As a parent, it’s easy to worry that you’re making mistakes or to second-guess your decisions or parenting skills.
However, child psychologist Geoffrey Putt, director of outpatient therapy services at Akron Children’s Hospital, wants parents to feel confident in their abilities and recognize that when it comes to raising kids, there’s no right or wrong way.
“While there are some general guidelines for raising children, don’t assume there’s always a right way or beat yourself up for not being the ‘perfect’ parent,” he said. “Instead, figure out what works best for your child and family.”
In finding what works best for you, Dr. Putt recommends avoiding what he considers 12 common parenting mistakes.
- Don’t try to be your child’s best friend. While you want to have a good relationship with your child and it’s tempting to want to be the cool or fun one, avoid blurring the line between friend and parent.
- Not giving your child structure. Children crave predictability and structure, and when you have clearly defined rules, you can avoid constant battles over such things as cell phone usage or curfew.
- Talking more and listening less. You know how it goes. You ask your child if he had a good day and get a one word or mumbled answer. Instead of trying to fill in the blanks, let your child talk. Keep questions open-ended to encourage conversation.
- Not letting your child figure it out. We don’t like to see our kids struggle, so we have a tendency to fix their problems or give them the answers. However, a little distress is part of growing up. Let your child be resourceful and figure out the answer, even if it means turning to Google or YouTube.
- Not teaching healthy habits. The healthy habits you instill now will carry over into adulthood – from controlling portion size and avoiding sugary drinks to getting daily exercise and turning off electronics at bedtime.
- Limiting your child’s exposure or over-scheduling. Find the right balance between letting your child try new activities to see what she enjoys most, without overdoing it. The right number of extracurriculars depends on what works best for your family.
- Telling versus modeling. If you lecture your child about not cursing or smoking, but you do, he’s not likely to listen. Your actions are more powerful than words.
- Focusing on punishment more than praise or positive reinforcement. When disciplining children, it’s easy to focus on what they’re doing wrong and offer consequences. Remember to also praise them when they’re doing things right.
- Not expecting manners. Life is better when you have common courtesy. Not only do people like children who are polite, manners will help your child throughout life.
- Not writing down cute or funny things your child says. As time passes, you may forget some of the best moments. Keep a journal. Or set up an email account for your child at an early age. Periodically send photos and messages regarding things she did or said that you can share with her when she’s older.
- Allowing screens to dominate. Screen time is OK as long as it doesn’t dominate your life. Find ways to manage it with sensible ground rules, so it doesn’t affect family time, sleep, schoolwork or social interactions.
- Focusing on results over process. We tend to concentrate on results, such as grades or the final score. But when we focus on the process, such as whether homework is neat, turned in on time, and your child understood the lesson, the grades will come. The same is true for building a foundation with sports fundamentals.