If you are even interested enough to read this article, you are likely an engaged and loving parent. You are also likely to be hoping to gain some understanding of how to improve your already awesome momhood! Even the most successful mothers make mistakes... we are all human, right? So here are some things to consider to help improve your parenting skills.
23 Common Mistakes Parents Make
1. Setting Wishy-Washy Boundaries
Your children will feel more secure and be able to more specifically obey when your rules are clear. If you aren’t sure of the boundaries, how can you expect them to be? Think about a physical boundary. If the line isn’t clear, wouldn’t you expect the person who is supposed to stay within it to falter? Give your child clear instructions and boundaries. When you tell them to pick up their toys, set a timer. When you say tell them to stay in your yard, unless there is a fence, you need to go out and show them the exact boundaries. If they are older, don’t say, “Be home early!” Tell them a time by which you expect them to return. Make your boundaries clear and they will more easily make a habit of obedience.
2. Conversations at the Time of Correction
People often think it is best to explain your reasoning when correcting bad behavior. The problem is the timing. They need to know to obey regardless of whether they understand or not. If your child is out of control and emotionally exploding, and therefore acting out in an inappropriate way, trying to have a conversation of reason is not helpful or productive. Correct the bad behavior at that moment. Do not have a conversation. Be quick, be consistent and have an unrelenting resolve to stop the bad behavior.
Later, after they are in compliance, then may be the time to explain. But, only if they have never heard the explanation before. For example, they do not need to be told over and over again not to scream and that it is unpleasant for others when they do. Once you have corrected the bad behavior, and they have complied, and you have explained your expectations, any other time you have to do this needs either very little or no explanation.
3. Setting Rules Without Consequences
Rules without consequences are not rules at all. Setting out a plan, and sticking to it makes rules solid and gives a child an understanding that they are making a choice. Let them know the rules, and the rewards and the consequences that go along with it. Then, there is a plan. You are only there to execute the plan and they are making a choice about doing good or doing evil by obeying or disobeying. And think about how that can relate to their future choices!
4. Being Slow and Inconsistent
These are the two most common reasons for disobedience and bad behavior from children. When a child misbehaves, waiting and hesitating to address the situation will cause it to occur again. Giving them several chances or “counting to ten” only makes them disobedient until “9” …. Which is actually allowing disobedience while you watch! Not giving the consequences EVERY TIME will also not bring a change in the out of control situation.
It doesn’t matter how many great ideas you are given as a mom to take care of bad behavior if these ideas are not implemented quickly and consistently upon the arrival of the undesired behavior. The idea might be a great one! But applied slowly or without consistency, it will not produce results.
Training a child effectively means following through quickly - and every time, without hesitation and without exception. If the methods we have discussed so far aren’t working, consider this may be the reason.
5. Setting Up Failure on Follow Through
Keep in mind that each rule you make will have a consequence and a follow through. If you set up a consequence that is hard for you to accomplish, isn’t it less likely that you will be consistent? That you will be quick? That you will be effective? Don’t set yourself up for failure. Keep in mind that the consequences must be easy for you to follow through on and effective for change in the child. You should NOT be struggling on a daily basis. If you are struggling, things must change or you will not be consistent and therefore you will not be effective.
Telling your child to clean up their room, but not keeping your own spaces clean. Telling your child not to be tardy to school, but being consistently late to church. Telling your child not to lie, but then lying to a friend or co-worker to avoid hurting their feelings. Children pick up on hypocrisy and it causes them to be untrusting and angry.
7. Excusing Bad Behavior
There is a difference between a reason and an excuse, but sometimes stating the reason makes it an excuse. A reason is the cause of the temptation to behave badly. An excuse is giving allowance for bad behavior. When your child is misbehaving, do not make excuses for it. Yes, they may be tired… and that may be a reason, but it is not an excuse. Yes, they may be shy… and that may be a reason, but it is not an excuse. Yes, they may have allergies… and that may be a reason, but it is not an excuse. Don’t let your children believe the reasons are excuses. It is best not to state the reason, and just correct the behavior. And if you DO excuse bad behavior in some cases, expect them to behave badly in many cases.
