Have you ever had your child express an interest in something and you thought right away that it wouldn’t end well? I remember when my son excitedly told me he wanted to try skateboarding, “I know I’ll be good at it, Mom! It looks so cool.” I like to think my husband and I are not discouraging parents who carelessly crush their kids—but that time, I was.
I crushed his little dream by overreacting with what-ifs. “What if you fall and hit your head? What if the other boys talk you into trying a trick that’s too hard for you? What if you spend your money on a board and then you don’t like skateboarding?” I could tell by the look on his face that he was crushed. Careless parenting isn’t mean parenting, but it still hurts. It’s reacting without thinking and it leaves damage in its wake. Here are 7 of the most common careless parenting mistakes.
1. We’re overly critical.
I’ve seen this one unfold in my own home. A child, who shall remain nameless, watches shows that only a kid could love. His parent (who may or may not be me) sits down beside him to watch too and starts commenting: “That show has a lot of violence. Not a lot of dialogue, huh? How can people watch this stuff?” The parent gets up. Careless move. Even if we can’t fathom why our kids like certain things, criticizing what they like puts a wedge in our relationship and makes them feel misunderstood.
Even if we can’t fathom why our kids like certain things, criticizing what they like puts a wedge in our relationship and makes them feel misunderstood.
2. We speak for them.
This one starts early. Let’s say somebody asks your son a question. He hesitates, so you jump in. Instead, we should wait and let silence fill the air. Try not to say, “Oh, he’s just shy.” If we rescue our children, they’ll think we don’t believe in their ability to speak for themselves. Letting children speak is a type of exposure therapy. The more they do it, the less power their fear will hold over them. Also, this doesn’t only apply to little kids—moms of tweens and teens speak for their kids, too.
3. We spotlight their insecurities.
Discouraging parents make this blunder when they’re out of touch with what’s going on in their kids’ lives. One teenage girl I know was feeling insecure about not having more friends. Her dad, seeing her at home on a weekend night, asked, “So you’re not doing anything tonight? Do you have anyone to hang out with besides Ava?” Ouch.
4. We miss obvious chances to be with them.
We can’t be with our children 24/7—we have to work, we have to run the house, we have to sleep! But, when you do have a choice between scrolling through your phone and playing a game with your kids, play the game. Yes, our children need to learn independence, but every minute we get to spend with them is a chance to shape them, guide them, and show them love.
5. We push too hard.
It’s so tough to know when to push and when to pull back. Do I want to be a tiger mom and make my children fulfill 100 percent of their potential, even it strains our relationship? Do I allow my children to have a choice in matters? Do I push them because their success will make me look good? Or, do I push for the right reasons—because I want to teach them to not quit, to use their gifts to help others, to develop perseverance? Before we push, we need to examine why we’re pushing.
6. We don’t push hard enough.
Here’s the flip side. One goal of parenting is to raise good adults. So, along the way, we turn more and more of their lives over to them. We become careless when we don’t push hard enough on the big things. For example, if we know that a child needs to make an A in a class to have the GPA required for a program she really wants to be a part of, we need to push and stay involved to keep her on track. At times like these, our children are too immature to understand the consequences of their actions or inaction.
7. We don’t act our age.
One of the guiding principles that will prevent us from becoming discouraging parents is to remember who we are—the adults in the parent-child relationship. It’s on us to avoid childish and unkind behavior that can crush our children, like name-calling, screaming, disrespect. We need to model conflict resolution, resiliency, and kindness to others.
We want to be aware of our careless tendencies so we can avoid becoming discouraging parents. What advice do you have that can help me and other moms?