As a parenting educator for more than 25 years, I’ve had many opportunities to observe and listen to parents in action. During this time I’ve learned some valuable lessons about raising children and managing families. Here are some parenting behaviours you may consider stopping or doing less of, together with replacement behaviour as well:
Doing too much: Children need to learn to fend for themselves and stand on their own two feet. Independence is the aim for parents.
Learn to delegate: Winning arguments The need to win arguments and prove that you are right harms relationships and creates fertile ground for conflict. Focus on the things that matter.
Expecting too little; Expectations are tricky. Too high and children can give up. Too low and children will meet them. Pitch them at their own abilities and their developmental age.
Speaking when angry: Speaking tends to be a default mechanism regardless of your emotional state. When you’re angry children don’t listen. They pick up your venom but not your words. Choose the time and the place to speak to children.
Failing to give proper recognition: It’s easy to take children’s good behaviour and their contributions to the family for granted. The behaviours you focus on expand so catch children doing the right thing.
Playing favourites: Children usually know who’s the favoured or preferred child in their family. Your discipline and expectations give this away. Share the parenting with others so you share the favouritism.
Letting children drop out of the family: In small families most children have their own bedroom, which means isolation is easy to achieve. Teenagers, in particular, tend to prefer their own company rather than the company of peers and parents. Put rituals in place and make sure everyone turns up to meal-time.
Taking the easy way out: It’s a quirk of modern life that as parents get busier with work and other things there is a tremendous temptation to avoid arguments by giving into children. Hang in there when you know it’s the right thing to do.
Judging yourself too harshly: Parents are generally hard markers of themselves. Children are more forgiving of their parents’ blunders than their parents. Parent your family as if it’s a large one.
Solving too many problems: It’s tempting to try to solve our children’s problems rather then leave some for them to solve. A forgotten school lunch is a child’s problem not a parent’s problem. Pose problems for children rather than solve them.
Confusing helping for responsibility: We all love it when our children help at home, but this shouldn’t be confused with taking responsibility. A child who gets himself up in the morning is learning to take responsibility. If you want a child to be responsible give him real responsibility.
Telling children everything will be ok when they are anxious: It’s human nature to reassure your children when they are worried or anxious that everything will be ok. This however is not always true and also reassurance leads to dependence. Validate your child’s worries so that they feel understood. Children need to hear “I get it” rather than “Get over it”.
Taking yourself too seriously: There is a lot of gravitas placed on parents’ behaviours and on modelling that can weigh you down and take the joy from being a parent. Take time to enjoy the little things in family life.
Parenting the individual: Small family parenting is almost always an individual endeavour. It’s worth remembering that sibling relationships (if children have siblings) can be just as influential as the parent-child relationship. It will almost certainly outlast the parent-child relationship. Lead the group, manage the child.
Refusal to express regret: Sometimes parents can work themselves into a tight corner after they’ve said something out of anger or desperation. One parent I know cancelled Christmas out of desperation, and refused to admit she was wrong. Sometimes you need to acknowledge your mistakes and start over again.
Neglecting your own wellbeing: Many families operate under a child-first mentality, which places a lot of pressure and stress on parents. We happily drive children to their leisure activities at the expense of our own. Carve out some time for your own interests and leisure pursuits.
Giving feedback at the wrong time: Timing is everything when you give children feedback. If you give negative feedback immediately after an event or action, you risk discouraging them. Use ‘just in time prompts’ to remind them how to do something. Pick your timing when you give feedback.
Clinging to the past: The ghosts from the past are strong indeed causing us to put some of our problems onto our children. The problems we may have experienced growing up won’t necessarily be shared by our children. Re-tune your parenting antennae to your child’s life and away from yours.
Believing everything your children say: As loving parents we want to trust our children and believe everything they tell us. Children are faulty observers and frequently only see one side of an issue. Help children process what happens to them and see issues from every side.
It's not easy being a modern parent and it is a job that never ends. and one in which we learn new skills each day. However the journey is worth every step!