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Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. There’s so much more to parenthood than I could have ever imagined; something I talked about in ‘5 things about parenthood NOTHING can prepare you for’.
Sometimes it feels like whatever we do, we’re competing against the Jones’, their perfect social media feed kids and their faultless way of doing things.
Try as we might, we’re bound to get it wrong from time to time – it’s part of the journey. Relying on our ‘Parenting instincts’ just isn’t enough and, more often than not, we’re too proud to ask for help or advice when we need it because it feels like we’ve failed.
If you can learn to overcome these 10 common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the best parent you can be.
1. Fighting your children’s battles for them
It goes without saying that your children mean everything to you, right?
Of course they do.
But, sometimes you just need to take a step back and your kid learn that their actions have consequences.
For example, if your child does something that has a negative impact on others, it can be tempting to jump in and protect them if somebody points it out.
The thing is, fighting your child’s battles will teach them that three is no consequence to their actions and that they don’t need to be accountable for their decisions.
Take time to be constructive and remind them using positive language what the correct behaviour is and why we should do it, rather than ignoring it or always coming to the rescue.
2. Letting technology rule the roost
In the last decade, the way we consume and use technology has evolved massively. Smartphones, tablets, connected technology…You name it, we all have it.
Technology is an important part of most of our lives and it gives us access to entertainment, communication and connection – particularly during a pandemic!
It can be tempting to let your children sit on YouTube Kids or watching Netflix because of a few reasons:
- Your child enjoys it
- It gives you a moment of peace to get household chores done
- You can do it together
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of streaming here and there, but try to create quality memories by doing other activities too.
Go for a walk, think up an activity to do together (Looking for inspo? Read this!) or read a book.
Limiting the time kids sit in front of a screen will not only help you form an unbreakable parent child relationship, but it’ll teach your child some invaluable social skills at the same time.
3. Not leading by example
So many parents know all the best parenting techniques and can talk big about the right parenting style for every situation, but their behaviours don’t mirror what they say.
For example, I walked out of a supermarket last week and saw a mum with her child. Not only did she tell her daughter to get off of her phone, whilst simultaneously glancing at her own device, but when the girl raised her voice at her mother in frustration, the mother yelled about how she shouldn’t shout.
I mean, seriously…
The phase, “Do as I say, not as I do” does not apply to parenting, trust me.
Remember, you’re the ultimate role model for your child – the hero of their little story.
To be an effective parent, you need to model the behaviour you want to see in them. They’ll be more likely to mirror you than to listen to you.
4. Not dedicating enough quality time
Life is hectic, right? I often talk on our Instagram page about how trying to keep on top of parenthood, finances, household jobs, relationships, friendships and more can feel like spinning plates.
Sooner or later, one of them drops.
With all that on your mind, it’s not uncommon to feel distracted when you’re with your kids whilst you’re busy thinking about everything you need to do.
Parents feel an immense amount of pressure, particularly with young children; it’s so difficult to keep on top of their own mental health and keep everything else afloat.
It’s easy to get lost, though.
Remember, your children crave your attention, whether they’re being little angels or playing up. Try to spend as much quality time with your children every day because, outside of telling them you love them, being present and in that moment shows them that you love them.
Try to make the time you spend together as ‘high quality’ as possible. Put that phone in a drawer, turn off the TV and give them 100% of your attention for as much time as you can.
5. Not spending enough time on your relationship
Becoming a parent is a wonderful experience and that little person will instantly become your entire universe. Be careful though, your child shouldn’t replace your relationship with your partner, only add to it.
Whether you’re a nuclear family or a separated, blended family, always take the time to focus on your relationship as much as you can. That strong foundation will help you work through some of the natural struggles that come with raising a child.
I know from experience that if you’re unhappy in a long term relationship, it’ll project into the way you bring up your children. Remember to nurture your relationship with your partner and your child will be so much happier for it in the long run.
6. Not spending enough time looking after yourself
With all of those important things to focus on on top of this beautiful little munchkin to raise to raise, we often forget to take the time for ourselves; I’m certainly guilty of this.
We burn the candle at both ends, which means we become overwhelmed or frustrated at the relentless nature of parenthood and well, life in general.
Make sure you factor in some ‘me time’ to gather your thoughts where possible. Allocate a little block of time into your routine, perhaps when the kids are in bed, to meditate, write in a journal, exercise or have a bath.
