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10 parenting mistakes to avoid

Updated on November 8, 2011

parenting mistakes

  • Letting Kids' Activities Overwhelm Your Schedule: Sure, you used to have a life.Now you have soccer games, swim practice, gymnastics, and tennis lessons."Don't let the youth sports cartel run your life," says Jen Singer, author of You're A Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren't So Bad Either). "Until your kids are at least in 5th grade, limit them to one sport per season. It's easier on you, your kids' knees, and your mini-van's tires if you're not rushing from one sport to another all year long."
  • Using Language That Shuts Down Communication: You may think you're talking straight to your kids, but what you say and what they hear may be too different things.As Mike Domitrz of the Date Safe Project says,"'If anyone touches you, I'll kill ‘em," is a line most daughters have heard at one point or another.This statement is very damaging. If someone does touch the daughter inappropriately, she may be too scared to tell anyone because she's afraid of her parents' reaction."A better solution?Remind your children you're there for them always, without making threats.

Another mistake? Telling your kids what life will be like "in the real world." "A teenager's world is so real that suicides are highest in the teenage years," Domitrz says. "Do not belittle your child's life. Instead, relate to their struggles so they know you are there to support them."

  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Yeah, right.Actions speak louder than words, buddy.And would you really want your kids to be following a hypocrite?

Alright, then. Remember your children's eyes are upon you, and what you do does matter. Even small lies (like, "Oh, tell her I'm not home," when the gabby neighbor calls) can be a go-ahead to other untruths. And when you lose the honesty in the relationship, what do you have left?

  • Avoiding the "Big Talk": Not all conversations will be fun, but it's our job as parents to do the tough stuff - and that includes talking about sex. "It's a mistake to think you can keep children immune from outside influences and sexually naïve until you're ready to talk about sex," says Melanie J. Davis, M.Ed., of Honest Exchange LLC."In reality, children need and want to learn about sexuality, values, and decision making from their parents.And it's not just the mechanics of puberty and reproduction they need to learn about, but also how to recognize and insist on healthy relationships."Davis suggests encouraging your children to take pride in their sexual selves, even if their appearance, orientation, and gender don't fit the norm."We can help them think about their sexual boundaries and gain skills in communicating so those boundaries are respected," she says.
  • The "We're Buddies" Syndrome: You may want to be their friend, but your children need you to be their parent."Children, especially young ones, need a dependable, confident authority in their life," says Brenda Nixon, MA, author of Parenting Power in the Early Years .She cites the following as examples of not stepping up to the parenting plate: being wishy-washy about rules, begging for cooperation, or acting like an emotional toddler." Don't cheat a child out of having a parent. Be the parent and let the same-age playmates be his friends," she advises.

Here are more parenting mistakes, commonly made -- yes, even by us!

  • The "Your Brother Was Always So..." Complex: Comparing siblings is always a serious mistake -- take it from one who knows.I grew up hearing I was the smart one and my younger sister the pretty one. I always heard I was the ugly one, while, as an adult, my sister admitted thinking she was dumb because of my parents' ill-phrased comparison."Comparing is a big no-no," says Dr. Leslie Beth. "Within the same family, siblings are most often different from each other, due to a mix of genetics, birth order, family phase, and events."Your children want to feel unconditional love from you, so remind yourself of each one's unique and amazing qualities - and skip the comparisons.
  • Being TOO Helpful: Remember Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up?Well, there are some little boys and girls who do want to grow up - but their parents refuse to let them.

Leadership coachMichelle Kunz remembers one such instance. "I was with my nine year old at his annual physical, and the pediatrician asked him about his diet. I was the one who answered! After about three of these Q&A's the doctor, finally, and kindly, but firmly instructed me to allow my son to be capable - to let him handle the things a nine year old is capable of handling, including his own worries, friend issues, and answering questions that other people ask him. Wow, that was a real wake-up call!"

Kunz points out that, by being too helpful, we send a lifelong message to our children that they are not capable. "We are now working to hand these appropriate levels of responsibility back to our son, where they belong," Kunz says. "We simply tell him we have every confidence that he will work it out. We plant the seeds of confidence and capability and leave him to work things out on his own. And you know what? He does."

  • Forgetting To Think Of Ourselves, Too: Picture this: you're exhausted and overwhelmed because you've taken care of everything and everybody at home - well, everybody except yourself, of course.And then your child decides to misbehave - in the middle of the grocery store. Frantically, you whisper pleas, then threats, which evolve into bribes.

"When we don't take of ourselves first, we become dependent on our kids," says Kirk Martin of Calm Classrooms. "Here's what we're really saying in that moment: "I am so tired and I cannot deal with a tantrum right now, so I need you to behave. Because if you can't control yourself right now, I'm not sure I can control myself." We have now given power over our emotions to a child." So keep in control by taking care of yourself, and making sure you get the down time you need to stay rested and stress-free (well, as stress-free as possible when you have a child).

* Breaking, Not Bending: Sure, rules and consequences need to be consistent (you knew that one, right?). But they also have to bend and adjust, especially as the child matures (in age or in attitude). "Know your child," says Dr. Wish. "For example, one of my client mothers has three sons. Her oldest son hides out in his room and reads and writes music. Punishing him by sending him to his room is a gift-not a punishment. And disallowing him to come with you to Grandma's to swim in her pool with all the other cousins is also a gift. Yet, somehow, the mother did not take his unique qualities into consideration when she sent her son to his room for being snappy with his next oldest sibling," he notes.

A better way to teach this child good behavior would have been to require her son to help his brother with a project, Wish points out. "The older son learned patience and social skills and also boosted his self-esteem. Spontaneously, the older son offered to help again." A happy ending - with minimal bending.

  • The Narcissus Simplex: Is your son the next Michael Phelps? Is your daughter a whiz at quiz bowl? Is your baby destined for "American Idol"? Get this through your head: It isn't about you.

"Remember, it isn't about you," says Dion McInnis, author of God You're Beautiful: What We Say, We Say To God . "Neither the successes nor the failures of your children can, or should, be something that the parent holds full title to."

"As parents, we can guide, nurture, teach, mentor, discipline ,and reward. But unless a parent is raising a robot, there can be no "programming." Freedom will always rears its head, and that is a beautiful thing," McInnis adds. "When children do exceedingly well, it may be due, in part, to our genes, our support, or our counsel, but it is not BECAUSE of us. It is because of the children. When children struggle and fail, or trip and fall, it may be influenced by things parents didn't provide or didn't see in time, but it is not completely the fault of the parent, either. Parents must be responsible, loving, caring, appropriately protective, and reasonable with discipline, and after that it is out of the parents' hands."


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