8. Distracting Rather Than Expecting Obedience
Many a teacher, grandmother, and friend will try to distract your children when they want them to stop doing something. Maybe you do this too. Rather than training them to obedience, they take away the temptation. For instance, if you put a cup of water on an end table and your toddler comes up to pull it down… Do you distract them with a shiny toy to keep them from grabbing it and move the cup away? Or, do you tell them “no” and expect them to comply? Teaching your children to have these simple disciplines can make your life easier and their life safer. Teach your child to comply with your wishes and do not take away the item of their desire. They need to be able to control themselves from taking it when you tell them not to… and it is a great life lesson for them to learn!
9. Allowing Social Rudeness
Your children live in a world of social interaction. They need to learn how to interact and not be shielded from others by you. Teach your children to behave socially so they can be successful in school, with friends, when meeting new people, and even in awkward situations. They will have to deal with social skills all their lives. Help them feel comfortable. If you haven’t yet, read “Teaching Social Skills: Enjoying Your Children in Public”.
10. Making Fun of Their Questions or Concerns
A child needs to feel able to come to you with any question or concern without fear of ridicule. Make sure that when they do come to you, you understand that though their concerns may seem small to you because you are an adult and can see the big picture… to them, it is important enough to take to a trusted adult. Be there for them and squelch any temptation to chuckle even if their question strikes you as funny.
11. Asking Questions Instead of Stating Expectations
Sometimes we want to give our children a choice. Other times, we expect them to do what we say. Make this clear. If you expect your child to go to bed, don’t ask them if they want to do so. Tell them it’s time for bed and move toward that goal. If you want to give them a choice … for instance between two different outfits to wear… set up two and ask them which they choose. If you want them to wear a certain outfit, don’t ask. Give them the clothes and tell them to get dressed. It’s that simple. Only ask a question if you will allow their answer to be the outcome. Otherwise, make a statement.
12. Allowing Children to Ignore You
Children often seem to have selective hearing. Don’t allow it. If you really do believe they have a hearing problem, take them to a specialist and get their hearing checked. But, a good way to check it for less trouble is… ask them if they want a cookie. If they hear you ask that, they can hear you tell them to clean up their toys. (Of course, you must produce a cookie if they say yes!) Do NOT allow them to ignore you. And, do not allow them to ignore others. Ignoring is rude behavior and it shows disrespect. Require them to be respectful when they are little if you expect them to behave that way when they are older.
13. Doing Everything For Them
The more you allow your children to do for themselves, the more confident and capable they will become. The more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves and the more dependent on you they will be. If you want your children to be confident and self-reliant, teach them to do for themselves. ALL children who are able to walk should have chores to do on a regular basis… and ones that matter in the home.
14. Not Allowing Them to Experience Natural Consequences
When someone experiences a consequence, they learn. If you want your children to have the knowledge and wisdom that comes from maturity, allow them to learn from their own mistakes. If they forget their homework, don’t drive it to the school for them. If they get in trouble, let them suffer the consequences so they learn from their mistakes. A good parent is there to coach them through a consequence for their mistake, but not shield them from it.
15. Defending Them Against Authority
Your child will grow up and have authority figures over them. They will have teachers, police, judges, and bosses. They need to know they should comply with these authorities unless there is an abusive situation. You, as a parent, need to support these authorities.
Sometimes these people will be unfair. Teach them life is sometimes unfair. Teach them how to stand up for themselves if abused, but also to be wise and make peace as much as possible. Do not be the one to always come to their defense unless they are being abused. An authority figure who is not wise is going to come into their lives at some point, and probably more than once. Teach them it is wise for them to uphold their authorities and support them in their position. But, never to allow abuse or immorality.
16. Allowing Extended Family Members to Undermine
One of the most difficult balancing acts to handle in life is that of an undermining family member. It can be someone from your own family or an in-law who just seems to want to take over when they arrive in the presence of you and your child. You MUST be the MOM at that point. Never offend purposefully, but don’t be afraid to do so if necessary.
