mix to allow their minds to grow and function well.

3. Comparing

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I have fallen into the comparison trap with my parenting on many different occasions. One mom is always put together while I'm sporting sweats and zero makeup. Another mom always comes prepared while I'm continually forgetting all the essentials. Yet another mom has her kids in line sans yelling while my own is going crazy despite my creative discipline techniques. The list goes on.

The thing with comparison is that you can't win in any of these scenarios. Everyone is always doing something better (or worse) than you at any given moment. Yet, at the same time, assumptions are dangerous, since we never truly know the whole story about someone else's life. The best you can do is revel in your own parenting accomplishments and fight the urge to stack yourself against others. Plus, being a better parent starts with paying attention to your own situation, not gazing at the family across the street.

4. Being Distracted

My mom has commented numerous times that her child-rearing years would have been totally different with the Internet and our many modern devices for checking in. In good ways and bad. I hear her on this one, since I'm guilty of being distracted by my cell phone from time to time. Okay. More often than I'd like to admit. Good parents try limiting their children's screen time, but it's time we pull back on our own. Who's with me?

Kids ages four through 18 were surveyed related to their parents' cell phone habits, and the response — no matter the age — was strangely similar. They're tired of competing with screens for attention. Try to unplug with your kids as often as possible. Leave your phone at home when you walk to the park. Never bring your device to the dinner table. Or perhaps set designated times to check your e-mails, texts, the news, or whatever else sucks you in the most often. That stuff will still be there, but the moments you spend with your kids are limited.

What parenting mistakes have you made? And what have you done to change your habits?

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Guest's picture

As a parent, I can honestly say I struggle with number 4. It's so easy to pick up the phone and check an email or respond to a text at any given moment but sometimes you just have to unplug.