Being a parent is not easy. It comes with a multitude of responsibilities for which you are not always prepared. Faced with a challenging situation involving your child, you often rely on the techniques or practices you are familiar with. And, you act on the assumption that you know what’s best for him. That might not always be true. Unfortunately, the mistakes you make in dealing with your preschooler could have long-term effects on him, hampering his social and emotional development and even causing problems in his professional and personal life as an adult.
Here are 10 common parenting mistakes and tips on how you can react to situations with your child in a more positive manner.
1. Being over-indulgent: Every time you go to the store, your child may ask for a toy or something else that catches her eye. You might be tempted to give in to her demands. But remember, constantly indulging her will make her believe she can get anything she wants any time. It also teaches her to endlessly want more and to equate materialistic things with happiness. Explain to her that she need not always get something new and make her understand the importance of being happy with what she already has.
2. Giving in to negative behaviour: Yes, it’s extremely embarrassing when your child throws a tantrum in public. And you’re ready to do anything to get him to stop. But doing that only teaches him that tantrums are a sure-fire way to get what he wants. Soon, he will throw a tantrum every time things don’t go his way. And, as he grows, this is how he will react to various situations.
3. Being too critical: Children will make mistakes. Be patient and calmly explain to your child where she went wrong. Avoid reprimanding, scrutinising or pointing out her errors. Constant negativity might make her strive for perfection in all areas of her life, leaving her with unhealthy obsessions and anxieties. Instead of focussing on the negative aspects, appreciate or praise her for good behaviour or positive actions.
4. Setting a poor example: Don’t expect your child to refrain from lying or using bad language if you are doing it yourself. Remember, he is constantly observing and mimicking you. Be a role model, follow the rules you enforce and behave in the way you expect him to. Also, control your negative emotions, especially when he’s around.
5. Discounting their feelings: Your preschooler lacks emotional maturity; so, she could feel extremely unhappy about something you consider trivial. Remember, it is okay for her to express such feelings. Don’t disregard, ignore or dismiss her outbursts. Reassure her calmly. Validating these emotions will help her regulate her feelings as she grows older and find appropriate channels for them. Ignoring them will cause her to be unsure of her own emotions, besides becoming insensitive to those of others. Being emotionally available to your child has a positive impact on her emotional development.
6. Being over-protective: As a parent, you are instinctively protective of your little one. But, constantly trying to protect him from getting hurt while playing, making simple mistakes or feeling disappointed can have adverse effects on him. By being over-protective, you deprive him of the opportunity to learn problem-solving skills. He becomes increasingly dependent on you, grows up feeling worthless and tends to be perpetually fearful of making mistakes. Let him run around and play; it is okay if he gets a minor scratch or bruise. Teach him that making mistakes is all a part of learning and it is acceptable to feel sad or disappointed at times.
7. Straying from the routine: Try and follow a consistent daily routine for your child so she understands her schedule and isn’t confused about it. Missing important activities like meals or naps could be a source of your child’s tantrums. Also, she won’t understand why you follow a set schedule on one day and not on another. Don’t plan activities close to mealtime or if she has missed her nap. Minor exceptions are okay but a clear routine will help her be more organised when she’s older.
8. Not limiting screen time: You should restrict your child’s screen time – and that means your own as well! Make an effort to spend quality time with your child, planning some fun activities together, reading to him or taking a walk in the park. You don’t want your child to grow up with a sense of detachment or feeling you are never available for him.
9. Planning too many activities: The preschool years are when your child can enjoy herself without the burdens of homework or other school pressures. Make sure you don’t plan too many after-school activities for her. Too much structure will not allow her to unwind or delight in free play. Let her experience boredom as it can lead to creativity. Remember, opportunities to enjoy these simple pleasures will become more infrequent as she grows.
10. Parents showing conflicting styles: It is only natural that you and your spouse have different parenting styles based on your experiences with your own parents. However, two conflicting opinions when raising or disciplining your child can cause confusion. Your child will either learn to manipulate you or get confused about what is acceptable and what isn’t. So, make sure you and your spouse are consistent in your parenting and disciplining methods. This will ensure more effective parenting.
It is important for you to be aware of the mistakes you might be making while dealing with your child and the effects they can have on him. This is not to make you feel guilty. After all, there is no one right way to bring up your child. But, learn from your mistakes. You will then raise a happy, confident child, someone who will grow up into a responsible adult.
Inputs from: Aparna Samuel Balasundaram – who is an award winning Psychotherapist, Parent and Child Expert, with 10 years of experience in the USA.
She is the Founder of Life Skills Experts that enables parents and teachers to raise happy, confident and successful children. www.LifeSkillsExperts.com
She is also the Founder of ‘A Flourishing Me’, that offers contemporary Counselling and Parent and Life Coaching [www.AFlourishing.me]