Most parents don’t want to ruin their kids for life, but sometimes we can do things that negatively impact them, without even realizing it. Sometimes, we do know that we are doing the wrong thing or making bad parenting decisions, but we are either too tired to deal with a bad situation, or too overwhelmed to fix it.
Raising kids is one of life’s most difficult endeavors, and no one can do it completely alone. We need a little help now and then to realize when we are doing some things wrong, and we need to be willing to acknowledge our own mistakes, so we can try to correct them—before it becomes too late.
Not one single parent in this world is perfect. We will all make mistakes, we will all lose control of our emotions, and we will all make bad decisions or have errors in judgment, which will negatively impact our children. The best we can hope for is to work on correcting our mistakes, and always try to curb our negative behaviors, so that we don’t end up ruining our kids for life.
The following 15 ways that parents are ruining their kids can be corrected if the parents are willing to try to change their behaviors, so that they can raise children who will become positive members of society. At the end of the day, we want to have a good relationship with our kids, and we want to encourage them to be the best people they can be.
15 Giving In
Most parents realize that giving in to a tantrumming child is not going to teach them anything, except that their bad behavior will get them what they want. It's easy to say, "Don't give in to a tantrum", but we all have our days when we are at the end of our rope, and giving in is the easiest thing to do. We've all done it. We've all bought the candy at the register, we've all handed our kids that iphone at the restaurant, but there comes a point when you need to say no, and mean it. Sometimes the resulting screams are not going to be fun for others to hear—it's not fun for you to hear—but eventually your child will benefit from knowing the rules, and will act appropriately. The key is consistency. They will learn their bad behaviors will not get the desired result, and they will stop trying that particular plan to get what they want. This becomes particularly important as children get older. A tantrumming toddler is one thing--an eight year old throwing a fit is something else entirely.
14 Lack Of Discipline
Discipline is such a wildly controversial subject in the world of parenting, with an entire spectrum of tools a parent can use to gain control of their child. Many of these 'tools' are considered appropriate by some, and downright evil by others. The consensus still seems to be that some kind of discipline is needed. Whether you use corporal punishment, time outs, redirecting, rewards for good behavior, or consequences for bad behavior—you certainly need to do something, and stick with it. Each family is different, and each child is different; what works for one child may not work for another. Still, parents need to use discipline, rather than ignoring bad behaviors. Children need to know their boundaries; they need you to teach them what is and what isn't appropriate behavior. Children aren’t born knowing right from wrong, and they need their parents to show them the correct way to behave in society.
13 Always Taking Their Side
Most of the time our job is to be an advocate for our child, after all, if we don't stand up for them when they can't, who will? But being an advocate for your child doesn't always mean taking their side of things. Just like giving in to bad behaviors, we need to help them to stand up for themselves. We also need to acknowledge when they have done something wrong, and let them experience the consequences. Take for example the teacher who has punished your child for doing something inappropriate in class. Of course you want to protect your child from that unpleasantness, but they will have to learn that there are consequences for their actions. Even when it seems like they were treated unfairly, the child needs to learn to handle that situation on their own. Of course you need to take in their age and abilities into consideration, as well as the situation, but taking their side isn't always in their best interest.
12 Fighting In Front Of The Kids
When have two or more people arguing ever made you comfortable? It is not a comfortable situation for anyone, but it's a terrifying situation for a child who doesn't understand the argument. No parent agrees on everything and marriage is bound to have its share of confrontations, but arguing in front of the children is never the right thing to do. The child can even become anxious, and oftentimes will blame themselves for stresses in the family unit. If you have to stop yourself in the middle of an argument, do it. Take it somewhere else. But even if you take it into another room, your child can still hear you. Figure out places and ways to hash out your differences so that your child doesn't have to be affected by them. Even small arguments can cause some children to have issues focusing at school, and can cause anxious children to become neurotic. Don't fight in front of the kids.
11 Setting A Bad Example
It's pretty difficult to always do the right thing in front of the kids, but we certainly need to limit our bad behaviors as much as possible. Kids learn through modeling, as we all well know, so we need to be aware of the little eyes that are ever watchful. Sometimes we might not think it's such a big deal to shoot a quick text while driving, or eat a bag of chips in one sitting. We might think that talking badly about others, or leaving a big mess in the kitchen won't be passed on to our children, but it certainly influences them. You will always be their biggest role model, and though you can't be perfect 100% of the time, you want to do your very best to model good behaviors. To this day I still think, "What would my parents do in this situation?" And then I usually do that—with a few adjustments—but still. We are our parents. Be the good model.
10 Not Being Present
Every parent is guilty of not being present on some level; we can't be 'on' all the time. Honestly, it's not our job to entertain our children 24 hours a day, but we should try to be present in their lives. Yes, we all have to work, we all have to get chores done, and we all have times where we just don't want to play Hungry, Hungry Hippos, but we also shouldn't neglect our children, and leave them lonely. Kids crave attention, and they need it, at every age. They also need you at their soccer games, class plays, and swim meets. Parents need time for themselves as well, but we have to do our best to balance our lives, so that our kids don't miss out. Make it a priority to spend quality time with each of your children, every day. They grow up so fast, and you can’t get that time back.
9 Comparing Your Child To Their Siblings Or Other Kids
Each of our children is blessedly unique, and we need to celebrate their differences. Comparing your children is extremely harmful to their self-esteem. Even simple comparisons can be detrimental, so you must be careful to curb your comments. Even offhanded comments will be heard and can impact your child. There are some positive behaviors that parents want to see in all of their children, but there are ways to get them to behave without using phrases like: "Look at your brother. Why can't you be like him?" Or, "You sister got As in history, so why is it so hard for you?" Before long, your child will feel like a failure, and will actually harbor negative feelings towards their sibling. Instead, encourage your children to try their best, and to find their own paths towards greatness. Their path may look different than their sibling’s, but it will still get them where they need to go.
