Recently, I read a very interesting article about common parent 'mistakes' in our society today. This sparked off an idea to write about different behaviours we should avoid when raising our children. The content I will discuss will be based on a variety of sources, my professional and personal experience. I hope the points raised will open up some doors for you to consider with regards to parenting.
Parenting Behaviours to Avoid
- Part One
Being too Competitive
“Are you too competitive?”
Whilst, it is healthy for a little bit of competitiveness when it is at your child’s expense then you need to take a step back. Sometimes, without even realising it, to promote our child we hurt another child, we compare our child so much that they may begin to feel incompetent or when they cannot achieve our expectations (which may be too high) they feel like a failure.
This results in social difficulties (broken friendships or your child being rejected because of overbearing parental competitiveness) or emotional challenges (stress, anxiety and depression from pressure and expectations).
Our fear that our children may not ‘fit in’ or be ‘as good’ or ‘better’ than their peers often leads us to push and compare them. We want them to be ‘the best’. We use comparisons to ask our children why they have not achieved the same as their peers, for example, ‘Mary can do it.’. This may all be unintentional but it is present.
We need to look at our own attitudes because how we behave affects our children – their emotions and their actions. By involving ourselves to the extent that we interfere to ensure our child is successful undermines important life skills such as building friendships and relationships positively; learning about failure and how to handle it, it is hard work as well as dedication that will further us in life and we do not the need to ‘sabotage’ others to be successful.
Children should not be afraid of being a little bit competitive to excel, achieve and to reach their own potential. They should not be fearful of failure because that is how they learn and grow. They should know that relationships should not be undermined or devalued in the name of competitiveness. They should know that we as parents want the best for them but want them to stand on their own two feet. We will always be there and support them. As their independence develops, it will give them more courage, strength and determination.
Avoidance of ‘Faults’
- the faultless child
“When you hear someone mentioning a concern or something you perceive as negative about your child; do you immediately jump to your child’s defensive?”
When we hear something that clouds our somewhat idealised view of our child we tend to ignore it, shut it out of our minds and defend our child (even though they may be at fault). We avoid them because it hurts. But why? Does it matter that our children have stronger and weaker areas? We have strengths and weaknesses. We make mistakes. Do they not deserve the same room to do so?
I know from my own experience hearing any feedback about my child that I find disappointing is hurtful and I get defensive. Our instinct means we frequently end up attacking the person who raises the issues; we blame ourselves and are afraid of what these issues mean for our children. But, we need to stop. I have finally learned (and it has been a long process) to hear that person out - be it a professional, family member or friend. Why? Because if I do not I am losing the chance to help my child.
I am the first one to acknowledge that I do not always just follow what is given to me blindly; I speak to my child; start to see if I can notice the concerns that have been pointed out and ask other individuals for their perspective. I am a mom. I am definitely subjective when it comes to my child but my child is not faultless. I find the assistance of objective points of views can definitely help me be a better parent. Does this mean I always agree? Definitely not, in fact sometimes I will be the most headstrong person in the room when it comes to defending my child.
As a professional, it is heartbreaking when you have to deliver less than positive news. We gain absolutely no joy from it and when we have to it is for the child’s best interest. The most painful experiences I experience in my work is watching parents in denial and seeing the affects on the child. As a parent, we don’t want to hear if your child has a learning challenge, a mental illness, a chronic illness, is a bully or anything that may not be the expected the societal norm or fulfill our expectations. But we need to view the situation, consider the pros and cons, even if it means getting a second professional opinion or getting an opinion of a professional if friends or family members bring up a concern. Ultimately, you do not always need to agree and sometimes the issues brought up are ‘false’ or ‘incorrect’ information or even brought up with the intention to hurt us. However, we do need to be open to receiving information.
Our children need protection and that means taking a moment to listen to others (even if it is hard to hear), to investigate the situation and stand up for our child when needed. If we do not listen and consider the information given to us how we can help our child? How can we teach them to help themselves if we do not know their struggles? If we are not willing to hear about our child’s weaknesses and take these into consideration we are only doing our children a disservice. And sometimes, we just need to listen to our children.
Actions speak louder than Words
“I ask and guide my child but they don’t adhere to my advice, boundaries or etiquette taught.” TAUGHT! The big question here is are you “telling your child” or are you “showing your child”?
One of the biggest learning methods for every child is observation; if our behaviour does not reflect our words our children most likely will follow our behaviour not what we say. Ever wonder why sometimes your child just does not listen? Think about it carefully, when you ask your child to do something or state that you will discipline them, do you follow through? If you do not then your actions are not reflecting your words. As unintentional as it may be this is hypocrisy. It will not lead to the behaviour we desire from our children.
This concern probably has one of the easiest solutions but one of the hardest to practice. Keep your morals, values, instructions and boundaries clear by following through with actions that reflect these. We all make mistakes and sometimes we just need to tell our child that yes our behaviour in certain circumstances may not have been the best reaction BUT we are all human. My rule is that 80% of the time we should aim to act out our beliefs in the way that we treat people and behave but there is that margin of human error (20%) that will happen.
Remember, our children are WHO we SHOW them to be.
Part Two to follow shortly.