I struggle with switching off and always feel like I should be doing something. My girlfriend will often remind me that it’s OK to just relax sometimes and she’s right – recharging your batteries will save you from burnout, making you a better parent in the long-run.
7. Being controlled by your emotions
As our children grow, they’re still learning to rationalise their thoughts and deal with their feelings. They may act up, misbehave or whinge for seemingly no reason at all.
Children have evolved to elicit a response out of their parents because, unlike many other species on this planet, us humans and our big brains take a long time to develop.
It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of frustration or anger if your child keeps pestering you, misbehaving, crying…or anything else for that matter.
The important thing is to try not to let your emotions take hold.
Remembering that children are impressionable little things and will mirror your behaviours is important. If you react emotionally or get visibly angry, your child will think this is the appropriate way to behave in future.
If you’re feeling stressed, try to take a quick time out. So long as your child is safe, leave the room for a minute and take a few deep breaths, count to ten and get ready to go again.
8. Doing everything for your kids
We all adore our children and we want them to be happy. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that I’d be bringing my daughter breakfast in bed every time she stayed with me, I’d have laughed you out of the room.
It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of responsibility to our children, but it’s important that you don’t do everything for your kids.
Children need to learn to appreciate the value of what you do for them rather than expect it. You don’t want to set expectations for your child because they’ll grow up without any sense of ownership of their own lives.
9. Not listening to your children
As I mentioned earlier, children can be irrational little devils sometimes. They’re still developing and their perception of the world has been shaped by a very limited experience of it.
When a child is talking to you, parents can often shoot them down without even knowing they’re doing it.
In the brilliant book, “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber, she explores the concept of really listening to your children.
She uses this example:
|CHILD:||Mommy, I’m tired|
|ME:||You couldn’t be tired. You just napped.|
|CHILD:||(louder) But I’m tired.|
|ME:||You’re not tired. You’re just a little sleepy. Let’s get dressed.|
|CHILD:||(wailing) No, I’m tired!|
Adele explains, “I was…telling my children over and over again not to trust their own perceptions but to rely on mine instead”.
Instead, encourage them to talk to you and hear what they have to say.
Rather than denying your child’s feelings, try acknowledging them instead, even if you know the outcome will still be the same.
I’ll share an example of what I mean.
Last week we were getting ready to take my daughter, Evie, back to her mum’s house.
|EVIE:||Daddy, I don’t want to get dressed|
|ME:||Oh I don’t want to get dressed either! I wish we could stay in our pyjamas all day and play.|
|EVIE:||Me too! We could bounce on the bed ALL day!|
|ME:||That would be SO MUCH fun! I’d love that! We do need to get you back to Mummy’s house though, so maybe next time we can do that?|
|CHILD:||(big compliant sigh) Okayyy then.|
This example is what Faber describes as ‘giving a child their wish in fantasy’. By acknowledging that Evie didn’t want to get dressed and understanding what she wanted, we imagined what that would be like to give Evie the outcome she wanted in that moment before coming back to the original task at hand: Getting dressed.
Evie proceeded to get dressed beautifully and didn’t mention it again.
10. Being inconsistent
Part of being a child is testing boundaries (Man, part of being an adult for me is testing boundaries!).
Children have an amazing sense of what they can get away with and they’ll try their best to push their luck at every given opportunity.
One of my absolute musts as a parent (and in the workplace for that matter!) is consistency. If your child knows exactly how you’ll react and that you’ll always do what you say you’ll do, parenting becomes infinitely easier.
For example, if you tell your child they can’t watch the TV one day whilst they have their dinner, but the next day you give in and let them because you’re stressed and can’t face the argument, guess what they’ll do the next day when you say no…
They’ll keep pushing until you give in or they’ll get upset when you don’t.
Children feel safe and secure when they know what the rules are and how to stick to them.
Some days you won’t want to stick to your rules, but trust me…those small ‘in-the-moment’ battles will be far easier than the on-going arguments when they challenge you on everything!
It’s important to remember that no parent is perfect. We all have good days and bad days and nobody expects you to get it right all the time.
Guess what? The fact you’re even thinking about it shows you’re an amazing parent already.
If you have an off day, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just take a moment, reflect and see if you can improve the next day!
You’ve got this!