Before you read this post and think you’re going to get angry or yell at me virtually, I want to tell you this. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We cannot do it all right. Neither can our children. It will take repeated and perpetual treatment in the areas below to “screw up” our kids. You don’t do one of these off the cuff and have kids scarred for life.
If in doubt, this is how you can know you are a good mother.
Love, acceptance, time and attention will make our children’s worlds go round. They’ll feel part of something greater than themselves. They’ll be able to develop, age, and mature safely within secure boundaries knowing their parents have their best interests at heart. It’s not rocket science to do these things, and for many of us these behaviors will come naturally.
However, in an effort to parent with our whole heart we often cross lines that will wreak havoc in our children’s lives. Here are 15 ways (easy for all of us to slip into, I might add) guaranteed to screw up your child.
Again, no mother is perfect, nor should we hold ourselves to unattainable standards. We’ll all slip up in some areas from time to time, and that’s just being human. It’s only when the following behaviors are constant, habitual, or purposeful that we must be concerned!
1. Tell them you wish they were the other gender
Under no circumstances should you communicate sadness or depression about their gender. It’s one thing to think they were a certain gender or innocently hope for a boy or girl. it is another to let those feelings fester and linger after birth and actually communicate them to your child.
Bad: “I really hoped you were a boy so we’d have at least one in the family.”
Good: “I thought you were a little boy kicking around in there, but am so happy to have a girl like you!”
2. Play favorites
As I said in my above post, you’d be utterly shocked at the number of people who knew they weren’t the favorite. In my class of 45, over half raised their hands to say growing up they knew it beyond a shadow of a doubt. It’s normal to get along more easily with some personalities and temperaments than others. It’s normal to have friction with children who are disobedient, troubled, or rebellious. It’s not okay to have favorites.
Bad: “Why can’t you be like your sister?”
Good: “It’s true, some of your behaviors really bother me, but I love you and am glad you are part of my family.”
3. Be present but absent
Being present but absent will screw your kids up just as being absent does. If you or your husband are around, but ignore the kids, you communicate they aren’t worth your time. They think the phone or TV or Facebook or The Bachelor are more important. Crazy, you say! But perception is reality to children.
Bad: Always being busy doing your own thing in their presence without engaging.
Good:”Mommy’s has something important to do for 5 minutes, and then you can have my undivided attention, okay?”
Read: Parenting with Presence
4. Make them squash their feelings
I’ve written on why you should let your kids tell you how they really feel, respectfully of course. Emotions are not positive or negative, they are neutral. We all have them. We must learn to control them, surely, but we should most definitely not stuff them down. It’ll just mean they explode all over the place later. This is especially true of children.
Bad: “Stop crying and whining. Just do what I say and quit fussing.”
Good: “I see that you’re really upset and frustrated right now. I get frustrated too when I have to do something I don’t want to do. After you finish the task we’ll talk about it.”
5. Communicate rejection to them instead of acceptance
On the post I wrote above over at Val’s, I talk about how children perceive reality is reality to them. If they think we’re rejecting them, they will feel it. Whether a child feels accepted in his home is an indicator of whether he’ll want to communicate with you or whether he’ll seek out love and comfort elsewhere. Also, feeling accepted brings higher levels of self-worth.
Bad: “I don’t know why you always act like this. It makes it hard to be around you.”
Good: “You seem a little frustrated right now, sit down and let’s figure out what’s going on.”
Read: The Wounded Spirit
6. Make them feel never good enough
Read my above post. We want our children to do their best. We want them to meet their potential and be flooded with confidence, self-worth and assurance they can make a difference in the world around them. We do not, however, want them to feel that nothing they do is good enough. If you follow every praise with a “next time” then you are in dangerous territory.
Bad: “You did a great job tonight during your game. You’ll do even better next time if you…”
Good: “Great job tonight hustling and rebounding.” (Bring up your suggestions before the next game if need be, not during current praise).
Read: Rising Strong
7. Try to be their friend instead of their parent
Don’t fall into the oh-so-alluring-yet-very-deceptive trap of trying to be your children’s friend instead of their parent. There will be plenty of time for friendship once they’re older and you’ve already taught them what they need to know. This trap will lead to feelings of insecurity and low self-confidence because they feel in control of situations they are not capable of dealing with.
Bad: Acting as though your 16-year-old is your best friend and confidant.
Good: Finding a confidant your own age so you can have a healthy relationship (still full of communication and fun) with your 16 year old.
