5 Mistakes Every Parent Should Avoid
Parenting can be a slippery slope. Since every child is different, trial-and-error is our common approach to finding what works and what doesn't in raising them to be good people who aren't too quirky.
There are five common pitfalls facing parents that are often overlooked, but they are pebbles in a pond sending ripples throughout their children's development.
1. Allowing Kids to be Picky Eaters
At first glance, raising picky eaters might not sound like a big deal. At the heart of the issue, however, is the child using food to rob parents of control.
I'm a picky eater, so I can't expect my daughter to eat something I wouldn't, a parent argues.
Kids have an acute sense of justice. We no longer live in the "don't do as I do--do as I tell you" era. Parents must lead by example, and that includes eating a wide variety of nutritious foods and well-balanced meals and expecting their kids to do the same.
Many busy parents rely on fast-food and dinner from boxes and cans. Jammed schedules leave less time to prepare healthy meals, one factor in the boom of childhood obesity. Over 32% of kids and adolescents are overweight or obese, which is three times higher than it was a generation ago. Add sedentary screen time to the mix, and it's not surprising too many kids look like they successfully beat anorexia.
Although studies on the effects of food addiction aren't yet conclusive, a case can be made that kids crave fast food just as they would sugar and carbs. Has your child ever expressed a hankering for kale or cauliflower? Case closed.
Fast Food Addiction to KFC Explained
Do you prepare multiple meals each night to cater to your family's preferences? It's time to stop that nonsense!
You will be met with fierce resistance, but it will be worth it in the end when your family is healthier and you save tons of time and money with smart food preparation.
Serve your family well-balanced meals and require them to eat what you've prepared with gratitude whether they like it or not. This requires tough love. Your kids will pick at foods they don't like, and dinner will stretch into an eternity. Your kids think if they belabor meal time, they will avoid eating what they hate because it will soon be time to leave for ball practice or an appointment. By evening, they will be hungry but will hold out for a bedtime snack to make up for the lack at dinner.
Stay a step ahead of your kids. Tell your kids if they don't have time to finish their dinner, you will reheat it for their evening snack, and take away dessert. Most important, make good on your promise. If you cave, they keep the upper hand and will learn they can out-wait you.
As time goes on, your kids will realize they must eat what you fix or go hungry. Eventually, they will develop a tolerance for the variety and even like foods they may never have thought possible. Best of all, you will have established you are immovable on this issue, and they will stop complaining once they know it's pointless.
While your kids may never learn to like mushrooms or squash, they will grow up to be parents who provide their families with healthy, well-balanced meals and expect them to eat it. The cycle of "I'm a picky eater, so I can't expect my kids to eat something I won't" will be over.
2. Giving Young Kids Cell Phones
Starting in elementary school, kids are given cell phones by parents who are overly concerned about their kids fitting in with screen junkies in this digital age. The average age kids receive smart phones is 10.
It was a hot summer day, and three fifth graders were enjoying girl time at the pool. One of the 10-year-old's played in the pool with her cell phone she kept sealed in a zip lock bag. She texted in the deep end while clinging to the side of the pool. She passed her baggie off to her pals to jump off the diving board, but quickly retrieved her phone after bobbing to the surface so she could continue texting while she swam and absently chatted with her friends.
Besties, sun, and a pool should be a sufficient recipe for fun to a 10-year-old on a summer day. If a child can't let go of a device for a refreshing dip, it should clue all parents that screen addiction is a real problem.
The lifeguard blew the whistle indicating a 15-minute break from swimming. A group of teenage boys, cell phones in hand, motioned to their buddy to join them. "I'm going retro and reading a book," the teen responded. First, let's mourn that reading is considered outdated by today's youth. Second, let's applaud this young man's parents for teaching their son self-discipline and not allowing screen to be his master.
But I work, and I need my kids to be able to get in touch with me after school.
Parents have been working for decades before cell phones were invented. How did kids survive? Since many parents have abandoned land lines, it is wise to make sure home base has a connection to the outside world. Many plans allow a flip-phones to be added for a minimal fee. Yes, a flip phone. Your kids can send and receive calls to keep them safe and in touch with family minus the bells and whistles that absorb their time and attention.
When is the right time to let your kids have a smart phone?
When your child is a teenager who maintains good grades and holds down a part-time job to finance a new phone, you can consider it. Even then, set clear boundaries. Since 54% of teens admit they spend too much time on cell phones, and the average teen wastes 9 hours per day on screens, your kids don't need sucked down the digital vortex.
As long as they live under your roof, it is reasonable to set smart phone perimeters. Here are a few suggestions:
- Cell phones can be taken when leaving the house. With human trafficking at epic proportions, equipping your kids with a life line is a good idea.
- Cell phones must not be used for forbidden purposes. Some parents lament their wayward daughters use smart phones to text dirty messages to boys but then act helpless about getting the situation under control. If your kids use cell phones to bully, post inappropriate pictures or language on social media, or connect with undesirables online, you maintain the right to confiscate their phones.
- Insist you have their pass code. Warn your kids you will be doing random inspections of their phones to see what they've been doing.
