I have been a parent for almost fifteen years now. I realize that doesn't make me an expert but it does give me some insight into this parenting gig. After all, I have managed to parent three children out of the "child years" and into the pre-teen and teenage years. I know I've made mistakes and plenty of them and I'll continue to make more. As parents, we need to realize this and give ourselves a break.
After all, just when you think you have things figured out - your kids change and move on to the next stage. So when you're struggling to understand what's going on it can be helpful to look back and assess what it is you're doing to see if maybe you need to take a different approach.
Here are 5 parenting mistakes we should try to avoid.
1. Taking it PersonalLet me just say that this is one I really struggle with. But we just can't take things personally when our kids act out. We can't take it personally when they say mean things. Kids will say things that are hurtful in the heat of the moment and then 5 minutes or half an hour later they're completely over it. In the meantime, you're still smarting because you can't believe they told you that they hate you when all you can think of are all the things you do for this kid.
That doesn't mean it's okay for them to say hurtful things. You just have to not let those hurtful words pierce your skin. Later, after they've had a chance to calm down is when you can sit with them and talk about more appropriate ways of communicating their frustration. In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to let them go off but I have always found a much better response from my child when I allow their (and my) temper to cool off.
2. One Size Fits All ApproachWhile it may not seem fair you can't apply the same tactics to each child. I don't know about you but each one of my kids have very different personalities. They respond to discipline in different ways. For example, my older child when she's having a complete meltdown sometimes I need to get louder than her to almost shock her out of her emotional outburst. Thankfully, she's outgrown this. Now that's she older though, I've learned that I need to give her some space when she's upset and when she's ready she'll come back and talk.
Yet with my younger child - when I start to sound frustrated and if my voice is starting to creep up there - he simply shuts down. He starts to cry and is completely overwhelmed. I learned early on that the best way to approach any issue with him is to talk calmly and offer a hug if he's emotional. He always says yes, even at 10 years old.
It's the same with consequences. A certain consequence may mean more to one child than to the other. Consequences themselves are difficult because you need to come up with something that fits the situation. Putting a toy in "time-out" because they didn't pick it up was not effective in our home because the kids just didn't care. Out of sight, out of mind. Having to go to bed 5 or 10 minutes early that night for not listening and arguing back - was way more effective. It only took two nights of following through on this that resulted in way less arguing and more listening.
3. Over SchedulingIt seems to be the thing nowadays to keep your kids busy busy busy. In fact, advice I've had from several older parents who've raised their kids is that keeping them busy keeps them out of trouble.
I don't necessarily agree with this though. Maybe some kids thrive on an active schedule but not all of them do. Mine certainly don't. We forget that kids need down time. Whenever I have too many things planned whether it's after school tutoring or swimming or just scheduled play dates they are sure to let me know they just want time to play. Otherwise, why do we buy them toys if we're not going to give them opportunity to get creative and spend time just doing what kids should be doing - PLAY.
4. Over PraisingThere's a lot of parenting talk about building confidence, boosting self-esteem and what easier way to make a child feel good about themselves but to praise them. You'd think it was that simple but it's not. Not everything is praiseworthy. If you over do it, they won't think you're being sincere. If you praise something they know or believe isn't very good - they won't trust you when it really counts.
One way praising backfired for us is with our son. When he was about 6, he began building with Lego. He hadn't started to read yet but he took the Lego instruction book and figured out how to put one of his sets together without any help. This was a set we knew was a little old for him but my husband had planned to help him. So, we were blown away by how clever he was to follow the instructions. We told him what a great job he did, how impressed we were, we bragged about it to his grandparents etc. Sure he was pleased. He'd get a little smile on his face every time he heard us mention it. The problem was that when he eventually got another Lego set meant for older kids, this time he wasn't able to do it. He was so upset. He just beat himself up over it and I realized, we had made such a big deal about how smart he was for doing it before that now he felt like a complete failure. At 6.
Now we dial back the praise and instead use phrases like "Wow, that must make you feel really good that you did that all by yourself" or "How does that make you feel?".
5. Not enough Quality TimeSometimes we're spending more time doing for our kids than doing with our kids. We get so caught up with driving them to activities, taking care of the home, working and in my case homeschooling that when it comes to family time - we're tapped out. By the end of the day, all I want to do is sit down drink my cup of tea and read for a bit. Of course, that's when my kids want my attention and are begging me to do something with them.
So it's important to carve out some meaningful time with your kids. Set up a family game night maybe one evening a week. Board games didn't go well in my family for a time so instead we played charades. We all brainstormed easy things to act out, wrote them down on strips of paper and put them in a hat. We all had a blast and we saved the paper strips for the next time.
We also made a point of reading to each child individually before bed for 15 minutes or so. My husband and I did this separately so we each had a chance to spend a little one-on-one time with each child. Nowadays that looks more like having a little chat with each of them. I'm always amazed at how much my son has to tell me right before bed. He's had the whole day to talk with me but it all comes bubbling out at bedtime, probably because he's finally still and not doing anything else. If I sent him off to his room with a quick goodnight hug and kiss - I'd miss those chats completely.
Obviously, we're not perfect in this. We're only human and get tired and can't always summon up the patience for them. I have to tell myself - this is a stage. One day, they will be gone and I won't be able to get this time back.
Also, I really can tell in my kid's behavior whether we're spending enough time with them. By with them, I mean really with them - connecting. When I start to see some acting out, negative talk back, I can usually track it back to a lack of quality time with them.
I'm curious whether any of you can identify with these 5 parenting mistakes I've mentioned. Or do you have one that should be added to the list? Let me know, I'd love to hear from you! After all, we parents are all in this together.