Mistake 1: Taking Things Personally
Don’t ever take things personally when a child is angry, sad, or displeased.
Because even though they may feel personal hatred towards you, it still isn’t personal. If a child is angry, it doesn’t mean that they know you or that they hate your very being.
They can’t. They haven’t even met you until you were in your 20’ s or 30’ s or something.
So how can they know anything about you?
They don’t. All they can do is base their opinions of you on what they observe or hear from others.
So when a child says, “I hate you” or “You are mean,” all he/ she is really saying is, “I don’t like that you aren’t giving me what I want/ need,” or perhaps, more specifically, “My taste buds are addicting, and I just saw a candy bar. And since you’re not giving it to me, I am having a hard time being in a good mood, because I don’t get that dopamine rush from sugar or the fun from having that interesting toy.”
Ah, of course, they aren’t literally thinking that. But since they don’t understand themselves any more than they understand the world around you, since they are new to it, you might as well not take it too seriously when they express their discontentment.
The trick is to distance yourself at those moments. You are above them. You have more experience, more mature insights, and you need to acknowledge that they aren’t controlling their emotions very well, especially with their limited understanding.
If you can temporarily do that, no matter how much you love your child, you will rise above your own emotions and muster the courage to be more patient.
The opposite can happen too. If a child loves you, hugs you, or feels attached to you, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the moment, admitting that the child sincerely loves you, or that you did a good parenting job.
Yes, at those moments, why not accept the love and affection you get from your sweet child? This is perfectly okay. Scientifically, oxytocin levels in your mind will get a boost, which will give you more feelings of happiness.
The conclusion of this part is simple: Enjoy your life with your loving children when they show it. Play with them, have fun with them, but as soon as they turn into evil little monsters who unrightfully demand that their desires should be met, tune off.
Distance yourself emotionally without distancing yourself physically or verbally. Be the parent. Remember that your child is just a child, and still has a lot to learn.
Mistake 2: Wrong Investments
We all want the best for our children, but a common mistake is that parents invest the wrong things into them. Time is money, well… most times it is.
And so, to afford a more luxurious lifestyle, many parents in this century have fallen into the trap that they want their children to have everything.
I noticed this one time in a home, where the parents both worked all the time. They didn’t have a lot of time for their children, so instead, they bought them presents all the time.
When I babysat those boys, I was surprised that they shoved my birthday present to them aside within a minute or so, after which they quickly asked if I could take them outside and play at the playground with them.
Many children don’t care for fancy stuff if you simply explain to them that it’s expensive. They may whine and complain, but eventually, they will accept reality.
They will know that you do your best to provide. But if you withhold your time, if you spend all your time at work, they will be more severely damaged. They want you, not your stuff, and not just your money.
Another way parents sometimes invest into the wrong things, is by forcing their children to do something that they want them to do, like playing a musical instrument, a certain sport, profession or study, etc.
I heard of a man one time who was coerced into the medical field. His father invested thousands of dollars, up to six figures, in his medical university, under protest of his son.
His son finished his education, got his master’s degree, and then decided to become a plumber because that was his passion in the first place.
More investment tips may include: Look at what is the most valuable to your children. I have personally sold children’s books with hundreds of characters in them, funny cartoons, and educational facts as a background story.
I talked to parents at events who wouldn’t take $ 10 out of their wallets for a book that could entertain their kids for hours on road trips or at home. Instead, they went to the next vendor and spent $ 15 on some ice cream and popcorn, overpriced commodities with no nutritional value, which their children could only enjoy for 20 minutes. If you ask me, those parents didn’t get it.
If your child already has 20 video games, perhaps he needs something else. If all your daughter does, is watch television, perhaps invest in some drawing courses, a musical instrument, or a good book.
Without force, you can encourage children to develop their talents and get the most out of life by using their creativity.
Other parents will have some narrow-minded, old-fashioned concept that everything is accomplished by college and a solid job, while we live in an age of freelance assignments, little businesses, and opportunities to make truckloads of money online.
