Top Parenting Mistakes Made With the Best Intentions
We all do it. We look at the way other people are parenting their kids and say to ourselves, I will never be like that. I will never do that. My kid will never behave like that. We are full of self-righteous indignation and feel confident in our superior parenting skills!
Then it happens. One day you recognize yourself in some other parent and it isn’t a good thing.
This is a list of the top parenting mistakes I have seen lately with my older kids. Some of them I will admit I have committed. But I recognize the error of my ways, so that is a start at least, right?
1) Trying to be your child’s friend and not their parent. I understand the allure of this one. I like my teenagers. They are interesting and funny people. They tell me stories about their day and their friends and I laugh with them, mostly. Sometimes I bite my tongue and cringe, but that is a different story. But somewhere in there is a line that I don’t cross. Friendship to me implies that we are on a level playing field, that we are equals, but we are not. I do not confide in my children. I am still in charge. I am still the parent. I call myself a benevolent dictator. We can have all the fun and joking around that we want, but I have no problems reminding my children where that line is.
2) Thinking your child is perfect, and it is always the fault of their bad influence friends. As parents most of us hate to think anything bad about our children. We tend to err on the side of seeing our children’s good sides, the intent behind whatever misdeed has been done. Those other kids are jerks tainting my precious child! But sometimes, you have to take a step back and realize –your kid is the jerk.
Recently we had an incident in our neighborhood which reminded me of this very thing. I called two sets of parents about a mean bullying type incident that had occurred. The first parent was upset by their child’s behavior and said their child would be over immediately to apologize. The child came over, made a meaningful, heartfelt apology. There was hugging. And then they ran off together back to the child’s house to play together. All was well. The second parent said they would get to the bottom of it and call me back. Hours later I got a phone call which was basically a laundry list of why their child was not going to be apologizing. Why other children, not theirs, was at fault. This in the face of five other children telling the exact same story.
What I learned from that incident is I hope I am always able to put my own ego aside and admit when my child is wrong. Not for my sake, but so that my children can understand the concept of personal responsibility and the value of an apology.
3) Bad mouthing teachers or coaches in front of your kids. I think the majority of the time teachers need the benefit of the doubt. When my kids come home with complaints I usually question them first. Asking them to tell me what their part was in whatever happened to make them think this is the worst, meanest, most horrible teacher to ever walk the face of the earth. Usually after talking it through they concede that yes, maybe they could have done something differently. If they still hold fast to their story I have no problem calling the teacher the next day to get to the bottom of it. But I don’t talk negatively about their teachers.
4) Doing for your children that which they can do for themselves. Oh, I must admit that I struggle mightly here. How much is too much? I am never quite sure, that is until people point it out to me. Should teenagers be completely responsible for doing their own laundry? Should they have to wake themselves up for school? Should they pack their own lunches? Make their own dinners? Get a job and support the family? I just don’t know. This is probably the one that is on the forefront of my mind these days as my oldest children are approaching adulthood.
5) Not following through on consequences. If you don’t do this when they are younger, you can forget about it when they are older. I have seen otherwise good kids laugh in the face of their parents’ empty threats, all sides knowing the threats are never going to come to fruition. Not my kids. I have followed through on consequences that in retrospect I wish I hadn’t made because they made my life more difficult. Case in point, my oldest son was grounded from driving this summer. Guess who had 6am football practice every ding dong day? Guess who then had to drive him there?
Even though I was sorely tempted to life the consequence I didn’t. Not just because it was his punishment, which he totally deserved by the way, but because he has younger siblings who watch everything. If they saw me give up mid-punishment because it was too difficult on me, they would do everything in their power to make their next punishment difficult on me. They are like sharks in the water, a tiny bit of blood is all they need to attack. Since there is more of them than me I can’t ever let them think I don’t know what I am doing. They would overpower me!
So those are the top parenting mistakes I have noticed lately, both in myself and others around me. Tell me, where do you struggle? Or what do you see as the biggest mistakes well-intentioned parents are making?