Anyone who says parenthood isn’t hard is lying. It’s a demanding job that never ends and we’re usually questioning ourselves and wondering if we’re doing it right.
And the answer is usually that we’re doing just fine. But there ARE mistakes that even good parents make without realizing it. Here are some that you can avoid.
1. You expect your kids to be perfect
They never will be.
And it’s okay.
Because no one’s kids are perfect. There are no perfect parents either because no one is perfect! Expecting your kids to be perfect simply puts strain on them because they know they’re not perfect, and it sets you up for disappointment.
It doesn’t mean that your kids aren’t unique, special, and wonderful people. It just means they’re human…just like you are.
2. You’re inconsistent with the rules
Kids are smart. They learn very quickly if you really mean what you say. And if you say one thing and do something else then it’s open season for misbehavior as far as kids are concerned.
We used to have a preacher who was very inconsistent with his kids. My parents would watch him tell his kids that they had till “the count of 3” to stop whatever it was they were doing “or else”. But he’d get to “3” and the behavior would continue. He’d keep counting …and counting….and nothing ever happened (my dad would mutter…97, 98, 99). Those kids had learned that he never followed up with any consequences.
I’m not advocating anything inappropriate here. But if you tell your child they’ll be in time out or lose a privilege then you’d by golly better follow through. If you don’t….you’ve lost the upper hand (and getting it back is really hard!).
So here’s my advice: don’t ever threaten a punishment or consequence that you’re not willing to follow through with. Just don’t go there.
3. You do everything for your kids
We start out doing everything for our kids because they’re helpless . But kids grow quickly and become capable of doing different things for themselves as they grow. You’re not doing your kids any favors in the long run if you do everything for them. Doing chores and helping out is good for kids. It’s how they learn life skills, independence, and the value of work. If you do everything for them then you deprive them of these critical skills.
Is it sometimes easier to do things yourself…yes. It takes patience to teach a child to do things for themselves and to do chores around the house. They’ll mess up and they’ll need lots of practice until they get it right. But don’t give in to the temptation to just do things yourself because it’s faster (or because they’re not doing things up to your standards).
Look at it this way: you don’t want your child to be the one who is unable to wash his/her clothes when they leave home. You also don’t want your future daughter-in-law or son-in-law to wonder why you didn’t teach the things they needed to know to be a good partner.
Our ultimate goal is to send competent adults out into the world.
4. You don’t let your kids experience failure
This one is hard, I know.
As parents we want to protect our kids. We not only want them to be physically safe, but we want them to grow up feeling good about themselves…to feel confident in their abilities.
Unfortunately, sometimes people assume that the best way for their kids to feel confident is to protect them from ever experiencing failure. These are the helicopter parents who hover and swoop in just in time to prevent their child from failing – at anything.
Most kids will react to this in one of two ways: they’ll either grow up feeling over-confident in their abilities, or they’ll grow up feeling insecure because deep down inside they know that they’re not the capable person their parents have always assured them they are. After all, if they were really capable, why would their parent have always had to help them out?
A sad fact of life is that we learn from failure and its consequences. Failure teaches us to work harder, to manage our time, to not take things for granted, to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, and it teaches us to bounce back. Resilience is a muscle that’s only developed when we deal with failure and disappointment.
Ultimately, resilience is a quality all successful people share.
5. You view any failure or problem as a direct reflection on you
I spent a long time as a school teacher and administrator and one thing I’ve observed over and over again is the belief that parents have that if their child has a problem, it’s their fault.
Granted, it’s always possible that a parent can do something to cause a problem, but most of the time that’s just not the case.
Here’s the truth about kids
- They mess up
- They do stupid things
- They push the limits just to see what they can get away with
- They make bad choices
- They do things that are embarrassing and that worry us
It’s called being a kid!
And it’s not your fault when they are just that….a kid.
So quit thinking that everyone is judging you when your kid fails at something or does something wrong. Anyone who’s a parent has experienced their child doing these things. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, it doesn’t mean you haven’t done everything humanly possible, it also doesn’t mean that the situation is permanent.
If there’s one thing I know for certain about being a parent it’s this: Parenting ain’t for sissies!
6. You expect that your kids will be “Mini Me”
From the day they’re born our kids are separate and unique individuals. That will only become more obvious and pronounced as they grow up. But some parents mistakenly believe that because they’re raised these kids, that they’ll be, act, and think just like them.
Not necessarily so.
Now, they might end up believing and thinking just like you do. But don’t expect it – and don’t be surprised or offended if they don’t.
7. You label your kids
If you’ve got more than one, it sure is an easy trap to fall in to.
One child is “the smart one” or “the pretty one”.
Another child is “the dependable one” or “the shy one”.
Even though you may not think that these labels affect your kids, they do.
And it makes sense if you think about it. After all, if your brother is “the smart one” in your family, then that makes you “not the smart one”, right? Kids compare themselves to their siblings whether we realize it or not. And they definitely are aware of the labels their parents have hung on them even when we think we’ve been so careful not to say anything in front of the (I told you kids are smart).
Since we want all of our kids to grow up feeling capable and empowered, we need for them to grow up without the limitations that labels impose.
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8. You don’t let your kids make their own decisions OR when you DO let them make their own decisions, you protect them from the natural consequences of those decisions.
I’m not talking about letting kids make age-inappropriate decisions here. But as your child grows, they need to experience making decisions. They won’t magically have the ability to make decisions when they turn 18 if they’ve never had the opportunity to do so before then.
And along with making those decisions, they’ve got to experience whatever consequences accompany it. The only way to learn to make good decisions is to have made some bad decisions.
9. You expect them to not act like kids
Your kids are just that – kids. They’re not little adults. They don’t have the skills, coordination, maturity, or mental development that adults do…which means that they’re going to make mistakes, break things, behave inappropriately and immaturely, etc.
It’s what kids do!
10. Or you make excuses for them because of their age
The opposite problem is when we don’t expect enough of our kids and excuse everything they do because “they’re so young.”
“Susie can’t be expected to put away her toys, she’s only 7.” Or “Tommy just can’t remember to do do his homework. After all, he’s only 13.”
Seriously? I’m not sure which is worse – the parent who thinks their child is too mature or the parent who refuses to acknowledge maturity.
Again, the key is teaching our kids age-appropriate skills and behaviors and then expecting them to use them
If you see yourself making any of these common mistakes it doesn’t mean all is lost. The great thing about parenthood – as with childhood – is that we’re always learning and growing. And fortunately, we can learn a lot as our kids teach us to be better parents.
What parenting mistakes would YOU add to this list?