We all flub up from time to time. None of us are perfect parents. But there are a few very big, but very common parenting mistakes we’d like to avoid or counteract if we can. Sometimes, the things we do in an attempt to “help our kids out” end up “holding them back” instead. Sometimes, our parenting mistakes actually just serve to handicap our children.
Countless habits fall into this category, but in this episode of Loving Life at Home, we’ll look at six parenting practices — all extremely common in our current culture — that will sabotage your child’s future success if you don’t guard against them.
The material for this week’s podcast was taken from a blog post I wrote in 2019, which you can read in its entirety beneath today’s show notes.
- “If any will not work, neither let him eat.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10
- “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men…” – Colossians 3:23
- “Excuses might be found for a thief who steals because he is starving.
But if he is caught, he must pay back seven times what he stole, even if he has to sell everything in his house.” – Proverbs 6:30
- “Keep me from paying attention to what is worthless.” – Psalm 119:37
- “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.” – Psalm 119:71
- “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…” – Ecclesiastes 3:1
- “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.” – Mark 10:7-9
FREE PRINTABLES MENTIONED
- “Play Deprivation is a Major Cause of the Teen Mental Health Crisis.” – article by Jon Haidt & Peter Gray
- “8 Ways Screens are Ruining Your Family’s Life” – article by Lori Leibovich for Huffington Post
- 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You – sobering book by Tony Reinke
- Love Your Husband/Love Yourself – my book on prioritizing your marriage, even after children
Parenting Mistakes that will Handicap your Kids
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:
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.
Parents make a mistake when they leave kids no margin.
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.
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.