Raising your child: 10 mistakes to avoid

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If only babies came with a manual it would make life easier for the billions of parents earth wide. However , we all know that parenting, for most people, is a trial and error undertaking. Mistakes will be made. Lessons will be learnt. However there are some glaring mistakes that parents make unknowingly or otherwise.
1. Treating your child like a little adult

I’ve noticed parents getting very frustrated because they expect their children to reason like adults. For example some inexperienced parents may expect a baby of a few months old to know right from wrong. As adults, we may forget that it took us many years to acquire the life experience that we possess. Children will never reason like adults. Looking at world through childhood eyes will make for a patient and more understanding parent. Let the children enjoy their childhood.

2. Unfair comparisons

Some parents will find themselves comparing their children, using the, “Why can’t you be like…’” line. This only results in unfair sibling rivalry and jealousy.
Each child is unique and should be treated as an individual. Children growing under the same roof will not have similar characters and parents will have to learn to treat each child according to his or her temperament.

3. Bad mouthing the absent parent

When a relationship breaks down, it’s natural for the parent who feels wronged to want to bad mouthing the other parent to the children. The wronged parent may even prevent the other parent from accessing the child. In the process of trying to hurt each other parents hurt their children by denying them the chance to form a relationship with both parents. The Kenyan proverb, “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”, becomes applicable. In trying to hurt an ex-partner, the child is hurt in the process.

4. Never apologising

“I never apologise to my children,” I heard one parent boasting. Apologising to your child teaches him/her that adults also make mistakes. It’s also a lesson in maintaining good human relations.

5. Fighting in front of children

Shouting and screaming and screaming in front of the children is a sure way to break their young hearts. When some children hear their parents fight they may worry that their parents will divorce. Some children get frightened. When children witness their parents fight, they are sure to feel stressed.

6. Praising personality instead of accomplishments

A noted child psychologist Dr. Haim G. Ginott, in his book,  has this to say on this topic: ““Most people believe that praise builds up a child’s confidence and makes him feel secure. In actuality, praise may result in tension and misbehaviour . . . When parents tell a child, ‘You are such a good boy,’ he may not be able to accept it because his own picture of himself is quite different . . . Praise should deal, not with the child’s personality attributes, but with his efforts and achievements . . . Praise has two parts: our words and the child’s inferences. Our words should state clearly that we appreciate the child’s effort, work, achievement, help, consideration.”

7. Your child is not your friend

Some parents may make the mistake of viewing their children as buddies or close friends. A parent may go a step further and view a child as a confidant. Such parents have to remember that a child is not emotionally and intellectually mature to be a parent. They need you to be a parent, to guide them through life.

8. Constant criticism and humiliation

I’ve met parents who confuse verbal abuse with discipline. They feel that harsh words  and hurtful comments will motivate the child to behave. I’ve heard parents say to their children: ‘You’re stupid,’  ‘You’re useless’ or ‘you’ll never amount to anything.’ This is verbal abuse. Unfortunately children cannot distinguish fact from opinions.  A child will believe whatever an adult says. A child growing up under such negative criticism will be damaged psychologically.

In Stephanie Marston’s book, Magic of Encouragement, a study from the University of Calgary “shows that verbal abuse is even more likely than physical abuse to damage children’s self-esteem.”

Parents therefore need to be more encouraging to their children.

9. Not teaching a child to ward off sexual abuse

Most parents will teach a child how to cross the road but they may be hesitant to teach the child about sexual abuse. A child who is ignorant about sexual abuse is more likely to be abused. Some parents have found it helpful to teach their children that no one should touch the child’s privates (not even mummy or daddy). Encouraging the child to report any inappropriate touching. Some parents even role play to prepare the child to ward off any such abuse.

10. Pampering them

There are parents who feel like they have to bend to the will of their children in most things. These children will obviously grow up to be spoiled, willful and turn into unappreciative adults. In her book, The Pampered Child Syndrome, Maggie Mamen writes: “By doing so, he claimed, children were deprived of the opportunity to develop coping skills and problem solving strategies of their own, instead remaining dependent  on parents or adults, and demanding of the attention they required in order to function  on a daily basis”


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