Let me start this post by saying I’ve had plenty of rough spots along the parenting road. I’m not a perfect parent. (Ask any of my children.) But I’ve learned a lot in 22 years–both in my own family and through observing others’ family dynamics. (Reading and studying the subject helped a lot, too.)
So, I come to you today from a place of humility to submit my personal assessment of the 5 biggest mistakes parents make in rearing their children. Here goes:
- Put your kids first.
- Give your kids everything.
- Wait to discipline them.
- Do everything for them.
- Rescue them from anything bad.
But wait! There’s good news. You can avoid or correct these mistakes. Here’s how.
Mistake #1: Put your kids first in the family dynamic. Let them decide when you eat and what time you go to bed. Let them decide what restaurant you go to and where to go on a family vacation. Never make them wait. Instead, make your spouse wait and put your marriage on hold indefinitely to tend to the needs of your children.
How to fix this: If you allow your children to take over your household and your life from the day they’re born, you’ll live to regret it. Doing so turns them into self-centered, entitled brats. Children should secondary to the marital relationship. After all, your husband/wife will be around long after the kids leave home. (But only if you nurture the marriage!) I know you want to be a loving mom and a great dad—and you still can. Just work at your marriage along the way and put your spouse’s needs before the kids’ needs. For example, set aside time daily to visit with just your husband or wife—no kids in the mix. Schedule regular date nights (I recommend weekly.) to spend time doing something you and your mate enjoy together. Swap off who chooses what you do.
Mistake #2: Give your kids everything they want. Don’t let the newest gadget come out without making sure your child is the first to get it. Don’t ever “make” them work or have to pay for things (video games, movie theatre tickets, new toys, lattes, etc.) themselves. Just dole out $20 bills like they were M & M’s.
How to fix this: Children don’t learn the value of working and the satisfaction of earning. They’ll grow up being dependent on you, and in all likelihood they won’t grow out of it. Kids need to learn the correlation between work and payment (reward) early on. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean a job—although that’s a good option. We know a family whose child will likely get a full academic scholarship to a top university, saving the family approximately $120,000-160,000. That’s a good payoff for taking challenging classes (AP courses), doing SAT test prep, from time to time choosing to study over going out with friends, and sacrificing things to make good grades.
Mistake #3: Wait until they’re older discipline them—or just don’t discipline them at all. After all, they’re just too cute to put in time out. And, God forbid, you should spank or ground them. They’re just being kids, right? Your child didn’t mean to bonk Billy in the head with the Tonka truck or smash Susie’s locket. If they disobey, refuse to discipline them. In short, let your kids rule the roost.
How to fix this: Having to discipline hurts your heart. You feel like you’re scarring them. You fear you’ll hurt your kids’ feelings, drive them away, make them not love you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Want your kids to love, respect and want to be around you? Discipline them from the time they’re born. Don’t respond in a nano-second to every little cry. Don’t allow them to hit, bite, kick or disrespect you and others. Choose effective (for you) discipline methods and apply them consistently.
Mistake #4: Do everything for your children. Don’t require anything of them. Never ask your child to clean up around the house or help you shop, cook, mow, vacuum or do laundry. These are the best years of their lives. They’ll have to work all the time when they move out on their own. Plus, school is hard. Kids have too much homework, and teachers just don’t understand.
How to fix this: If your kids don’t do chores (It’s best to start around ages 2-5), they’ll resent you when you try to make them contribute to the household later. However, if you require them to do chores as a part of your family, they’ll grow up with that expectation. They’ll learn to work to the best of their ability and to experience the satisfaction that comes from a job well done. NOTE: This includes school projects. If you craft your child’s salt map or prepare his display board for the science project, you’re taking away so much from your child—creativity, opportunity and responsibility to name a few.
Mistake #5: Rescue your kids from every negative thing that happens in their life. Don’t require them to face up their mistakes or experience setbacks. Get them off the hook. Bail them out–figuratively or literally. Never, ever, ever, EVER require them to experience adverse situations or negative consequences.
How to fix this: If you continually rescue your children, they won’t be equipped for disappointment, rejection, sorrow or reality when they get older. All kids must experience age-appropriate disappointment to develop into mature, responsible, well-adjusted adults. When they mess up, they need to own their mistakes, correct them if possible and make restitution. If they don’t, they’ll go through life thinking they’re the center of the universe. In order to adequately mature, young people need to learn to take responsibility for their actions and behavior. They also need to know what it feels like to be rejected, to not make the team or the part in the play, to be dumped in a romantic relationship, etc. All of these disappointments prepare them for larger disappointments (job loss, death of a loved one, financial difficulties, health crisis) when they get older.
Related mistake: Make all their decisions for them. Much like the one before, age-appropriate disappointment sometimes result from making bad decisions. Whether it’s watching a too-scary movie at a friend’s house that later gives them nightmares for three weeks or losing driving privileges because they were caught texting behind the wheel, each of these circumstances help young people develop into responsible adults and citizens who contribute to society.
I hope this look at parenting mistakes will encourage you to parent more diligently and consistently. For me, just reading through this list both challenges and inspires. Please let me know if you have any mistakes you would add to this list. I always want to learn!