8. Empty and ineffective praising
My above post is on how to praise without saying “good girl” or “good boy” too much. Your children need to know what exactly it is that you are proud of. What exact behaviors you want to see more of. Saying “great job” “that’s awesome” and “you’re so smart” doesn’t actually tell the child much. They need to know what behaviors to repeat, and need to be praised for effort, not for factors outside of their control.
Bad: “Great job, smartie.”
Good: “You put good effort into studying for that test and look how it paid off. Well done, son!”
9. Raising inept children
Children need to be able to take care of themselves if they’re ever going to serve others. If they can’t manage their own finances, emotions, or relationships they will not be equipped to make a difference around them because they’ll be too busy doing damage control in their own lives. No one is perfect. No one has all the answers. No one’s life will be problem free. But raising children to be capable and independent will set them up for success in life because they’ll be confident in their capabilities.
Bad: Doing things for your children they are capable of doing on their own.
Good: Train your children well, show emotional support and willingness to assist, but let them take care of things themselves they are capable of doing.
10. Spoiling them rotten
What’s the difference between spoiling and spoiling rotten? Spoil your children with love, attention, and proper training. Love your child, but don’t spoil them with things. Children will know if you’re buying them off, trying to get them to shut up, or trying to buy their love out of guilt. They won’t be able to articulate it, but they’ll have a feeling inside. Best to spoil them with the intangibles of life.
Bad: Giving them endless objects.
Good: Giving them endless acceptance and love.
11. Misunderstanding the concept of unconditional love
Do you know what unconditional love is and what it isn’t? We must absolutely love our children to the core of our being and let them know it. But love isn’t just hugs, kisses, affection, and smiles. Sometimes love draws boundaries. Sometimes love puts in place consequences. Love sometimes has to make long-term decisions that will make our children unhappy in the short-term.
Bad: Giving in to their demands in an effort to make them happy right now.
Good: Being willing to sacrifice their temporary happiness for their long-term good.
12. Failing to instill self-control
When developmentally appropriate and reasonable, we need to help our children build self-control. The same self-control that prevents a child from throwing their food all over the dining room will later help them sit still in class and pay attention. It is absolutely not about creating robots or punishing harshly. It’s most definitely not about expecting children to act like adults. It’s about helping our little ones learn to control themselves (in baby steps) as they age.
Bad: Letting your small children flit from activity to activity every few minutes.
Good: Helping them develop the necessary self-control to pay attention for longer than a few minutes. Kid activities are fun stuff, after all!
13. Allowing entitlement to grow
It’s a bit of a buzz word these days. I think it’s a buzz word because the phenomenon of entitlement is being laid bare. Expecting things you haven’t earned. Expecting positions you haven’t worked hard for. Expecting success when you didn’t put in effort. Expecting nice things when you don’t work. I think it’s important to train our children to have a spirit of gratitude. They will be up for some hard falls in adulthood if they become self-entitled.
Bad: Giving your children unrealistic expectations of what life will give them.
Good: Requiring your children to show appreciation for gifts and privileges, even when it’s your pleasure to do them.
14. Letting them live in unreality la-la land
It’s so important we protect our children from influences they aren’t yet able to process. It’s so important we nurture their spirits and hearts during development. And it’s equally important we don’t shelter them in a way they don’t understand how the world works. Cause and effect and logical consequences are great lessons that can be taught age appropriately to children as they grow up. We don’t want the big bad world to shock them, but for them to enter it prepared to love and serve others.
Bad: Ignoring difficult questions your children ask you that will be hard to answer.
Good: Seeking out appropriate advice or resources to explain difficult concepts to children like abuse and death, for example.
15. Misunderstanding the difference protection and sheltering
None of us want anything bad to happen to our kids. At all. Ever. There is a great responsibility on a parent to make sure our children are protected, and one we take very seriously. However, there’s a difference between protection and sheltering. Read here to find out more.
Bad: Keeping your children in only Christian environments, which will leave them ill-prepared for the adult world.
Good: Raising your children to be firm in their foundation and yet a light to the world.
I have to guard myself about #6! What about you?
I’ve created a free email series just for you! If you have a little one aged 1 to 8, this series will help transform your home environment. No, that is not a joke or false claim. You can let your kids express their emotions without raising back talkers who meltdown at the drop of a hat or throw a tantrum every time they are unhappy with something. After this free email series:
- your child will stop throwing tantrums for attention
- you’ll know how to validate and affirm your child’s emotions
- you’ll feel more in control of the atmosphere of your home and will be able to operate out of a place of love, not frustration
Click here to sign up for my free email series or simply click on the image below.
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