Common Parenting Mistakes
By Walter B. Branch, Ph.D.
Savannah Psychological Specialists

1.  Too Much Talking When Angry

The more you talk as a parent when trying to correct your child, the more your child will tune you out and not
"listen" to you.  I can't tell you how many times parents have complained to me that their child does not listen
to what amounts to a 15 minute lecture on why he or she should not... (fill in the blank).  I would not listen to
you either.  No one would.  General rule of thumb:  The less you talk, the more you say.

No, you do not need to have the last word.

2.  Parental Temper Tantrums

If you do not want your child to throw temper tantrums, then you can't either.  This includes the counter temper
tantrums that parents sometimes have as a result of their child's temper tantrum.  When this occurs, you have
two individuals who are having temper tantrums, only one is a child and one is an adult acting like a child.  When
you as a parent act like a child by having your own temper tantrum you become a child in your child's eye and your
child treats you as a child.  Yes, I will agree that children can sometimes frustrate the heck out of a parent.  If you
"lose it" every so often, well, that's just being human, but there is simply no excuse for consistently behaving
the way you don't want your child to behave.  Whether you know it or not; whether you want to or not, you will lead
by example.  

3.  Feeling Guilty About Discipline

Guilt underlies many problems when tying to dicipline your child.  For example, a parent may feel "gulity" about a
divorce and as a result, he or she sort of "slacks off" when it comes to discipline.  The child may be allowed to stay
up all hours of the night, take baths when he or she feels like it, get away with back talk, make failing grades in
school, etc. Do not ever feel gulity about fair and appropriate discipline.

4.  Using Threats or Actual Acts of Violence

Imagine this scene.  You are outside playing catch with your child.  A neighbor child walks over and is on your child's
side.  Within a minute, some words are exchanged between your child and the other child and you see your child
knock the other child to the ground. Enraged, you walk over to your child, tell him, "hey, we don't hit in this family"
and "spank" him.  

Doesn't make sense to me, either.  Actually, that example was borrowed from a county music song of a few years ago.
What "good" does spanking a child do?  It gets's their attention, right?  Well, yes of course it does.  Anyone who
would hit me would have my complete and undivided attention as well.  The problems is, that is all it does.
Psychologially, you are transmiting a message to you child that is it okay to solve problem and vent frustration through
violence.  An unfortunate lesson to learn, as many people in prison will tell you.  

5. Inconsistency (within and between parents)

I see this many times in my practice.  A child can stay up as late as they like on Monday night, but the bed time of
8:30 is strictly enforced on Tueday night.  Or a parent disciplines a child who is having a temper tantrum in Wal Mart
but will give in the next time.  Parents, be consistent!  Do not send mixed mesages to your child.  A child needs
structure and consistency.  If you take that away, your child has nothing to rely on and will make up his her her own
structure and chances are, you won't like his or her "structure."

6. Openly Disagreeing about a Child in Front of the Child

Do couples sometimes argue, fuss with each other, disagree, etc.  Of course.  However, constantly argueing in front
of your child makes them think that maybe you don't love one another, or maybe they too should argue when they
want their way.  Try the opposite, have a disagreement in front of you child but use negotiaing and compromise to
settle it.  You can even "set up" these disagreements to show your child how to settle differences using compromise.
Settle your real differnces in private and if you can't seek professional help, (seriously).  

7. Treating Children as if They Were Small Adults.

This is a really, really, really big problem these days.  Think about it.  Kids are marketed to, solicited and commercialized
to no end.  Our society treats them as though they were little adults.  They even have their own television stations
(though I find it remarkable that some adults find Cartoon Network funny).  Parents aren't raising kids with the help of
society.  They are raising kids in spite of society.  If you let the "village" raise you child, your child is headed for trouble.  

What I am talking about is overindulgence.  Treating kids as if they were small adults.  The belief that it is okay for my
child to have the same rights and privileges that I as an adult enjoy.  What is worse than society treating kids as small
adults?  Parents sometimes do this as well.  Parents let kids have their own TV in their room, then they spend hours
watching it - alone.  They have a computer with internet access in their room and they spend hours going from
site-to-site. They have cell phones, just like their parents.  They talk on their own cell phones to the peers - alone.
Many kids don't even eat with their family.  Dinnertime used to be "family time" and it should be.  It seems as though
some kids spend more time "with others" electronically (actually alone) than they do interacting with their family
and friends face-to-face. 

Parents, do not blur the line between childhood and adulthood.  Naturally, as your child get solder he or she should have
more privileges, not "rights."  Rights are accorded to individuals via statutes (i.e., laws).  You as an adult have rights.
Your child has privileges. When you treat you child as a small adult, he or she comes to view him or herself
as an adult and they start to act as an adult.  This is a problem.

Too many kids are growing up with the belief and attitude they they are their parent's equal.  Why?  Because too many
times their parents treat them as though they ARE their equal.  You should have a clear distintion between the
RIGHTS which you as an adult have and the PRIVILEGES which you give your child.  It is sort of like the differences
between wants and needs.  Does your child need every video game system ever invented?  Do they need every game
for every video game system ever invented?  Does your ten-year-old need to play a rated "M" game?  Do you as a
parent need to go into three months of debt every Christmas in order to overindulge your kids with the best and the
most presents.  Do you feel guilty (see number 3 above) if you don't.

Similarly, I see too many kids who know too much information about their parent's personal lives.  Your children should not
be used as your therapist when you are angry and need to vent about your spouse or ex-spouse.  Kids simply do not
need to know all about the family's "dirty little secrets."

Love your kids.  Have fun with them.  Take care of them.  They are quite literally the most precious things on the Earth.
But they are not your equal.

8.  Forgetting or not Knowing that the Word Discipline Means "to teach"

The word "discipline" does not mean what many parents think it does.  The word discipline means to teach.  It does not
mean to punish. Not knowing this distinction is a very BIG mistake made by many parents.  Parents are sometimes too
focused on "punishing" bad behavior. I agree that there shoud be clear and consistent negative consequences for
inappropriate behavior.  This is not what I am talking about. Consider this: punishment may show a child what not to do
(don't reach for that hot stove), but it doesn't really tell them what they should do instead ("okay, well what else should
I do with my hands").

Parents, focus on teaching your kids, not necessarily and exclusively on punishing "bad" behavior.  Sometimes teaching
involves literally hand-over-hand teaching, the same way you taught your youngster to tie their shoelaces. Discipline
your kids, but don't just simply focus on punishment for misbehavior.

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