Parenting is hard. The minute you have another human being to raise, you stop living life only for yourself.
Gone are the days when you could party till late and sleep in till noon. Now, you’ve got to be responsible and conscious of your every move because there’s someone truly watching.
And then there’s the constant self-doubt: “Am I doing the right thing for my child? Am I being the best parent I can be?”
In my long career as an educator, I’ve seen so many parents second-guess themselves. And I applaud them. You know why? Because that means they want to improve. They want to be better.
Now, just as knowing what to do is important in parenting, so is knowing what not to do.
So, today, I’ll share with you some advice that can hopefully help ease those doubts. Here are 10 things to stop doing if you want to be a better parent:
1) Comparing your child to others
I know just how hard it is to not compare your child to others. As a teacher, I gently remind parents not to do this, but strangely, as a parent, I’ve caught myself doing this at times!
It’s a completely natural action – we want to know how our kid measures up in terms of developmental skills. We want to know if they can keep up with the rest or if they need more support.
So, when you see your child’s classmate being able to count to 100, while yours can barely make it to 20, you feel anxious. When you watch your friend’s kid perform a pirouette, you wonder why yours still trips over his shoelaces.
I could go on and on about the many ways we compare our kids to others, but what you have to remember is that every child is different.
Not only do kids develop at different paces, but they also have different learning styles and kinds of intelligence.
Some are linguistically inclined, others are fantastic with numbers. Some have strong social skills, others have exceptional mind-body coordination.
So, it wouldn’t make sense to compare them when they are all wildly unique.
What’s more, if you fail to recognize that your child has their own strengths, you might make them feel like they’re not good enough.
2) Over-scheduling activities
Another habit to break is to pack your child’s schedule with too many activities.
Again, I get why parents do this. You want to give your kids all the opportunities you perhaps never had. Or maybe you’re worried that they’ll fall behind in this ultra-competitive world.
But the truth is, over-scheduling can lead to stress and burnout – not just for your child, but for you too. That calendar filled with playdates, soccer practice, piano lessons, and taekwondo sessions will run you both down.
I’ve always said this – let kids be kids. Give them free time to do whatever they want, whether it’s to jump on the trampoline outside or make mud pies.
It might feel unproductive to you, but research actually shows that free play is packed with so many benefits:
- It trains them to be lifelong learners
- Kids learn how to manage and decide for themselves
- It hones survival skills – minus the stress!
I repeat – minus the stress. That should be enough reason for you to let go of your overwhelming schedules.
3) Not listening
One good thing about the modern world is that we now have more research about child development.
And one of those findings is that children thrive when their parents really listen to them.
For starters, they feel understood and seen – and that’s a major building block for a healthy sense of self-esteem.
Not to mention that you build a stronger parent-child bond. So, when you brush them off or give absent-minded replies, that’s a missed opportunity to connect.
But when you show your child early on that you truly listen to them, they’ll carry that knowledge with them well into adulthood. You’ll always be someone they feel safe talking to.
4) Shouting to make your point
This one is actually a no-brainer, but being a parent myself, I know we all need some reminders every now and then.
Look, when it comes to raising children, it’s a rare parent who has never raised their voice with their kids. We’re only human, after all.
But to be a better parent, be careful not to make shouting your default reaction. You don’t want your child to follow you out of fear, not love or respect.
Plus, it teaches them that shouting is the only effective way to get their point across. I’m pretty sure that’s not a lesson you want them to take away from you.
5) Neglecting to praise them
What about praise? Do you remember to say “Great job!” or “I’m proud of you” when your child makes a real effort?
Believe it or not, some kids never hear these uplifting words from their parents. As a result, they grow up with a lack of self-confidence. They may even develop an aversion to taking risks or trying new things.
Positive reinforcement has been shown to be more effective in encouraging behaviors that we want to develop in children, compared to threats and punishment.
I see this in my own teaching practice, too. Encouraging words and acknowledging their efforts help my students perform better than detention or writing meaningless lines over and over ever could.
That said, make sure to strike a balance. Overpraising can be counterproductive, too. So is overprotection….
6) Overprotecting your child
It’s hard to let go and let our little ones make mistakes, but it’s exactly what you should do if you want to be a better parent.
Real talk – overprotecting children hampers their learning in a huge way. When kids aren’t allowed to space to fail, these things happen:
- They never venture outside their comfort zones. Why should they, when you’re not there to catch them?
- Their creativity and curiosity are stifled, which then leads to lack of innovative thinking and poor problem-solving skills.
- They don’t develop the ability to bounce back from tough times.
- They become dependent on you.
- They develop low self-esteem because they don’t develop the confidence to trust in their own abilities.
Step back and let your child fall down, fail, and learn from it. They need these challenges to grow up strong and resilient.
7) Giving them too much screen time
Now we get to one of the most pervasive problems in parenting – screen time.
The jury is no longer out – a study shows that children and adolescents all over the world now engage in excessive screen time.
That’s hardly surprising, as we now live in a digital age. More and more parents are using gadgets as babysitters so they can have a peaceful dinner or car ride.
This media plan can help you manage your family’s use of media – to make it work for you wisely, instead of enslaving you.
And remember, whatever limits and rules you set, be consistent. Because if there’s anything that can get in the way of your best-laid plans, it’s…
8) Being inconsistent
Consistency is one of my three personal C’s (Communication, Commitment, and Consistency), as a parent and a teacher.
And it has done wonders for my kids, as well as for me.
You see, kids thrive on consistency; it makes them feel secure. If bedtime is at 8 p.m. one night and 10 p.m. the next, it’s confusing for them.
The same goes for rules and discipline – for instance, don’t let them have five hours of video games one day, then only one hour the next.
It sends mixed signals and will definitely lead to resentment. They won’t understand why it was okay yesterday, and today it’s not.
Stick to routines and be consistent in your parenting choices. It makes life more predictable for you and your child.
9) Missing the small moments
Like I mentioned earlier in the section about listening, the time we spend with our kids is the time for building a strong bond.
So, in that light, remember this: Presence is power.
I know you’ve got tons to worry about. How they do in school, food on the table, bills to pay. Not to mention the far-off yet weighty matters like college funds and career choices.
Don’t let all of those concerns take you away from the present moment. Put down your phone and engage. Get down on the floor and play with them.
Enjoy the here and now because that’s what will make the memories that you’ll all carry through life.
10) Ignoring your own needs
Lastly, to be a better parent, take care of yourself. This is something so many parents lose sight of in their desire to give their kids the best of life.
So, they sacrifice sleep or even meals just to give them more. They forget how important it is to have some personal time…or if they do, they feel guilty about it.
Dear parents, say goodbye to that guilt. You know how hard you work for your kids, so you know you’re not slacking if you do have a fun night out with friends or go for a solo run.
Remember that recharging and refreshing yourself tops up your cup so you can continue giving your kids the best guidance you can give.