1. Lie to Them
I am not talking about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and “yes your drawing looks amazing!” I am talking about making false promises and guarantees. Kids are pretty trusting but by five years of age they start to develop a BS detector. “No Johnny, you won’t be getting any shots at the doctor” only holds credibility for so long. If you lie about the little things, they’ll figure you lie about the big things.
2. Forget to Praise Them
Lately there are articles about piss poor parenting. Apparently parents today are creating a generation of narcissistic brats who feel entitled. Praise and encouragement is the reason why kids grow up confident in themselves. Do you want your children to lose their interests in sports, playing a musical instrument and painting? Don’t praise them. Praising a child for cleaning up their playroom even if it isn’t perfect encourages them to try hard next time. If nitpicking doesn’t help with you then why will it help with a child?
3. Over Commit Them
Any good parent wants to introduce their children to athletics, art, music, foreign languages and to groups of other children. At some point as a parent you have to say enough is enough. Kids are hard wired to play. They need free play in order to develop good social behavior and problem solving skills. Kids who are always shuttled in the family minivan from one function to another develop anxiety. So do the parents. We both need to vegetate sometimes.
4. Live Their Lives Vicariously Through Them
You want your son or daughter to go to Harvard or West Point? That’s great, do they want to? You sucked at tee-ball when you were seven and now your force your kids to “love” playing baseball. Kids are individual people despite the fact that you produced them. They have their own goals, hopes and dreams. Your 10 point plan might not align with theirs.
5. Beauty Pageants…
Lip gloss, small dresses and fake smiles. Need I say more?
6. Show One Child That They Are More Loved/Important Than their Sibling
This should be obvious but it isn’t. One child will undoubtedly be more studious than the other child. Usually one child excels athletically more than the other. Do not make the mistake of showering one child with praise while always neglecting their sibling. Not only does this cause tension in your child-parent relationship but it causes tension in their sibling relationship, often for life. Again, this one should be obvious but more often than not people tell you that their parents loved their brother or sister more than them.
7. Not Teach Them Manners and Kindness
Manners are not stifling. Manners will get you far in this world. A smile, a “please”, “excuse me”, “thank you”, “appreciate it”, “you’re welcome” not only makes other people happy, it makes you happy. Friendliness and kindness is normally reflected back at you. I remember reading a child development book when my oldest son was a newborn. The book basically said that children cannot learn empathy until they are in pre-school. This is not the case. My children from the earliest ages have shown compassion and empathy towards one and other and towards myself and my wife. Maybe this is not normal. I just know that in my house we care about each other and cheer for each other when we have a small success. Manners are a two way street. Yes you can force your children to be polite with you whist being miserable and impolite to them. An easier way to teach good manners is to reciprocate.
8. Teach Them Racism, Sexism, Gender Discrimination and Other Forms or Hatred
Kids are not born to hate, divide and discriminate. They learn these traits from adults and older children. Yes, it is true that children will eventually go to school and learn or encounter discrimination at some point. If parents live their life without discrimination then children will follow suit. Kids can learn a lot of things at school. Smoking, drugs, hatred…the list goes on and on. They will see these things as the exception to the rule if they are not taught at home.
9. Ignore Their Problems
Ignore their “small” problems and forget about them going to you with their “big” problems.
10. Save For Their Future
Times are tough economically. Wages aren’t keeping up with inflation and with the rising cost of colleges. I know this as much as anyone. When my children first were born I struggled to pay rent, buy groceries and save any money. I am one of the lucky people in this country who has bounced back and has a good career. I know that everyone cannot save a major portion of their incomes for their children. Try though. At least make a concerted effort to put away some of your hard earned money for your kids future. Kids will undoubtedly need some loans, grants and other financial aid. Let’s make their burden as little possible. They’ll appreciate the thought.
11. Forget to Talk to Them
Smart phones, multiple televisions sets and children tablets have created a world where we no longer have to interact with out little ones. If you want your children to have confidence, speak earlier and have a better vocabulary then simply communicate with them. They’ll love it. You’ll also crack up at the things that they say.
12. Argue Loudly in Front of Them
Creates anxiety and confusion. Overall a bad idea.
13. Corporal Punishment
Do not…I repeat do not hit your children. Do you want to teach your children that might is right? That every argument can be solved with physical strength? I am not one to quote Biblical passages but violence begets violence. When I say hit, I also mean slap, grab, punch, or any other method where you can inflict physical pain. I read all the time on Facebook “My parent used to spank me, wash my mouth out with soap yada yada and I turned out just fine.” Okay..yes , that’s why you are unable as an adult to use words to solve your problems.
Every parent messes up. I mess up. Parents who don’t mess up are liars. The key is recognizing when you mess up, apologizing and learning from your mistakes. Secondly: Recognize which mistakes you CANNOT mess up. Everyone has to decide which mistakes are non-negotiable.