Many things you learn in college nowadays can be found on the internet, and even piano lessons or violin lessons can be replaced by a series of videos on YouTube or instructional DVDs.
Mistake 3: Careless Rhetorical Questions
Sometimes, as parents, we get caught up in the adult mentality, and we forget that a child is only a child. Children can be really stupid.
It makes sense, doesn’t it?
They have less knowledge and less experience. And the things they do, are pretty crazy.
Recently, an extended family member of mine, 7 years old, took the initiative to put steel in the microwave. Nobody was paying attention. He just snuck into the kitchen with his younger sister and tried to make soap, according to his explanation afterward.
So he took some lotion, put it in a bowl, added water and a spoon or so, and shoved it into the microwave. What a dumb kid, right?
Why would he do that when he has already been told so many times to ask for permission first, to avoid putting steel into a microwave, and doesn’t even check with us how to do it?
I watched the process. “Why would you do that?” was the question. The child was speechless. There was no reason. He just didn’t know what he was doing, so he tried out stuff and hoped for the best.
At other times, I encountered parents asking questions that began with, “Don’t you know that…?” or with, “Don’t you think that…?”
Is the answer to that, “Yes, I don’t think that…” or is it, “No, I don’t think so?”
Keep your questions simple and don’t confuse them, especially when they are young. Ask one question at the time and give them time to think. If they take too long, either rephrase the question or give them more time. If they shut down, start counting and tell them the consequence if you get to 0.
They need to learn to communicate, but they cannot communicate if you drive them into a corner with your questions. Don’t try to catch them in their words, because they aren’t too articulate yet. Try to understand what is going on in their heads before you teach them a valuable lesson.
Mistake 4: Bad Bedtimes
I know people who send their children to bed very early so they can have more time for themselves. Other parents are sometimes valued as the “worst parents of the day” when I see their 5-year-old child stay up until 11: 00 p.m. on a school day.
Children need routines. Actually, not only children need routines, but adults too. The human body adjusts its sleeping patterns to certain times and schedules.
If you mess those that up, your brain won’t function as well as it should anymore. This means more whining, more arguing, more crying, and less concentration.
Make sure your children get enough sleep. You will do yourself a huge favor if you take a little effort to put them to sleep, do a bedtime routine, read them a small story, or guide them to the bathroom to brush teeth.
Mistake 5: Bad Nutrition
This is not a dedicated post about nutrition or a foodie site, so I won’t give you a list of recipes, exact nutritional values, and statistics about how much protein, vitamin C, or something else each food contains. But I wanted to include this part because I’ve seen it so many times: Imbalance.
There are parents who force their children only to eat healthy foods. They put them on restrictive diets or get that less appealing stuff from an organic store.
I am not against healthy eating at all, but give your children a break every once in a while. They like delicious food like anyone else. Moreover, sugar-free isn’t always better than its counterfeit with sugar.
The opposite is even worse though: Parents who feed their children fast food, greasy junk food, and sugary substances and candy constantly.
You are just making it harder for yourself if you have developed this habit or fallen into that pattern. Children’s moods depend enormously on their nutrition. Feed them healthy things, and they will feel better, obey faster, and listen more often.
Sugar is addicting, which is why children crave it so often. They aren’t used to alcohol, coffee, or cigarettes, so they don’t like it anyway.
But everybody likes sugar, right? If your child asks, begs, or whines for candy or soda pop too often, you know that he/ she is somewhat addicted.
Besides, sugar gets them hyped up for a moment, which causes them to lack control over their emotions, feel good for a little while, only to feel tired and upset afterward. This is because dopamine, just like caffeine (even worse) gives our brains a dopamine rush, which makes us feel good.
But even through the rush goes through the roof for the first few minutes or the first half hour or so, the dopamine levels drop even farther in our brains, which makes us crave more of it to get the same rush. It’s an addiction cycle.