Set your boundaries and stick to them. Remember whatever you allow in the presence of others, your child will likely take advantage of… and will have to be retrained every time. Don’t allow them to distract your child instead of expecting obedience, take the consequences for your child’s behavior, allow your child to be disobedient, or to be socially rude.
Let this person know your expectations of your child and be prepared to hear their criticism. Then just say, “I am the Mom and this is the way I choose to raise my child. I would appreciate your support.” And continue with your methods. Don’t be intimidated and don’t give in. NEVER allow them to ignore your parental authority. If they continue to do so, you must choose whether to continue to allow them to be around your child. (We will cover this in a future session about how to handle issues with extended family.) Remember “you will do what is best for your child” is a basic concept your child must trust!
On the other hand, a person who is trying to help and not to undermine might be a person to listen to. Be open to their counsel if they are doing so without expecting you to comply, but making a suggestion that could help. Ask them to speak with you about these kinds of issues privately and not in front of your child. Remember the parental principles you have and listen with that mindset to their ideas.
17. Being at Their Beck and Call
I have heard many people applaud the idea that a mother is a maid, chef, laundry woman, pet sitter, bank, and chauffer. I do not believe that is what a mother is supposed to be. A mother is supposed to teach a child to clean, cook, do laundry, take care of pets, earn money and make plans with the idea in mind that your life doesn’t center around theirs. In other words, a mother is the ultimate teacher, not the ultimate slave.
Your child should recognize that when they ask you to drive them somewhere, it is a privilege and a gift that you do this for them. They should be grateful and not demanding. If they want money, they should ask for ways to earn it. If their clothes are not clean, they should learn to do the laundry. Do not let them make plans with their friends and then expect you to comply with those plans. They must ask you and wait to see if that fits into your schedule.
Teach them that the world does not center around them, their desires, their plans or their circle of friend, and to be grateful for the things others (including you) do for them.
18. Not Warning Against Future Life Issues
There are so many things you can tell your child that you know are coming in their future. Many parents don’t do that and when the time comes, the child is clueless!
Warn them about peer pressure and what it will feel like. When they begin to experience that pressure, they will remember your warning and will be able to discuss it with you… and hopefully make good choices.
Warn them about emotional attachments and how that can lead to bad choices. Tell them how they will feel when they start to become emotionally attached so they can avoid it.
Tell your children about how friends in their life may come and go. That authorities may not always be fair, that they sometimes will feel depressed or lonely. Let them know what to do in those circumstances and remind them they can come to you. Don’t let them go into the world without the knowledge of these things.
19. Supporting Unhealthy Relationships
So many parents do not regulate and guide their children when it comes to relationships. Instead of saying “no”, they are afraid of alienating their children, so they don’t protect them. They even invite the problem relationship into their home.
Your child needs your guidance. You know they are not ready for the emotions that come with adult romance and certainly not sexual involvement. Don’t encourage boyfriend/girlfriend relationships when they are not ready to make them permanent. By encouraging these relationships, you are walking with them right into an emotional storm which can sometimes have lifelong consequences.
Don’t take boyfriends/girlfriends on vacation or invite them to intimate family events. Especially if they are not even college age yet. Reserve that privilege for a potential spouse. Think maturely and realize there will be vacation and holiday pictures for years to come which may bring harsh and sorrowful memories if there has been an emotional breakup. (I have a class on dating that covers and warns young people and parents about these pitfalls.)
Be the mature parent and guide them away from getting emotionally and romantically involved until they are ready for marriage. Encourage them to have friendships and go out in groups. Don’t be the parent who watches your child go from one relationship to another, and allow them to be on a destructive and harmful emotional rollercoaster throughout their growing up years.
Teach them to enjoy their childhood and take advantage of this time in their lives to be free from any romantic attachments that could cause them to miss out on friendships and activities which they can only experience while they are young.
20. Allowing Disrespect or Passive Rebellion
If your child complies with your instructions but does it with a bad attitude, they are not really being compliant. Was your intent for them to do what you say but talk back? But stomp their foot? But whine? No. It is an unspoken truth that you should expect compliance with a willing spirit.
