8 of the Worst Mistakes Parents Make
I’m not a perfect parent. Having parented three teens I’ve been humbled and willingly admit that I’ve made a lot of mistakes.
Don’t we all wish we could go back and erase some of our worst parenting moments?
Unfortunately, that’s not an option, but what we can do can bring transformation. We can open our hearts and learn from our past regrets and use them to break unhealthy parenting patterns, bring healing, and build closer relationships with our kids.
I’ve shared common mistakes that we often make, myself included. My intention is to raise our self-awareness, not our guilt (we sure don’t need more of that!).
Here are 8 of the Worst Parenting Mistakes I’ve Made, You May Recognize Yourself Too.
Blowing things out of proportion.
I used to be sent into a tailspin when one of my kids said “I hate you” or mouthed off. I’m convinced this had to do with my delusions of grandeur and my pride.
I had a fantasy that I would do such an excellent job parenting my kids that they’d never utter these words or have a sassy, disrespectful attitude.
I understand now that adolescence is a time when kids want to belong, they’re figuring out who they are and trying on different behaviors. Many of them haven’t learned how to regulate their emotions due to their changing hormones and brains developing.
These behaviors aren’t the end of the world. They’re information. An “I hate you” is them expressing they’re angry or they don’t like to hear “no” or I’ve done something that my teen hasn’t liked and I need to be open to listening.
When we blow things out of proportion, over the top consequences can be quick to follow.
In my past parenting life, if one of my kids was disrespectful or broke the rules, I was punitive. Immediately I’d react and threaten to ground them for a month or take away their phone for a week.
I’ve learned from experience that threatening a consequence in a moment of upset doesn’t motivate your child into good behavior or give them the skills they need to become a responsible adult.
What we can do, is practice not reacting in the heat of the moment. The next time this happens (and we know it will) resist the urge to threaten or bring down the gauntlet. If you do, it’s not the end of the world. You can always go back and tell them you were upset. Have a conversation about their behavior and what they can do differently. Invite them to come up with a consequence that will teach them something.
Projecting myself onto my kids.
One of the first exercises I do at the start of a new moms group is I have them take an inventory of their childhood, how they felt at different times, and how they were parented.
Our own experiences growing up greatly impact how we view our children’s behavior and what happens to them. We view our kids through our own lens and what we may perceive to be happening may actually not be the reality of the situation.
For example, let’s say I grew up and I had a lot of friends and felt like I was accepted and fit in most of the time. When my tween doesn’t get invited to a birthday party and is upset I can feel with her without taking on her feelings. I’m able to contain her upset with relative calm.
Now take a mom who was excluded growing up and never felt like they fit in. Chances are they will have a much stronger reaction. The feelings may be overwhelming leading them to over-react and make the situation more dire than it really is.
It’s helpful when we notice and are curious about the strong emotions we have in response to different things that happen with our kids. Next time this happens notice what this might be bringing up for you.
Focusing on their performance.
It’s natural that we take pride in our kids accomplishments.
When my kids are successful at something I feel good about myself as a parent.
However, if we only praise our kids when they succeed the message they internalize is “I’m only lovable and valuable when I’m succeeding”, and “Who I am isn’t enough unless others are approving of me.”
We need to always remember to focus more on their character and valuing them for who they are.
Stunting their growth.
Someday, I’m going to investigate and see if I can come up with some sort of answer as to why we’ve ended up being a generation of parents that are way too into our kids business.
I understand not wanting our kids to experience anxiety, disappointment or pain. However, we’re way overboard. I can say this with conviction because I have older kids and I can see areas in their lives where this hasn’t been helpful.
My mom didn’t know if I had a missing assignment or where I was all the time. Now we’re reading our kids texts, checking their homework daily, and checking to see where they are via FindAPhone. We’ve got to stop it.
While it’s awesome that we’re invested in our kids lives and vigilant to protect our kids in this new age of social media, we need to take a close look at where we might be going overboard.
We need to allow our kids to develop grit and resiliency and the only way to do this is to allow them to struggle, sometimes feel discouraged, and mess up. If we don’t we’ll handicap them.
Playing the victim.
When we take our kids behavior personally we often feel hurt, angry, taken advantage of, or disrespected. Of course, this is understandable.
However, when we take it a step further and begin to say to ourselves, “Poor me. My kid’s treating me so poorly, after all I do for them,” we’ve fallen into the victim mindset.
It’s not our kids job to take care of our feelings. They’re the kids, we’re the adults. I know this role well because I’ve done it and it’s damaging. When we catch ourselves playing the victim we need to step up and be the parent. We need to remind ourselves that we don’t need their approval to be okay (this is hard).
Their sassy behavior or attitude isn’t about us, rather it may be a sign that we need to set some boundaries or get comfortable with our kids sometimes not liking us.
Do what I say, not as I do.
We can’t expect our kids to be responsible if we aren’t walking our talk.
It’s important to ask ourselves, “Am I asking my adolescent to do something I’m not doing myself – picking up their messes, limiting screen time, staying organized, doing their homework, while we’re distracted on our phones, have piles of laundry, or stacks of paperwork lying on the dining room table?”
Where might you, and I need, to take a good look at ourselves and model being more responsible rather than nagging them? Btw, I’m going to fold my piles of laundry now!
Trying to force our kids to fit our image.
Dealing with learning differences, anxiety, ADHD, and addiction these have been a few of the challenges that I’ve navigated with my kids.
Not one of these struggles would I ever have chosen.
I had an image of what my family was suppose to look like and this wasn’t it.
I’ve laid awake at night worrying, doubting if I’m doing enough, wondering where I messed up, and how I’m going to get through this. I’ve been angry, resentful and lashed out at my loved ones.
Most of us are dealing with something that we’ve found hard to accept.
If you’re struggling right now with something that wasn’t the way you wanted it to be, hear me…I know it sucks. It’s hard. And, blaming ourselves or asking why will exhaust us.
It’s what we do with it that matters.
I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is ask the question, “What can I learn from this? How might I need to change? How can I love and support my kids to the best of my ability? How can I take care of myself and get the support I need?”
Now I can say, these challenges have made me a better person. I’m more compassionate, less judgemental, and more accepting. When someone is experiencing something that is similar to what I went through I’m able to understand their pain in ways that I never could have before.
The truth is if we fight against these things that aren’t what we wanted, we cause suffering for ourselves, our kids and those closest to us.
As I reflect on this list, I’m struck by the fact that we need one another. We don’t have to go it alone, or hide our parenting challenges and heart aches. We can get support, share our struggles and learn from one another.
This is why I love our community at Moms of Tweens and Teens. We’re all going to make mistakes, no doubt about it. But when we know that we’re not alone and that there’s support that’s available, it makes all the difference. We can take our mistakes, give ourselves some self-compassion and practice doing things differently in order to build closer relationships with our kids.
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