Many parents assume that instincts will help them be better parents to their children or assume that parenting comes naturally. We employ parenting styles we have inherited subsequently making mistakes in our parenting journey without even realising it.
Parenting is a learned skill and there are no tricks and hacks. My intention is not to make you feel guilty about your mistakes but to give solutions because I know raising a child is demanding. I want to create awareness on the effects these mistakes have on children and help you realise where you are and how to be better.
The common parenting mistakes are:
1. Allowing Technology Parents for You: Many times, we think our children need the screen however, the skills your children need to survive is not on the screen. Technology has become a parenting helper and a convenient substitute for parents. Subsequently, technology ends up having more influence on the children than the parents do. Technology in this case refers to television, phones, tablets, computers and the likes. We have been made to believe that it is not easy to parent your child while staying away from technology. However, if you do not create time for children and create memories with them through activities, it means that technology is doing that work for you.
What your child needs and will remember is the time and memories you build with them not the things you give to them. Parenting is a big deal. You have to learn to create time for your child, you cannot use not having enough time as an excuse to use technology as a nanny (placing your child in front of the tv for hours so you can have more time to yourself). You need to understand that technology was created for you and not the other way round and if you understand that, then use it and not allow it to use you.
2. Not allowing your children make mistakes: Parents have said to me that they do not want to allow their children make mistakes, so they interfere. Your inability to give room for your child to make mistakes is a mistake in itself; some parents go as far as paying for malpractice. Failure is part of the system and it is important for children to fail. If you do not allow your children to fail, you are teaching them that everything must always go smoothly. Avoiding mistakes, creates a system that gives a false narrative that making mistakes or failing is a bad thing. In reality, Life is all about bumps and bruises and children need to feel it, it gives you room to teach and correct your children, because they are learning points.
When you as a parent promote the self-righteousness theme, you tell your children that they cannot and cannot be allowed to make mistakes. When they make mistakes you, criticise them and compare them to yourself or others by projecting self-righteousness and using phrases like “in my time, I was …” This fallibility narrative in parenting is false. This is because a child sees his parents as perfect people who do not make mistakes, and since he makes mistakes, he will fill the gap with people who make mistakes, and they may have wrong influence. You are not perfect, you make mistakes, so you have to understand and make room for your children to make mistakes as well. By being obsessed with having a child who is perfect and does not make mistakes, you may end up setting your child up for failure. This is because failure is not if your child will fail because he will definitely fail, real failure is in your child’s inability to look at his mistakes and tur them into something positive.
You should not create a system for your children that life is rosy because life is not rosy, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Avoid giving your child a false narrative of what life is by rescuing your child in situations all the time. There are situations your child needs to experience because we live on experiences. Therefore, do not be quick to rescue your children from such experiences, they help them understand how the world works.
3. Lack of structure: A parent once said to me that she has beaten, yelled and disciplined her child yet she is still having struggles. Our definition of discipline is wrong. What is discipline? Discipline is not about being unpredictable and randomly yelling and flogging your children discipline is structure.
Yelling and flogging all the time does not result in the desired behavioural change in your child. If it did, there will be no need to keep yelling and flogging children over the same behaviour. The two most important roles of a parents are nurture and structure. You need to balance both and own them, without both, your parenting system will fail. What is structure? Structure means having rules, setting limits, consistency, routines and offering limited choices. What kind of structure do you have in your home? Lack of structure in you parenting system will result in the natural collapse of that system. Putting the right structure in place will stop you from being afraid of your children failing, owning their experiences or trying new things. For example, having a structure around sexual education for your children will prevent you from being afraid of what they might be involved in or what might happen to them when you are not with them.
4. Yelling and Fighting Back: This is a common parenting mistake, and it does refer to physical fight between parents and children. This fight refers to a parent getting mad, yelling, nagging, repeating and being in a power struggle. Arguing with your child will give them negative attention this is because they are able to trigger a stronger reaction from you, then you start fighting back mostly by yelling. This unintentionally rewards misbehaviour and a parent will begin to struggle with this, and the fighting back does not stop this misbehaviour.
5. Being Stuck in What Does not Work
Many times, you know that somethings are not working in you parenting system (you are not getting the desired result) but you keep at it. You defend this notion by saying things like “I was brought up in the same way and I turned out okay”.
Are you interested in raising children wo are okay? Or children who are interested in raising children who can excellently become better? Let’s raise children who can do better. Many parents are stuck in systems that do not work because they think that they know it all or parenting should not be taught and refuse to reach out when things don’t work. We wait until we struggle and fight back and make a complete mess before we begin to reach out for help. Raising a child happens between 0-7 then to 10. If you have not been deliberate in raising your child and he is above ten, then you are already in a “war zone” and you need to be prepared. You must be willing to commit to the process, because it is not a fire brigade approach based on tips and hacks.
6. Over Expectation (Expecting Perfection from Children) : A parent once said to me “My daughter is six and cannot put herself together” then I asked her “when you were six years old, how much ‘put together’ were you?”. Thinking on my response, she realized that what she was expecting of her 6-year-old was not realistic. For example, my 10-year-old children can cook, however, it will be foolish of me to expect that the kitchen will look perfect and spotless after they cook. Over expectation is a common parenting mistake, in some cases, parents even expect a toddler to sit quietly. Toddlers are created to try things so cannot sit still, you have to help the toddler by creating avenues for him to try things in a supportive structure and routine.
Why expect things that children cannot do from them. If you have never taught your child a skill, do not expect the child to give you the best of that skill. Whatever skill you want to see in your children, you have to be ready to intentionally teach them. If you do not teach skills to your children, it is only natural for them to struggle. Bishop David Oyedepo says: if you want a child to fly a plane and you just place him in a plane and force him to fly it or even flog him, he will not be able to.
7. Thinking for Your Child :Avoid being the thought process for your child by:
• Answering for your child
• Interrupting your child’s thought process and fixing things
• Pressuring them to say or do things as you say without thinking
• Making excuse for your child using their age or saying things like “he is just a child”.
It is important to teach your child, how to make decisions and step back and let them make decisions. You should also not interrupt your child and assume that you child does not have knowledge at all. Sometimes, parents criticize the process of the child’s thinking; instead, you should give your children the chance to explore options. For instance, I taught my daughter to make jollof rice, but she now cooks it better than me. This is because she went out and explored to find other ways to make jollof rice, I allowed her to try it out this new way instead of criticizing her for wanting to try it in a differently from what I taught her. When she tried to make it differently, it turned out to be better than what I taught her. By not giving your children the opportunity to think for themselves, they become zombies; only following your instructions. Step away after giving instructions and let them think through it, they may have a better option, or you may even be wrong. Your children obeying you all the time is a wrong system, there are times that what you are saying may not be the best option. If you think for your child, you may react and will miss the opportunity of your child understanding what they did wrong. Solution to these parenting mistakes is centered around structured parenting. Ask yourself: How much structure, routine, consistency do you have in your parenting system? That is what builds your child ad make him become disciplined. Discipline is the ability to lead yourself without outward interference. This means that when you are not with your children, are they able to make choices based on the values you have taught them? Are your values strong enough for your children to make choices from them. Children will make choices from the values we have taught them both intentionally and unintentionally.
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