Sometimes they just don’t want to comply. That’s true. This is the time they must learn that they don’t have to WANT to do what you say… they just have to do it. And they have to make a choice to have a good attitude. Attitude is a choice just like joy is a choice. If you don’t believe me, read “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom. Her sister had joy in a concentration camp because she chose to have joy.
If you have the relationship with your child that you should have, you can explain this choice to them and they will understand it. Then, you must expect them to make a choice to comply to your instructions with a good attitude. By allowing a rebellious spirit, you are allowing disobedience. A relationship is lacking between you and them in this case. Learn to build it to avoid passive rebellion.
Disrespect should never be allowed in attitude or otherwise. This should be addressed immediately or it will grow.
21. Allowing Unacceptable Appearance
Remember when we discussed, Be the MOM: How to Take Charge? We talked about how you are in charge of their body when they are little. So what about when they are old enough to choose their own clothing, makeup and hair styles? Are you still in charge?
The answer is, yes. You are in charge as long as you supply their needs. And that means ANY of their needs. If they can buy their own clothing, but you still provide their home, the food they eat, their cell phone, their transportation, etc …. You are still in charge.
There are many things that need to be covered when we are talking about a child who wants to damage their body for appearance sake with piercings or tattoos. They cannot all be discussed here. Let’s just say for now, there is a spiritual problem going on if they wish to do this. (We can discuss that in more detail in the future.)
But for now---- yes, you are in charge. It is ok to allow them to choose their own clothing as long as it is within your guidelines. And you should have some. It is ok to let them choose their own hairstyle or makeup as long as you believe they are portraying a safe image to others and an acceptable image to you.
When they want to portray an image that gives a message to others that would cause a negative and/or even dangerous reaction, they should not be allowed to do it. Sometimes you have to protect them from themselves.
So, if they want to reveal more of their body than is acceptable to you, they should not be allowed to do so. If they want to wear a hairstyle that is distracting to others or shows an aggressive spirit, they should not be allowed. If they want to wear makeup that distorts their natural features or makes them look like a clown, or portrays a dark spirit… they should not be allowed to do so. Sometimes, you must protect them from themselves and protect your family from the problems that come along with a child who has a rebellious spirit.
Suffice to say… if they want to do any of these things, there are more concerns than just clothing, hair or makeup that need to be addressed. These are signs of other spiritual problems. Family counseling may be needed.
22. Not Enough Encouraging Words
Sometimes parents are so busy correcting bad behavior or seeking out things that need to change that they stop noticing the accomplishments and even small gestures their child makes that are praiseworthy.
Your children need to hear you telling them when they do well. I’ve heard the phrase, “They need to hear a hundred ‘at-a-boys’ for every criticism.” That’s just true. They need to know you are proud of their accomplishments and appreciate it when they do their chores or help with other things around the home. Even when they help others, get a good grade, do a presentation at school or church, or make a funny comment. Let them know you appreciate them and you are happy to be their parent.
But also, be honest. Don’t tell them how wonderful something is if they put little effort into it. You can show appreciation without going overboard. They will more likely seek your approval if your praise is well deserved. Find things they are doing that they expect no praise for and mention those things. “I noticed your room is extra clean today. Good job.” Or “I really appreciate that you took your dishes to the sink after the meal without being asked.”
There are plenty of things to say that are encouraging that are honest gestures without resorting to undeserved praise. Look for them!
23. Trash Talking Your Children
Complaining about being a parent, about your child’s behavior, or about their failures to others in front of them, or even in other public places is not appropriate and can damage your relationship with your child. They should only hear words of praise or encouragement from you when in public or in general. That does not mean if they are misbehaving that appropriate measures should not be taken to address it. But generally, they should know you will uphold them to others and never hear you speak a word that would suggest you wish you were not their parent or they were not your child.
We, as parents, make lots of mistakes. We are human and that can be expected. It is my hope that by pointing out some of the most common that I have seen and even experienced at times myself, it will help you avoid these pitfalls.
Don’t forget, telling your child you are sorry when you make a mistake builds trust and allows them to see your humility. Say it when you need to and change your habits. You will see the rewards of children who will admire and uphold you as their parent!