In many ways, being a parent is the most delicate balancing act of all. Not only must we lead our children into adulthood and encourage them to grow, but there is also a pressing need to act as their guardians to protect them from physical and mental harm.
This balance is difficult to achieve, and even with the best of intentions it is possible to make inadvertent mistakes that impact negatively on the growth and well-being of your children. With an awareness of these parenting pitfalls, however, you can hopefully avoid them and protect your children from long-term harm.
Parenting Mistakes that inadvertently can harm your Children
1. Failing to practice what we Preach
While children must ultimately be empowered to forge their own path in life, it is our responsibility as parents to instil the values and principles that will guide their decisions as accountable adults. Make no mistake; actions speak louder than words in the mind of a child, so it is crucial that you try to impart behaviours and values through a consistent, physical example. If your own behaviour is unethical and does not match the values that you preach, your child will notice and develop a confused set of values which hinder strong decision making.
2. Imposing our own will on your children
As a strong-minded parent, it is natural that you would want them to follow in your footsteps. There may be unhealthy psychological reasons for this, however, such a desire to control your child or live vicariously through their actions. Either way, it is important to ensure that you do not inadvertently impose your own will on your child, however, as this can cause them to follow a future course that leads to failure or long-term unhappiness.
For example, my father strongly encouraged me to forge a career in the manufacturing sector where he made his living. Although he genuinely believed that this was in my best interests, and despite the fact that the manufacturing sector in the UK still accounts for 52% of all exports, this was not a career path that could help me to achieve long-term stability or satisfaction.
So while a parent should always offer objective advice when they are approached by their child, you should refrain from imposing your will and unduly influencing their decisions.
3. Preventing your child from taking risks
Occasionally, parents may impose their own will as it encourages their child to pursue a safe and familiar course in life. This betrays a fear that your child will fail, but the fact remains that learning how to take and manage calculated risks is a crucial life-lesson that will prepare your child for adulthood. While it is our primary duty to protect the physical and mental well-being of our children, we must be balanced in our approach if we are to achieve our parenting goals.
Psychologists in Europe have discovered the children who do not play outside do not experience falls or a skinned knee, for example, which can stunt emotional development and cause phobias in adulthood. Children must therefore be empowered to take small and controlled risks that impart valuable lessons, build independence and aids the development of maturity.
4. Failing to distinguish between Genuine and Perceived Threats
If you are to successfully enable your child to encounter risk, you will need to maintain an objective mind and successfully distinguish between genuine and perceived threats. Often as parents we struggle to make such a distinction, as we allow our minds to be overrun by irrational fears and the subjective experiences that have hindered our own development.
Let’s say that you are a nervous driver or passenger and are loath to travel with your child in a car. While there is a basis for your caution, this can be easily exacerbated by sub-conscious fears and incidents that may have occurred during your own childhood. To break this psychological cycle, you will need to think logically and identify precise threats, such as the risk of your child being injured in a collision.
From here you can take practical steps such as installing and successfully using seat-belt restraints, which saved an estimated 303 children’s live as recently as 2010.
5. Rescuing our children too Quickly
Arguably, the pace of technological advancement and widespread social changes have prevented today’s generation of youngsters from developing the same set of life skills from previous generations. Today’s parents are also more likely to intervene and rescue their children from perceived difficulties or hardship, solving short-term issues at the expense of long-term growth and development.
In the UK, for example, it is now estimated that parent’s contribute £17,900 ($23,435) to the deposit on their children’s first house. This is a huge sum that is often offered unconditionally, negating the need for young adults to develop core coping and problem solving skills that they will be expected to possess as they grow older.
This is the culmination of a pattern established in childhood, and one that can have a debilitating impact throughout the life-time of our offspring.
6. Allowing Guilt to interfere with our Parenting
If fear is one of the negative emotions that prevents effective parenting, guilt is another that must be given careful consideration. This is particularly true for inexperienced or first-time parents (or those with multiple children), who are often loath to upset or disappoint their children even in instances where their demands are unreasonable and ultimately not in their best interests.
The cumulative effect of such behaviour manifests itself in a spoiled child with a sense of entitlement, which in turn can breed traits such as arrogance and selfishness in later life. These attributes are extremely detrimental to the cultivation of adult relationships, and in this respect yielding to an irrational, fleeting sense of guilt can trigger a lifetime of personality issues that are impossible to overcome.
7. Refusing to share our past mistakes
On a final note, it is important to strike the ideal balance between oppressing or smothering children and leaving them to their own differences. After all, healthy teenagers are always a little too eager to spread their wings, and while you should inhibit this raw ambition you should also look to harness and channel this whenever possible.
This is where your own unique experiences can come into play, particularly when you focus on relevant examples and explain these objectively to your child. By sharing the mistakes that you have made you can fill critical gaps in knowledge and experience, while helping your child to make more informed decisions concerning smoking, education and the consumption of alcohol.
Just remember to educate your child on the consequences of these mistakes and how you recovered from them, as this will help to prepare them regardless of the decision that they ultimately take.