8 Criticizing The Child Too Much
It's difficult to find ways to parent your child without occasionally criticizing bad behaviors, but when we criticize children for their unique personality traits or born temperaments, they will feel that there is something wrong with them. Each child has their own set of traits that make them unique, and we must embrace their unique qualities and we should encourage our children to know themselves, and love themselves for who they are. Continually getting on them about 'being too shy' or 'being too hyper' is not helpful. Those are the traits that make them who they are, and they can't be changed. Best to teach them to understand themselves, and own their personalities. If we accept them for who they are, they will be more comfortable in their own skin, and will gain self-esteem and confidence. They will become leaders, who believe in themselves, and not try to be someone they aren't.
7 Continually Harping About Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes. We all want our children to learn and grow, and it can be frustrating for parents when they feel like their kids are not learning from their mistakes. We have to remember that kids learn at different levels, and they learn some things quickly, and some things may take them more time to grasp. Harping on them for their mistakes can actually produce more mistakes, or cause them to give up on something completely. Encouragement is a much more effective tool to help your child overcome adversity. Let them know you are there, and that you believe in their ability to succeed, no matter what the challenge is before them. We can't help them our children achieve greatness by pointing out all their mistakes, and then dwelling on them. They will figure it out, if given the time. Mistakes are the building blocks of learning. One could even say you can’t have learning, without failure.
6 Teaching That Dreams Are Impossible To Reach
There is nothing sadder than a parent who has crushed their child's dreams. Sometimes, parents don't want their children to pursue 'useless' paths, or pursuits that won't 'make them any money' or 'get them anywhere'. There is something to be said for being responsible, but children should be taught that they can pursue their dreams and be responsible about the realities of life at the same time. No one ever found happiness by settling for a life they don't want, even if they find stability. We have only one life to live, and following your passion is the best way to find true happiness, and to achieve true greatness. Not too many people can succeed when they do things that don't make them happy. Have some faith in your child's passions, and encourage them to follow their dreams. Don't be the damper. That's a big burden for a parent to carry.
5 Living Through Your Kids
It's super great when children have similar interests to their parents. It certainly makes parenting easier, when you and your child can get excited about the same things. That being said, your child is not you—and you shouldn't live out all of your dreams through them. You have your own life to live, and they have theirs. Don't burden your children with whatever regrets you may have about your own dreams. And don't push too hard for them to do something, just because you wanted it for yourself. Of course we all want our children to succeed, and we want to push them towards that success, but we also need to listen to them. If they say they want a different path, or they are no longer happy playing basketball, for example, don't force them to continue--just because you want them to be a star. Your job is to be there for them, not pressure them.
4 Evaluating A Child's Intelligence Based On Grades
Many things about being a parent are tough, and seeing your child struggle in school is one of the toughest things a parent will experience. Sure, it's nice when your kid comes home with straight As without even trying, but not all kids can do that, in fact most can't. That doesn't mean your child is not intelligent. It means they learn differently, and it means a little more effort will be needed in school. That effort will come from both the child, and the parent. Parents need to work with the school and the child's teacher, to find the best method to teach your child. Hard work and effort is what matters, not grades. Grades are simply used to measure how much your child understands in any given subject, and shouldn't be used to measure their intelligence. All children will have strengths in school, and they will all have weaknesses. Encourage them to try their best to understand the material, not just try to get good grades.
3 Focusing On Negative Characteristics
Every person has negative qualities, and children are no different. Perhaps your child is very loud, or is clumsy, or doesn't make friends easily. There are countless traits that could be considered 'negative', but focusing on these qualities can't help, and can do great harm. We all have things we don't love about ourselves. Maybe we aren't the cleanest people, or maybe we aren't the most motivated to hit the gym—but we have good qualities too. We need to focus on our children's positive qualities, and cultivate those. That's not to say that children can't work to improve these so called 'negative' traits, but continually focusing on them can lower their confidence, and can make them feel like they aren't smart enough, or athletic enough, or good enough. We are all good at different things, and we all have certain talents, that others don't have. Focus on the positive. Don't dwell on the negative.
2 Never Praising
Some parents are scared to give too much praise to their children, fearing that it will spoil them or make them soft. Withholding praise can negatively impact your child by making them feel that nothing they do is good enough. Sure, we don't need to praise every little thing they do, or they could become entitled, but we should offer praise when it's deserved. There is nothing more motivating than positive encouragement. How do you feel when your boss gives you a few kind words? Feels pretty darn good, and motivating, doesn't it? It doesn't matter how old you are, praise feels good. We need it to grow and thrive, and children need it to feel confident in their abilities and to feel good about their successes. Overpraise can be bad, but under-praising is far worse. When in doubt, encourage. There are worse things for a child to have than over-confidence.
1 Demanding Blind Obedience
Obedience to your parents has long been hailed as a virtue. Pretty sure the Bible has something to say on the subject. Obedience is a good quality to a certain extent, but blind obedience can be a terrible thing for a child to develop. Think holocaust--need I say more? Children need to know that it's okay to disagree with people in charge. There is a big difference between respect for authority and blind obedience. Children should be respectful when they disagree with authority figures, but they don't have to blindly follow their superiors at all times. Disagreement can actually be a great vehicle for positive change. Children should be encouraged to follow their beliefs, even if they disagree with the vast majority. Conformity can be necessary when living in a society that has rules, but demanding blind obedience at all costs causes people to snap. Be respectful of your child's needs to have their own opinions, even if they are different than your own.