- Set time limits on how long kids have access to the phone. Cell phones are very distracting and don't belong at school, the dinner table, at the desk while studying or doing homework, or during family time. Have your kids drop their phones at a checkpoint, and let them know the allowable times they can be used.
Just because the majority of kids are glued to their cell phones like zombies doesn't mean your kids need to join the flow. Kids like to blend in rather than stand out, but you do your kids a disservice when you give them unfettered access to cell phones. You are the parent. Don't act like you have no control over this digital epidemic.
3. Not Making Them Get a Job
Do you remember chomping at the bit to get your driver's license so you could get a job, buy a car, save for college, or buy your favorite things?
There was a time when sixth graders started babysitting, mowing lawns, shoveling snow, and raking leaves to earn extra cash.
Not anymore. These days, older people post messages on online neighborhood boards asking if any young kids can help with jobs like this they now struggle to do. They rarely receive a response.
While there are some ambitious teens who start their own power-washing businesses to finance their education, they are becoming a rarer breed. What happened?
Parents overindulge their kids. They buy them everything they want and make excuses why they can't get jobs:
Cheer camp takes up most of the summer, so she won't be home to work.
He's too busy with football, basketball, and softball, so he can't work and get his studies done too.
Other parents feel their kids will grow up soon enough and have to work the rest of their lives, so why rush things? Let them enjoy this easy season of life.
Politically, we are seeing a surge in the number of congressional leaders who are advocating for socialism in America, even though it would bankrupt and destroy our nation and rob us of our freedom. It's not hard to understand why younger people are buying into the notion that somebody else should pay for them to have everything for free when parents are setting that kind of example.
It doesn't matter if you can afford to cover all of your kids' expenses--it's not good for them for you to do it. If they want the latest tennis shoe (not Nike), designer handbag, expensive perfume or make-up, let them get a job and pay for these finer things. When they join their friends for dinner and a movie while out on the town, expect them to pay their own way. Are they using your car? Require them to gas up before they come home.
A large part of parenting entails preparing your kids to be independent adults. When you foot the bill and deprive them of the pride and dignity of hard work, you create a spoiled dependent who lacks personal responsibility. Work teaches them the value of a dollar. They learn to budget, save, and prioritize. When they experience the time and effort investment of real work, they are more likely to reject socialists who would take 70% of their hard-earned money.
If your kids are so busy with activities that it prohibits them from working part-time by the age of 16, if not sooner, then it's time to cut out some of the activities, not the job.
4. Setting Boundaries And Not Enforcing Them
Many parental flubs can be lumped in with not executing consequences for disobedience. Kids are quick to call your bluff, and they become quite adept at knowing when you really mean it and when you're blowing smoke.
Enforcing boundaries is called discipline. It requires work on your part, and sometimes parents simply don't want to put forth the effort.
Have you ever known a child who was a heathen at home but the model student at school? Her parents attend the annual conference with the teacher, fully expecting to receive a bad report. When the educator doles out endless praise for their child, they think there's been some kind of mistake. Are we talking about the same kid here? This phenomenon occurs because the child has learned mom and dad are all talk and no action, but teacher follows through with consequences.
When parents are tired, stressed, distracted, or just plain lazy, they issue empty threats. Let's face it, taking away screen privileges might mean kids will run through the house and interrupt what mom is doing. Grounding your teen from the car means you have to be inconvenienced driving him everywhere. Disciplining a preschooler might mean she will cross her arms, furrow her brow, and be extra difficult to manage all day.
In all of these situations, caving in is easier for the parent in the short-term, but down the road, there will be hell to pay for not training your kids to tow the line. The sooner they learn disobedience always results in the promised consequence, the less and less they will test your boundaries.
5. Being Lackadaisical About Religious Faith
Parents striving to raise their children in their religious faith should be deeply concerned with this statistic: roughly 70% of Christian students going off to college fall away from their faith. A variety of factors play into the decline--becoming too busy with college life and studies, liberal indoctrination, secular influences, and few campus anchors to connect them to others of the same faith.
Once upon a time, going to church on Sundays and Wednesday nights for Bible studies was a non-negotiable requirement. Activities were scheduled around church commitments, not the other way around. Kids weren't entertained the entire service, but were versed in scripture and life application. Not only are some churches watering down the message to make kids' experience more "fun," but parents dangerously make church optional. Sleeping in and other extra-curricular activities are given prominence over seeking time with God regularly and revering that spiritual connection.
When parents make church optional, they set a precedent that time with God is less valuable than other pursuits. It's no wonder college kids lose their motivation to remain active in their faith when their lives fill up with other alternatives--parents taught them to fit God in when nothing else was happening.
Besides attending church regularly, what else can parents do to strengthen their children's faith? Start a scripture memorization program at home, pray together, connect them with other Christian kids their ages, do family Bible studies, teach them to serve others and not just themselves, and when they question whether something is wright or wrong, train them to seek God's Word for the answer and not rely solely on human wisdom.
Parenting isn't for the faint of heart, but with hard work, determination, boundaries, and lots and lots of love, you can overcome these common pitfalls. You will see the fruit of your labor of love in the lives of your well-adjusted adult children, and your example will help them raise their own kids right.
© 2019 Vivian Coblentz