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12 Common Mistakes All Parents Make (Even Me)

by Carmen Sakurai

As much as we strive to be the most awesome parents we can be for our children, mistakes can happen even with the best of intentions. I know when my son was young, I had the tendency to focus more on the moment: surviving my days, meeting our daily needs, and keeping myself from drowning. If he laughed, had all his meals, and wobbled around in a clean diaper, I high-fived myself for being a good, loving mom.

After getting settled into my new role, however, I realized that being a loving mom also means making choices that will affect my child for the long-term. It wasn’t just about the cute gurgling, keeping his tummy happy, and making sure his bum-bum isn’t stinky…I needed to think about the kind of adult I hoped he would become and be mindful of his future when making my choices. That’s a lot of responsibility!

The good news is that raising a child is a continuous learning experience, and you can keep getting better.

In the 18 years I’ve been teaching second grade, these are the 12 most common parenting mistakes made (myself included), and tips on how you can avoid them.

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1. Wanting to be Your Child’s BFF

I admit it: I want my child to love me and sing my praises. I’ve even had visions of being the “cool mom.” The dangers of seeking to be our child’s BFF is that it leads to making choices out of desperation because we fear losing their approval. If we’re going to do our job right we need to step up and be our children’s parents, and yes, this means we do un-fun and un-cool things that make our kids not like us, roll their eyes, and wish they had a different mom sometimes. It may be difficult at times, but children actually yearn for parents who act like parents. Balance is key.

2. Half Listening

Avoid communicating while your eyes are fixed to your texts or with grunts while you watch TV. If you are unable to give your undivided attention, let your child know by telling them, “I want to hear everything you have to say, so let me finish this up and I’ll be able to give you all of my attention!”

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3. Teaching Your Child Unhealthy Competition

Instilling a “win at all costs” attitude teaches kids to focus only on the prize instead of appreciating hard work and growth. Praise your child’s effort (e.g. practicing daily, studying diligently) and encourage him or her to acknowledge his competitors’ hard work as well. This will teach your child to both win and lose graciously.

4. Teaching Your Child to Measure Their Self-Worth Based On Other People’s Standards

These words may sound harmless: “What would the neighbors think?” “Wouldn’t you want to play baseball like your friend Tom instead?” but they teach your child to live in fear of judgment and make choices based on the opinions of others. We were all born to live, learn, and grow into the best version of our unique selves, not what someone else is comfortable with. Allow your child to be the author of his own life story.

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5. Rescuing Your Child

As parents, it’s absolutely natural to do anything to avoid having our children experience anything less than pleasant. They’re our precious little humans after all. What’s difficult to remember in the moment is that if we’re constantly saving our kids, they will think something is horribly wrong when experiencing even normal frustrations as adults.

It’s important we do not immediately rescue our child when they’re faced with a challenge. Yes, offer advice, but let them know you have confidence in them to figure things out. We need to allow them to face some challenges and experience the pride and accomplishment when they overcome them.  This will build character and encourage them to problem solve and build stress-coping skills.

6. Not Letting Your Child Get Bored

“I don’t know what else to do to keep my child from becoming bored.” In the 18 years I’ve taught second graders, this is one of the top concerns I regularly hear from parents. We tend to think children are supposed to be stimulated all the time, and as parents, we take on the responsibility to keep our kids entertained. However, this prevents the development of independence in our children.

Kids should be given a chance to find ways out of boredom themselves. Alone time empowers kids to be creative in the moment so have books, crayons, doodle pads, puzzles, or building blocks where they can easily find them. This will encourage free thinking and self sufficiency.

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7. Not Saying “No”

Teaching rules and boundaries is necessary for a child’s growth. They may pout and cry, but constantly saying “Yes” will encourage them to grow into spoiled, entitled adults. Standing by your “Nos” is a great lesson in respect, as well as respecting other people’s boundaries.

8. Being Inconsistent

Being strict at times, but showing you don’t really care about those same things in other moments, is very confusing for our children. Stick to the rules and practices that you have set. Consistency and familiarity will give your kids a sense of security and help build confidence.

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9. Downplaying Your Child’s Feelings

Discounting your child’s feelings when she’s upset by saying “don’t be mad” or “you shouldn’t feel that way” teaches her not to trust her feelings. Instead, encourage her to accept that negative emotions are just as normal as her positive ones and teach her to work through them. This will help her respond to her feelings in a confident and healthier manner.

10. Making Empty Promises, Using Shame, Or Making Threats

Avoid making promises you do not intend to keep just to get your child to do something or hint that you will take your love and support away in order to get your child to achieve compliance. Taking control of your child this way may bring short-term payoffs but over the long-term, these actions will result in distrust, resentment, and low self-esteem. Keeping your word, giving encouragement, and practicing loving patience will help build and strengthen a loving, positive, and healthy bond with your child, which will last for a lifetime!

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11. Raising the Child We Want Instead Of The Child We Have

It’s important to accept our children as their own person. Sure, it’s natural to have hopes and dreams for our kids, but forcing them on our kids will only stunt their self-discovery. Encourage your child to discover their strengths and interests, and support their growth. You’ll be surprised at how well kids are able to design themselves!

12. Playing Down Your Incredible Power To Teach By Example

Do you tell your kids to be kind to others while you speak ill of your neighbor over the phone to your friends? Children are always listening and watching everything you do, and they learn best by example. Be the kind of person you want your children to become.  Practice healthy habits and maintain the values you want to instill in your child. You are their number one teacher!

For more on Carmen Sakurai visit her blog Ninja Mom Diaries and Facebook.