One of the worst things you can do is to give your child sugar before they go to bed. This makes them unfocused and demanding. Additionally, it can have a negative effect on their sleeping pattern. Avoid this at all times.
You may think this is obvious, but I just saw it recently: We were in a city that was 1 hour away from home. It was already 11: 00 p.m. The 5-year-old daughter was already sleeping drunk and was about to fall asleep in the car, but then the mother gave her large ice cream flurry or something, with tons of sugar and chocolate.
The child ate the whole thing (unbelievable) and didn’t fall asleep. Instead, she started talking about this or that, and moving back and forth with the excess of energy she had just gotten from the ice cream. She bounced against the car doors, unbuckled her seatbelt, disobeyed our rules, and with her eyes half closed, she raved out all kinds of nonsense.
The worst parenting award for the day went to her mom, of course, and the next day, her child peed the bed, slept in until the afternoon and was complaining and crying all day. A day later, she became a little sick.
Mistake 6: Spiritual Abuse and Guilt Trips
Children want to feel that they are doing something right. Most arguments in this world exist because of accusations and blaming. The “I didn’t do anything, it’s all your fault” words get repeated in every home over and over again across the nations.
Because people want to feel like they are morally good. They do their best to improve life, and even though they make mistakes, they usually try to succeed.
One of the parenting mistakes, therefore, is using guilt trips to get your child to do something. I knew a father who would see a mess in the living room, and instead of saying, “Could you guys please clean this up now?” or “I already told you to clean it up, so do it now, or I will turn off the TV” he used suggestions like, “I am cleaning up the kitchen; what are you lazy kids doing?”
His children had to draw a conclusion that he was doing something more useful than they were, and take the initiative themselves. And when they didn’t, they would get another guilt trip.
Don’t guilt trip. Kids don’t understand sarcasm as they don’t want suggestions. They want clarity. It’s your job as a parent to make the child feel good about him-/ herself.
Yes, of course you need to correct or discipline them when they do something wrong, but there are other ways of doing that. Guilt trips are only somewhat effective in the short run; if you do it too much, it will influence their self-esteem and make them bitter towards you.
I’ve heard from some people that emotional abuse is often more serious than physical abuse. Whether or not this is true in every case, the point is that making your kids feel bad all the time, is one of the best ways to mess them up and give them a lifelong inferiority complex.
And although this is similar to spiritual abuse, it is still slightly different. So let me explain what spiritual abuse is:
Spiritual abuse refers to the abuse administered under the guise of religion [or other philosophical ideas], including harassment or humiliation, possibly resulting in psychological trauma.
According to this definition, people who spiritually abuse their children use religious or spiritual ethics to manipulate their children and make them feel inferior, bad, or sinful. I know people who have been spiritually abused.
They have fallen away from their faith because all it means to them, is that people are condemning or judging them. They constantly feel like religious people are pretending to be better or looking down on them. I’ve seen it numerous times.
Religion doesn’t have to be a bad thing; I know people whose lives have been changed for the better because they found a faith that helped them gain friends, overcome bad habits, or increase their positivity because of the certainty of an afterlife, a caring God, or something else that benefitted them.
Many religions in the world preach love, charity, serving one another, peace, and other idealistic approaches to life. If those good things should come from religion, then why would anyone hate religion, right?
It’s because when a person experiences people around him/ her who use religion to back up their own statements, get their way, or make them feel bad about themselves, they start hating (that) religion and esteem them its followers hypocrites.
Hypocrisy simply means that people aren’t integer: They don’t practice what they preach. Or they become so “preachy” that they are constantly telling others how to live their lives.
Spiritual abuse can consist of using Bible scriptures to manipulate, excessive precision on less important standards, a feeling of hostility when preaching love and friendship, and force or coercion under the incorrect notion that this will help them live a better life.
If you are part of a religion and you want your child to follow in your footsteps, then make sure you have the child connect your faith to the good things in life, because if the religion makes them feel bad, or if they end up hating you, they could erroneously end up thinking it has something to do with the religion itself and step out of it.
