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Top Parenting Mistakes

Top Parenting Mistakes Made With the Best Intentions

By Chris Jordan

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.

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 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?

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, the...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is almost 6.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.

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  • Emily

    September 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    At the moment, I’m going to go with ‘Not thinking my child is perfect’. She’s 11 months. and I know that there are a zillion rates of development, but that doesn’t keep me from stressing when she seems behind in some areas. Stressing about what I’m doing wrong or they’re simply doing better. When the truth is that she’s an individual. And as far as I can tell – very different from those other babies in every way. So, why do I expect her to develop the same skills at the same times? Overstress, overanalyze, rethinking every parenting decision you’ve made and then deciding that the solution is to buy the kid some vtech toys or cute squeaky shoes or whatever. So, yeah, maybe I need to relax. cause it’s just starting.

  • Angela

    September 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    “Doing for your children that which they can do for themselves.” This is so very hard, because in the end, I don’t want my kids to make me look bad.  Letting them be late for school, go without homework done, etc. is so difficult, because it is hard to not feel at fault for things.  It is sometimes hard to let them suffer the consequences (that they completely deserve) because I feel like I am the one being judged!

  • Martina

    September 13, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Thank you for this – that is so perfectly summed up. 5 simple guidelines that make the day so much more difficult and tiresom for us sometimes, but the result speaks for itself in the end – happy children that have been given the toolset to become happy, responsible adults. It is worth getting up at 6 am to follow through on consequences sometimes.

  • Gabrielle

    September 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Right on. In my experience, you need to be even more on guard against drawing clear boundary lines and encouraging independence when you’re a single parent with an only child. My daughter and I lived alone for most of her life. I’ve recently remarried, and it’s only with someone else in the house that I now realize how much we had become like roommates rather than parent and child. And because she didn’t have to “wait in line” with other siblings, she got a lot more catering to than was really necessary.

  • Kathy

    September 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Last school year I struggled with #3 a lot. My son had the worst teacher and no amount of communication or effort on our part fixed the problem. After a while I gave up and stopped editing my comments. Definitely a mistake.

    And #4 is a daily battle. My kids are 12 & 9 and can do a lot for themselves. I admit, I spoil them. I cook and do the laundry. But, they are only young once and are responsible for homework and getting up in the morning.

  • Heidi

    October 9, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Thank you for #5. My twins are only 2, so I’m just beginning the discipline journey. Nonetheless, i have found myself question the wisdom of some of the consequences I have set mid-way b/c of the difficulty they cause for me. Your post gives me the confidence that I’m doing the right thing. Thank you!

  • Awesome Mom

    October 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Great list!

    Just as an fyi my mom had me doing my own laundry starting when I was about 10 or so. I actually had very few mishaps and learned quickly that if I wanted something clean to wear I had better actually wash my clothing instead of piling it on the floor.

    One thing I wish my husband would be more mindful of is of punishments. He is fond of coming up with some pretty crazy consequences and leaving me to be the one that has to enforce them since I am the one home all day. More than once I have had to have a discussion about the in intended hardship he is about to visit upon me if he does not stop talking out in anger. The follow through has been worth it because my kids are pretty well behaved and people love to be around them.