It’s time to tell it like it is. There is absolutely nothing easy about being a parent. Certainly, the journey is full of fun and gratifying moments if you are lucky. Easy, however, is never used in the same sentence as the word parenting. Similarly, there is nothing easy about being parented, right? Being parented is a bumpy journey as well, full of simple moments and equally complicated ones.
There is no perfect playbook for how to be a stellar parent. While there are many parenting books (I wrote one), none of them are perfectly tailored to both your temperament and your child’s temperamental style. And, no one who writes a parenting book knows exactly what is going on in your home and in the complicated set of dynamics between you and your child. So what that in mind, know that you and millions of other parents are having similar struggles and are making the same sorts of mistakes.
Let’s begin with five of the most common parenting errors. The intention here is not for you to feel scolded but instead to give you some material to reflect on.
1. Under or overdoing it with your kids. There is a tendency for parents to be either under or over-involved in their kids’ lives. This happens for a few reasons. Many of you have made a vow to treat your kids differently than how you were treated. So, let’s say that your parents were extremely strict. You may have made a vow to never behave like your parents. Instead, you move in the direction of being too permissive. Here, you are throwing out the baby with the bath water. It makes sense to be strict in many situations. Your vow has been too extreme and has likely not served you and your kids well. There is a time for being strict and a time to be permissive. Or, maybe you were a deprived child. In response, you buy your kids everything and become overindulgent. Your kids become entitled and expect way too much. It’s a shame that your well intentioned behavior results in problems. And, yes, in my experience, most parents do start out with good intentions.There are many other possible scenarios that illustrate the concept of under and over involved behavior. Think about this and you will likely understand your behavior more clearly.
2. Not getting to know your child. Sometimes parents assume that they know their children when they really don’t get their kids at all. I have even heard parents say that they know their kids better than the kids know themselves. This, to me, is one of the most concerning and emotionally dangerous lines in conversation. How can anyone know someone better than they know themselves? You get to know your kids not by projecting your impressions and hopes on to them but by listening to them over time. And, here, I am talking about listening to them over many years. Do not assume that your child is moving in a defiant direction simply because your child reminds you of your brother who was always an upstart. Similarly, do not assume that your daughter has your personality because she looks like you. Be careful of your assumptions, always.
3. Believing that worrying about your kids will prevent them from harm. This is simply untrue. Worrying does not lead to anything good. Concern, on the other hand, is helpful because it leads you, in the best of scenarios, to teach your kids’ important life skills. The hope is that these skills will facilitate safety and resiliency. Worry does nothing but teach your kids that you neither believe in them nor the world. It teaches them about anxiety, that dreadful feeling, that leads to avoidance, withdrawal and a whole host of other somatic and emotional problems.
4. Maintaining expectations that are too low or too high. There is a tendency to label your kids. So, maybe you label your firstborn as the smart kid, your next child as the attractive one and your youngest one as the social child. This is unfair. You begin to compare your kids and you inadvertently give each of them the message that they are good at only one thing. The message should be that each of them possesses a variety of good qualities to different degrees. How many of you are still reeling from being called the shy one or the lazy one? Let’s have a show of hands here please.
5. Finally, you may not be the best role model. Perhaps, you have decided to make your children the center of your life. By doing so, you may not be taking care of yourself. And, what message do you think that is sending to your children? The message is that life is no fun for adults because adults don’t take care of themselves. Instead, they sacrifice their lives for their kids. Why would a child want to grow up and become an adult if adults focus only on kids but not on their own pleasure and self care? If I had a dollar for every child who told me that their parents were too serious and not having any fun I would be wealthier than I could handle.
Please read the above and consider whether or not you need to make any adjustments to the way you are raising your kids. Good luck!