9 Common Parenting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Updated on September 26, 2018

Anyone who has children will tell you that it isn't easy. Changing diapers, endless crying, and teaching your child how to function in the real world is an enormous challenge that millions of people do every year. As difficult as it is, it is also hugely rewarding.

After the initial baby stage of feeding, burping, and making sure your child is warm and comfortable, then comes what some people dread: toddlerhood! Your baby is learning to walk, talk, and use a toilet, and is experimenting with all sorts of behaviour to test out what is acceptable and what is not. It's a highly stressful time for parents.

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How you bring up your toddler will ultimately determine how they will turn out when they are older, so it is a very important time to exercise discipline, patience, and strength while your little one is at the tantrum/biting/chattering/experimenting stage.

No parenting strategy is perfect, and some people may disagree on this article. Here are some parenting mistakes and bad habits that I have observed and inwardly cringed at, and what to do instead.

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1. Lying

I was hanging out with this couple and their two-year-old daughter at a restaurant. She had taken her shoes off and thrown them on the floor, so when we were leaving her father asked her to put her shoes back on "because here there are spiders all over the floor and they'll crawl into your shoes."

What a ridiculous lie to terrify your child! If I was their daughter, I would have ended up having nightmares about the restaurant and hundreds of spiders scuttling along the floor.

The parents found lying easier than telling their daughter the simple truth: that we wear our shoes in restaurants because they are the rules. Rather than enforce some discipline on their kid, they decided to lie about imaginary spiders.

What to do instead
Please don't lie to your child! Kids take everything you say literally, and if you tell them fibs like there are spiders on the floor waiting to crawl into your shoes, that image will stick with them for years. When they find out the truth when they're older, they might feel resentful.

I'm not saying you have to tell a two-year-old the complete, unabridged truth one hundred percent of the time, but just don't lie to your kid. They trust you.

2. "Tricking" Your Child into Doing What You Want

I heard a story once about a mother who was frustrated by the fact that her toddler always wanted to eat food off of her plate. One day, she put her child's food on her plate, so that when he ate it, he was actually eating his own food.

He ate his own food without having a tantrum. Great, right? Wrong! To her son, it seemed as though mummy was smiling and happy that he was eating off her plate. She taught him that it's okay to eat her food, because to him, that is what he was doing.

What to do instead
It can be easy to be tempted to 'trick' your child like the above example in order to get them to do what they want. However, having them think they're doing something naughty is a bad lesson, even if the outcome is what you want.

Instead, make and stick to rules. If the mother had taught her son that it was forbidden to touch the food on her plate, it might have been better for her long-term.

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3. Making Idle Threats

It's really frustrating when parents make threats to make their children behave and then don't carry them out. Common examples include, "if you do that again, I'm turning the car around and we're going home" or "I'm sending you to bed if you keep doing that." Then the child misbehaves again, and the threat is not carried out.

Children aren't stupid. They learn quickly, and if you make a threat that is then ignored, they will cease to believe anything you threaten them with in the future.

What to do instead
Stick to your guns! If your child is being a pain in the butt and you say "do that one more time and you're going to bed," actually send them to bed if they do it again! this lesson is quickly learned and a child who has been punished before is much more likely to listen to you next time.

4. Only Talking to Your Child When You're Telling Them Off

A lot of parents believe that a toddler is way too young to understand anything, and don't feel the need to talk to them unless it is to say, "no" or "don't do that." Some children crave attention and then misbehave to get it.

What to do instead

A good way to build a good relationship with your son or daughter is to talk to them socially, even if it's just about where you're going or what you're doing.

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5. Deflecting "Why" Questions with Answers Like "Because It Is" or "Because I Said So"

Children love to ask why, and it can get very tiring explaining everything. However, it is annoying when parents say things like "Oh, just because it is!" or the even worse "Because I said so!"

People find things easier to do if they have a reason why. In addition, children look to you for guidance and an explanation of the world; they'll remain clueless for a long time if they're always answered with vague, meaningless answers.

What to do instead
Talk to your child! If your kid asks why they shouldn't run into the road, tell them it's because they might get hit by a car. If they ask why we have to eat fruit and vegetables, say it's because it's healthy. Take the time to educate your child.

6. Pacifying Instead of Disciplining

I can't tell you how frustrating this is. Once I was out with someone and their young daughter. She almost started having a tantrum when he distracted her with sweets. I was appalled that she could be offered a treat when she was misbehaving.

Her father whispered to me, "We have to do anything to stop her kicking off." What! She should be the one who doesn't want him to kick off, not the other way round!

Distracting a child with treats teaches them that if they misbehave, they'll get a treat. This is terrible in the long run.

What to do instead
Don't distract your child with sweets and toys instead of taking the time to discipline them. This doesn't mean you have to spank or yell at them - just teach them that their behaviour isn't acceptable. And for goodness' sake, don't give treats as a distraction.

Check out the SuperNanny video below for some tips on parenting.

7. Assuming They're Impossible to Control

No child is impossible to tame - it's all down to willpower. Even kids with problems such as A.D.D. and autism can be helped with the proper techniques. If you tell everyone, and your child, that they're just naturally naughty and nothing can change that, then the child is going to believe that they're bad, which will do nothing but damage.

What to do instead
Never give up! If your child is suffering from a condition, read up as much as you can on the appropriate behaviour to keep them calm and well-behaved. Some children need a stern talk, others need a "naughty step." Do not give up on your child, because if they can't control themselves as kids, how will they be when they're grown up?

8. Caving During a Tantrum

A disagreement between parent and toddler is a battle of the wills. A child will cry, scream, and maybe even throw a temper tantrum to get what they want. I've seen, many times, parents caving and going "oh, all right then" just to shut their kid up. This is a terrible idea! The child will then think "great, tantrums work! I know just what to do next time I want something."

What to do instead
Never, ever give in to your child! If they want a toy, and you say no, stick to that "no." After that, when you say "no," your child will know that you mean it.

I'm not saying that they will never have a tantrum again, but consistent and strong decisions are key to teaching your child clear boundaries. Do not let them break you, no matter how hard it may seem. It is worth it in the long run.

9. Not Praising Good Behaviour

Parents feel so relieved that their child is being good and quiet that it can be easy to forget to praise them.

What to do instead
Simple sentences like "you have been such a good boy today" or "what beautiful manners, thank you darling" work wonders! Throw in a few cuddles and kisses there too and you'll have a very happy child.

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Raising children is one of the biggest challenges we can do, but it's wonderfully rewarding. A big clue to tell if you've done your job properly bringing up your kids is if you actually like them as people. Remember that you are in charge and perseverance is what is going to help your son or daughter learn what is okay and what is not.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Poppy

    Comments

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      • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

        Poppy 

        13 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

        Thanks.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        13 months ago from UK

        You make some very good points in this article.

      • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

        Poppy 

        13 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

        I like that a lot!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        13 months ago from USA

        I have a daughter I just dropped off at college. Ever since she was little I told her I will never lie to you but 1) I reserve the right as your parent not to answer the question and 2) only ask questions you truly want the answer to. It’s worked well. Sometimes I’ve had to remind her of the ground rules and she decided she didn’t want the answer (Santa).

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