No one said being a parent was easy. In fact, most parents would say it’s the hardest job they’ve ever taken on. After all, there’s a lot of pressure involved in being completely responsible for another (little) person. While there’s no such thing as the perfect parent, there are a set of ground rules you can live by to ensure you raise a healthy, happy, respectful human being. For starters, steer clear of these blatant parenting mistakes.
1. Being inconsistent
We humans crave routine — it’s what keeps us on track. But children, especially, need consistency during the day and night because it gives them a sense of security and teaches them self-discipline. “When parenting is consistent, the need for frequent negative interactions decreases and the quality of the relationship strengthens for both parents and children,” Mayra Mendez, licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California, said in an interview with The Cheat Sheet. “Remaining firm and clear teaches children accountability for their actions.”
2. Sending negative messages
When parenting involves blaming, berating, and showing disapproval, it can be permanently traumatizing to a child. “Emotional messages interfere with problem solving and take attention away from learning,” Mendez said. These types of messages — be it verbal or physical — lack the care and instruction children need. They communicate the child is bad rather than point out it’s the behavior itself that is bad. Instead, Mendez recommends changing your tone to one that’s calm and praising your child for the times when they are modeling good behavior.
3. Fighting in front of the kids
If you ever witnessed your own parents fighting, you know how mentally and emotionally taxing it can be. So, imagine how hard this exposure is for a young child whose “rights” and “wrongs” aren’t fully developed. In fact, one study from Cardiff University in Cardiff, Wales, found arguing in front of children can cause serious damage.
Researchers analyzed 300 families over the course of three years and showed children films of adults arguing in different ways. They then asked the children questions about their parents’ fights. They found that, even when children are withdrawn and quiet, their emotional stability is threatened in the long term.
4. Trying to be the friend
No parent enjoys constantly having to put their foot down to say no, but that’s part of the job. When a parent gives in to their child merely for fear of disappointing them, they’re actually doing their child a disservice — they’re disrupting social emotional progress.
As Mendez explained, “Children look to trusted caregivers to set examples and model problem solving. Giving in to a child’s whim teaches entitlement and interferes with the child developing coping skills to manage disappointment.” A better move is to provide clear structure and calm instructions for your child by setting reasonable and appropriate limits — i.e., curfews, time limits, and ground rules.