Most parents in the world have the best intentions for their children. With that in mind, most parents are also imperfect in their attempts. Parenting is a difficult adventure. Read this list of parenting tactics that will most likely backfire so that you can take inventory of your own parenting strategies…
Don’t Treat Parenting Like a One-Size-Fits-All Thing
While every child is different, many parents aim to treat all of their children the same. If Jason got to play soccer when he was four, then Johnny can play soccer when he is four. If Lucy got an ice cream cone on the way home from school with Dad, then Lily gets an ice cream cone on her way home from preschool.
Establishing an expectation that life is always equal and fair will certainly backfire. The reality is life is rarely fair and equal. In an attempt to establish equality in the family, parents must choose one child as the standard in every situation. Fairness may be the goal, but this is far from fair. For Lily’s life to be dictated by Lucy’s life and vice versa is unreasonable. Lily and Lucy are different girls with different personalities and different interests. Not to mention these two girls most likely respond to incentives and discipline differently as well.
So what can you do instead? A University of Washington study shows that tailoring the parenting style for each child individually can reduce anxiety and depression. Get to know your children as individuals, instead of as a team. Pay attention to how each child is motivated, what discipline works best for them, and how they seem to learn the best. Make a concerted effort to match your parenting to the child.
This is especially important when it comes to pushing your children in the ways that they need to be pushed, as different children learn and grow in different ways. Failing to recognize this could lead to one of your children being burnt out, or another child not being challenged in the way that they really need to be.
No parent has the time or endurance to parent each child individually and perfectly every time, but the opposite end of the spectrum is dangerous for the entire family.
Be Cautious With the “Big Talks”
Talking to your kids about difficult topics like drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, pornography, and eating disorders can be daunting. Many of the generations before us focused on having “the talk” with their children if they approached these difficult topics at all. Due to the critical nature of these topics, parents may be tempted to make talking about them a big deal.
Turning important topics into a big deal can backfire. Take the DARE program for example:
Several prominent organizations, including the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Department of Education, have concluded that the DARE program is not only ineffective in reducing the use of drugs and alcohol but may also be counterproductive. In other words, many believe the program is worse than doing nothing. One argument is that using extensive programs to discuss drugs and alcohol actually increases a child’s curiosity to try it out. This a very big deal today, as teenagers today face an ever-rising risk of prescription drug abuse.
So what can you do instead? Address important topics in ongoing discussions. Make sure you talk to your children but don’t make talking about the topics a big or out of the ordinary event. Talking about these topics with your children should always be discussion-based, meaning your children get to talk and ask questions as much as you do. Use everyday exposure to these topics to reinforce your values with your children. Talk about what they see, hear, etc. and discuss how you feel about it in an age-appropriate fashion.
Start addressing these topics as soon as they come up. The sooner you start openly discussing difficult topics with your children, the easier it will be to have normal conversations.
Avoid Using Bribery to Shape Behavior
If your child misbehaves, you may be tempted to bribe them into better behavior. For example, you may say, “If you stop hitting your sister, I will give you a treat.” Keep in mind that this type of parenting tactic sends a mixed message to your children. Your child may very well learn that hitting his sister leads to getting a treat.
So what can you do instead? Consider this rule: rewards should always follow good behavior, and punishment should always follow bad behavior. Never use a reward in response to a child’s bad behavior, or to stop bad behavior. Instead, watch for your child’s good behavior and offer rewards accordingly. Be careful using food as a reward too frequently as this can lead to difficulty in teaching your children good nutrition habits.
Avoid Habits of Secrecy
Parents may be tempted to share secrets with their children. Some secrets may be harmless such as planning a surprise birthday party for a family member, while other secrets may be more detrimental. Telling your child secrets, however, may backfire in the long run.
An article in the New York Times explains that secrets often divide a child’s family and friends into those who share the secret and those who do not. This can lead to a decrease in trust and damage communication in areas unrelated to the secret.
Keep in mind that you don’t want your children to keep secrets from you as they grow up. Establishing a culture of secrets in your home early on will lead to potentially dangerous secrets in the future.
So what can you do instead? Keep your children in the know with regard to any information that will affect their lives. Job loss, illness, divorce, death, and other major changes will affect the child. Keeping them in the dark may make them feel responsible. Keep the information you share appropriate with their age and maturity level, but share openly.
Only share information that has personal connections to the child and that you are comfortable with them sharing with others. Telling a child a secret may make them value the information more which makes them more likely to share the information freely.
Lastly, Don’t Coddle
As a final note, don’t be the helicopter parent that is always trying to coddle your children. This can actually be extremely challenging for your child’s sense of independence. Even if you feel like you always want to be there for your child, even as they grow up, at some point they need to have an understanding of how to live in the world on their own. As a matter of fact, coddling your children can actually lead to severe issues with self-esteem for your child.
A lot of this comes down to the fact that children of helicopter parents can have a feeling that they can’t really do anything on their own. Nothing boosts self-esteem for children like being able to do things. It’s the reason why kids who can cook, teenagers who can drive, and students who can manage their own workload are more confident.