Mistake 7: Manners and Etiquette Imbalance
I am not going to tell you exactly what manners you should be teaching your children, but I am throwing it out there to make you think about it.
If you are too strict about everything and punish them excessively for each mistake, then you are not in balance. I know people whose children had to pay their parents money every time they placed their elbows on the table during dinner. To me, that sounded a little over the top.
On the other hand, if you don’t teach them anything at all, they will become inconsiderate and disrespectful. I also know people, in a different family of course, who don’t teach their children much at all. Their children are messy, don’t greet others, show little interest in people, burp and fart on purpose in social settings, and steal stuff from other people’s homes.
So to help you set the boundaries, think about it first before you apply it.
Mistake 8: Competition Imbalance
Another short but important question you can ask yourself as a parent is how you deal with competitiveness. Children can get incredibly competitive. They learn quickly that winning brings honor and rewards, and that losing is a failure.
If you aren’t encouraging your children to compete and to push a little harder, they won’t progress as much. Healthy competition is part of life to help us grow and work on our talents. There is nothing wrong with coaching your child a little to practice more often, refine techniques, or try to beat other children when it comes to sports, arts or music.
However, this can go too far as well.
I have been a basketball referee several times, and some of those parents get so pumped up that they become hostile. It’s not a pretty sight and it’s wrong.
Most of all, those parents were sometimes giving a bad example by not having good sportsmanship. If winning becomes everything, you may risk that your child becomes arrogant, mean, too hard on him-/ herself, anxious or stressed, or a cheater.
Let you children know that winning is fun, but that it’s not everything.
Mistake 9: Cleanliness Imbalance
Let’s not beat around the bush. Some parents are just “clean freaks” while others can be seen as “slobs”.
So there you have it. I don’t think I should say much more about this. Find the balance. If there is a speck of dust on the counter, nobody cares, but if the entire house hasn’t been dusted for years, then you may want to consider spending a day or two on a big cleanup.
It’s really hard to find the perfect balance.
I have been in homes where everything was cleaned up, and I loved it. But then I found out the parents let their children vacuum 3 times per day and would freak out if they made anything messy.
I’ve also been in homes that looked disgusting. Everything is messed up and dirty, and I have to say honestly that I never feel at home in those houses. It makes me want to cover my nose, keep my shoes on, and leave as soon as I can.
Kids can get really messy when they are having fun, and sometimes that’s okay. But they have to understand that cleaning up is part of their responsibility too. If you teach them young, it will become a habit.
Mistake 10: Unrealistic Expectations
Do you sometimes expect more of your children than they are either capable of or willing to do? They are human, just like you, and they make mistakes.
They have emotions like anger, frustration, sadness, and have to deal with fatigue, lack of concentration, hunger, and all manner of impulses entering their brains all day: Smells, sights, colors, sounds, music, noises, temperatures, etc.
So yes, sometimes we expect them to “just behave” and they should, but they aren’t strong enough mentally to resist every temptation, fight every weakness, or control every emotion.
Here are some expectations parents have had of children, which are impossible for anyone who is basically “just human”:
- Always be in a good mood.
- Never make a mess.
- Be perfect at school.
- Ignore how we interact with each other.
- Always be grateful for what they get.
- Don’t make excuses or blame something or someone else.
- Always let go and forgive one another immediately.
- Do what we tell them to, not the kind of behavior we show them.
Remember that children have to learn, and that we teach by example. Above all, don’t expect the same out of your children that you do. You might have had years and even decades to perfect your skills or come to your senses about certain realities. A child’s mind is still developing. Their brains don’t function the same way. It takes time.
Here are some tips to help your child know what your expectations are and how to help them meet your expectations more often:
- Use schedules and timetables.
- Motivate and encourage them.
- Adjust your expectations to the level the child is at.
- They are all different.
- Use humor.
- Try to help them come up with a solution.
- Don’t panic.
- Don’t pressure them more than you should.
- Be clear about what you expect of them and discuss it with them.