I’ll be honest, I am not ahead with my blog posts these days. I’m writing a lot about what’s on my heart rather than meaty research-based articles. I hope you’re okay with that. Today I felt compelled to write this post all about parenting mistakes to avoid. I picked some really common ones and here I give you my tips on how to fix them. Full disclosure, I’ve made ALL of these mistakes. So no worries if you find yourself guilty of any of these.
Of course, what I think of as parenting “mistakes” might not seem like mistakes at all to you, and that’s okay. In that case, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
But if you feel like what you’re doing just isn’t working, maybe you’ll find some advice in this article.
My first reflex is always to chill out with a cup of hot coffee from my new French press! Here we go.
#1 Parenting mistake to avoid: Not preparing yourself before you have a baby
Don’t make the mistake of giving no thought to the kind of parent you want to be before your baby arrives.
I get it—becoming a parent seems super abstract before your baby is in your arms. It’s hard to imagine life as a parent and the continuous responsibility it involves. If you’re not sure where to start, why not jot down a few ideas about what you DON’T want to do as a parent. Sometimes it’s easier to flip the question around and build from there.
When you’re pregnant, it’s easy for both mama and papa to fixate on preparing for labor and delivery, since it’s only natural that those seem the more pressing hurdles. But try to look beyond that and actually consider how you want to parent your child.
I’ve said on the blog many times that I assumed, incorrectly, that it would all come naturally to me. That it would be intuitive. And what kind of “parenting” did a newborn (aka a blind vegetable) need, anyway? Big mistake. Huge.
Because modern parenting methods are just that—very modern! Only a couple of generations ago, no one bothered to read (or write) parenting books. Parents did it all on the fly. But what kind of childhood did kids of past ages actually enjoy?
When I look back and ask myself whether I would have done anything differently, this is for sure the number one parenting mistake I would have avoided. I definitely suffer from the mindset of, “Well, I didn’t start off doing everything perfect, so it’s all messed up now and why bother even trying to reverse the damage?”
But that’s like saying you’re giving up as a human being. I strive every day to become a better parent. It’s the best I can do.
#2 Parenting mistake to avoid: Modeling undesirable behavior
Children are a map of their parents, and to some extent, their other caregivers. Nurture plays a strong role in our children. You will see that your child will start to exhibit the behavior she is exposed to from others, adults and children alike.
A few examples we dealt with in our family are:
Yelling: We used to yell a lot when C was having a tantrum because it was so upsetting to everyone. But that only taught her that communication is achieved through yelling… oops.
Potty mouth: Whoops, yes, C learned all the gros mots in French very early and it was hard to help her forget about them!
Labeling: Good, bad, nice, naughty, and everything in between. Be careful when you label your child. Not only are you creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, but you expose yourself to your child one day telling you the same things!
Another important mistake to avoid is according too much attention to undesirable behavior. Your natural reflex is to scold, maybe by yelling or using time out. But in this case, your natural reflex betrays you. Even negative attention is still attention (sort of like how even negative press is actually good press).
Your child’s main goal is to attract your attention. If she can learn that being naughty gets her attention, even negative attention, she has achieved her goal. Your reaction to her behavior is what’s reinforcing her behavior. You need to learn to do the opposite of your natural reflex and do not pay attention to your child when she is acting up. I know—easier said than done.
#3 Parenting mistake to avoid: Dismissing your child’s emotions
It’s hard for us as parents to see our children upset about something. When they are babies, how we respond to their cries matters. And too often we try to stifle them.
When they are toddlers, how we respond to their many tantrums and freakouts over seemingly unimportant or illogical things matters.
Here are some examples of how I shushed my child unnecessarily:
Pretty much every time she cried as a baby, I put her to my breast. I just didn’t know what else to do, and I thought I’d go crazy if I heard more crying.
As a baby and as an infant, shoving the binky in her mouth whenever she started fussing became the go-to “solution”—that didn’t even work. I realize now that it didn’t work because she didn’t want the binky. She wanted something entirely different.
The main thing babies and children need here, when they are crying or freaking out, is for their emotions to be recognized. Even if the problem can’t be solved (e.g. an irreparable toy), doesn’t it feel good to just be heard, for someone to agree with you?
In this case, all you have to do is use the Feedback Technique:
1. Describe the situation (the toy broke). 2. Name the emotions (it makes you so sad that you won’t play with it anymore). 3. And wait for the emotions to pass.
Don’t dismiss how she is feeling (It’s okay! It’s not a big deal. It’s only a toy. Calm down.). Try to see things from her point of view. In this way, you’ll help her to live out her emotions and learn how to bounce back rather than simply suppressing the emotions so she never learns how to deal with them.
#4 Parenting mistake to avoid: Objectifying your child
This is one parenting mistake that I was conscious of pretty early on. It blew my mind how many people objectify children and particularly babies.
Not verbally warning or describing the situation before manipulating them: touching, picking up, putting down, moving, diapering, bathing, feeding
Assuming their thoughts and feelings don’t matter because they are incapable of complex cognitive thinking (see #3 above)
Projecting onto them our wishes as parents (e.g. trying to force them to enjoy an activity that we ourselves enjoy, dressing them up in silly outfits that clearly only adults find funny or cute)
A really good way to catch yourself objectifying your child is to consider her as an older relative who has lost her independence in her old age. How would you treat her then? Would you:
Tickle her out of nowhere?
Pick her up without warning?
Try to look inside her diaper in front of others?
Another way of putting it is just to treat your child the way you would want to be treated: the golden rule.
Are you guilty of these 4 common avoidable parenting mistakes?
Just today I had a text exchange with a friend who was feeling guilty for getting fed up with her toddler and flexing her authority muscle. She said what she did was “probably bad parenting.” My response? We can have this thought once a day at least, but if you don’t step back and look at the big picture, you’ll drive yourself crazy with guilt.
So although I have labeled the behavior in my article “parenting mistakes,” just know that the only truly bad parenting, in my opinion, is straight-up abuse, or absenteeism without reason.
As long as you are present with your child and implicated in their development and well-being, I don’t see how you can call yourself a bad parent.
Hopefully some of you out there reading this article needed to hear those words today. You’re not a bad parent. It’s okay to make mistakes sometimes. We’re all human, and in fact it’s important for our kids to see that we’re not infallible. Just do your best every day. Set the right intention, try to follow through, and give yourself a break if you mess up.
Looking for more parenting advice? Check out my other articles here on Mamas Café Society:
Jessica is an American expat living the dream in Normandy. She is wife to a French hubby and mama to a Franco-American daughter, born in 2018, and one whippet. Passionate about all stages of writing, this Francophile created her blog in 2020 to help others navigate motherhood with a focus on conscious parenting and bilingual parenting. Bonne lecture !
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