Like most mothers, I love my children dearly and want the very best for them in life. I want to nurture and protect them. I want to fill their childhood with wonderful opportunities to learn and grow and create lasting memories.
As parents, those things are all just part of our job description.
But if we aren’t careful, our mother-love can become smother-love. Sometimes, the things we do to help our kids out end up holding them back instead. Sometimes, our parenting mistakes serve to handicap our children.
Countless habits fall into this category, but I can think of six that are fairly common. If you want to sabotage your child’s future success, here’s a good way to go about it:
Parenting Mistakes that will Handicap your Kids
Not requiring them to do chores
Want your kids to develop a strong work ethic, learn time management skills, and be better prepared for life? Assign age-appropriate chores.
Train them to do their work competently, consistently, and cheerfully. Such traits lay a foundation for future success, regardless what field of work they choose.
Making excuses for misbehavior
True, sometimes junior is cranky because he’s tired. But if he hears you make that excuse often enough, he’ll start to view his tired, cranky feelings as a free pass to behave badly. And that’s not good for anybody.
If missing naps or eating sugar or playing video games or taking tests or hitting puberty or having to sit still for long periods of time makes it difficult for your child to behave properly, then by all means take such considerations into account when drafting schedules, menus, and vacation plans.
But don’t use less-than-ideal circumstances to justify misbehavior, in your own mind or in the mind of your child.
Instead, teach your children to be courteous and kind, whether they feel like it or not. Don’t tolerate hateful, unruly, obnoxious behavior, as it will only serve to make your kids and everyone around them miserable.
Over-reliance on electronic devices for entertainment
Have you ever noticed how still the house gets when your kids are watching TV or playing a video game or surfing the Internet or are otherwise engaged with computers and smart phones? As a parent, I understand how tempting it is to use screen time to purchase a couple of hours of peace and quiet.
But allowing screen time to become the rule rather than the exception is an all-too-common parenting mistake. When we make this the norm, some scary things start to happen. Interpersonal skills suffer. Brains get rewired. Creativity dwindles. Attention spans shorten. Family time disappears.
If we aren’t careful, our kids will fritter away their entire childhood staring at screens. We can’t let that happen. The majority of screen time would be better spent reading books, riding bikes, building forts, drawing pictures, making friends, and playing in the fresh air and sunshine.
Do your kids (and yourself!) a favor and set some reasonable boundaries when it comes to using technological devices.
Rescuing your child from consequences of bad decisions
Did your young scholar wait until the last minute to start a science project? If you stay up half the night doing the work yourself, you will rob your child of the opportunity to learn an important life lesson while stakes are still low.
Not to mention the fact that by rewarding your child’s procrastination, you’ve removed any incentive for her to do better next time.
To the extent you can let your child suffer natural consequences without risking life or limb to do so, do so. If she neglects her chores, let her miss playtime to finish. If she loses a library book, let her buy the replacement. If she spills the milk, let her help clean it up.
You’ll develop in her a sense of personal responsibility and will drive home the idea that her actions (and inactions) have consequences.
Overscheduling to the exclusion of free time
Avoid the temptation to schedule every minute of your child’s life. Between school and extra-curricular activities – including sports practices, music lessons, dance classes, gym memberships, scout meetings, and church programs – many kids barely have a moment to call their own.
Children need downtime, just like parents. They need time to think, to dream, to explore, to dig deeper into topics that interest them. Give them some unstructured time, free from outside commitments, to pursue some of those screen-free activities mentioned above.
Neglecting your marriage
Sometimes moms expend so much time and thought and energy taking care of their children that they have nothing left to give their husbands. This is not sustainable. When your marriage suffers, so do your kids.
Children thrive most readily when they’re raised in a stable home with two parents who love them and love one another. So… don’t make your spouse compete with the kids for your attention. Nurture your marriage. Do fun things as a couple. Connect with one another on a regular (preferably daily) basis.
Doing this will model what a healthy, happy marriage looks like. But it will also demonstrate another important lesson: that the entire world does not revolve around your child. The sooner our kids understand that fact, the better.
Parents make a mistake when they leave kids no margin.
I will be the first to admit that I’ve made lots of mistakes in my 30+ years of parenting. At one time or other, I’ve committed all six faux pas listed above.
Perhaps you have, too.
But by God’s grace, we can learn from our past mistakes. And we can make sure none of them become a habit.