Raising kids is a tough job; after all, they don’t come with instruction manuals. That said, there are tons of effective parenting resources to help parents raise well-rounded children.
Unfortunately, many parents in the western world tend to make some common parenting mistakes, ranging from overprotecting kids to being inconsistent with rules and limits. This article looks at how American parents are doing it all wrong when it comes to parenting and offers some important tips to help correct common mistakes.
How American Parents Are Doing It All Wrong: 6 Common Parenting Mistakes to Avoid
A recent survey by Pew Research Center found that many American parents say parenting is a lot harder today and more hands-on than expected. According to the survey, about four in ten parents with kids under 18 are concerned that their children will develop mental health problems (like anxiety or depression) at some point.
Besides external influences, many children are exposed to unhelpful parenting methods that can negatively affect them in the future.
The following are some common parenting mistakes that can make life difficult for children now and when they become adults.
1. Overindulging Your Child
If your idea of “support and encouragement” is to always check off every single item on your child’s wish list, you’re doing that child more harm than good.
Giving your child everything they want isn’t necessarily the best way to make them your highest priority. Instead, you’re training the child to think that the world revolves around them, and people will drop everything at a moment’s notice to be there for them.
Now, that’s teaching a child to be extremely selfish, don’t you agree?
Unconditional love does not mean overindulging your kids. Indeed, you want your child to think and feel they are the most important person in the world ― and they are!
However, many American parents tend to give children the impression that their pleasure, happiness, and success are the only things that matter. This type of upbringing robs children of important qualities like self-discipline, empathy, and compassion for others.
It is okay to let your kids experience disappointment by sometimes saying no to their wants or behavior. This is especially the case if their behavior is inappropriate or their desire is unnecessary.
Teach your kids to know the value of earning things. It might not be pleasant at first, but they will grow up knowing they can achieve whatever they want if they put in the required work.
2. Not Listening to Kids
Another common mistake among many American parents is not paying attention to their children. Most parents do a good job of talking ― giving instructions ― and therein lies the problem.
If you always lecture your kids, communication becomes one-sided, depriving them of the chance to express themselves verbally.
Indeed children should learn from their parents, but talking without listening to what your child really has to say creates a barrier that prevents true learning. Kids raised in such environments only obey instructions blindly or grudgingly.
And because democratic parenting is not practiced in many homes, children will eventually resist or resent their parents’ egotistical, one-sided communication style, especially as they reach adolescence.
Another way parents fail to listen to their kids is by minimizing their feelings.
Here are a few examples of how American parents are doing it all wrong in this aspect:
- Dismissing a child’s fear of the dark or loud storm.
- Not acknowledging a child’s feelings because “it’s not a big deal.”
- Telling a child to “grow up” when they express sadness, pain, or difficult emotions.
Children grow up to learn that tuning into their feelings is not important; after all, they see their parents shutting them down over and over again.
Over time, kids will prefer to suppress their feelings rather than express them. Children raised in such homes will likely have trouble managing difficult emotions.
3. Not Having Limits or Rules
Letting your children do whatever they want is not a show of love. Children need positive guidance to learn responsibility and self-control, as well as how to make thoughtful choices.
Your kids won’t know what to expect or how to act if you don’t set boundaries, house rules, and consistent routines.
Keep in mind that it is pointless to have rules or limits without enforcing them.
Turning a blind eye when your child crosses their limit might seem like doing your child a favor. But without appropriate discipline and positive guidance, you expose your child to negative behavior, like entitlement mentality, defiance, attention-seeking behavior, and temper tantrums.
4. Comparing Your Child With Other Kids
Comparing your children with others is an unfair thing to do. The negative impact can live with them for the rest of their lives. This is especially true if you constantly put your kids down in public while praising their peers in front of them.
Your child is unique ― every child is!
As a parent, it can be frustrating if your child performs poorly in academics, sports, or other aspects. But you put your child under undue pressure if you always point out their weaknesses while praising their peers who do better.
This is a costly mistake that can do a lot of damage to your child’s self-esteem or confidence.
Unfortunately, the culture of stiff competition or “success at all costs” is pervasive and entrenched in America and other western societies, making many parents have unrealistic expectations of their children.
While it is okay to challenge your child to become better at what they do, it is unhelpful to pressure them through unnecessary comparison.
5. Being Inconsistent
Inconsistency in discipline or parenting is another common example of how American parents are doing it all wrong. You send mixed signals, create miscommunication, and confuse your child if you are inconsistent in your parenting style.
For example, if you give in to your child sometimes but are very strict on the same issue at other times, your child will hardly know what acceptable behavior is or what to expect.
As a parent, you must understand what parenting style is most suitable for you and your family, as well as the methods that instill the values you uphold in your home.
6. Overprotecting Your Child
Like overindulging kids, always rescuing your child even before they make mistakes sets them up for future failure.
For example, solving your child’s homework may seem like helping them out, but you’re making it more difficult for them to complete classroom tests independently.
Of course, no parent enjoys watching their children struggling, but understand that challenges, obstacles, and failure are all huge parts of success.
Resist the urge to always fix everything for your kids. Allow them to face age-appropriate challenges without swooping in and saving the day.
It’s a natural instinct to protect your child from the pain of mistakes, but there is no real learning and growth without mistakes. By allowing children to make mistakes, you teach them to develop resilience, mental strength, and self-soothing skills.
Tips for Effective Parenting
Now that we’ve seen how American parents are doing it all wrong, let’s quickly look at a few right ways to parent effectively.
- Catch your child doing something right: While discipline and guidance are great for American parenting, don’t just look for opportunities to correct your child. Instead of constant negative guidance or criticizing your child at every turn, keep an eye out for when they are being good and compliment them. Find ways to be generous with praise and hugs, and show love every day. Doing this is usually more effective at encouraging good behavior than constant criticism.
- Prioritize communication: Children will be happier and more willing to follow instructions and respect boundaries if they understand why they are expected to do so. “Because I said so” isn’t a good way to communicate motives and values to your children. They may be kids, but they deserve proper explanations. Take some time to explain clearly why you want your young child to behave in certain ways and the consequences of poor choices.
- Set good examples: What traits or values do you want to see in your kids? Demonstrate these traits and values, whether you think your children are watching. In everything you do, model kindness, empathy, honesty, respect, tolerance, and friendliness as often as you can. Remember, your kids are always watching you and picking up cues on how to behave, whether the behavior is good or bad.
- Demonstrate unconditional love: Effective parenting involves corrective guidance, which is not always pleasant. While you cannot avoid discipline as a responsible parent, you must never give your children the idea they need to earn your love.
Don’t withdraw your love, time, and affection because your child behaves poorly. Also, avoid fault-finding, blaming, and harsh criticism when confronting your child’s bad behavior. Always ensure your child knows you love them unconditionally, no matter what.