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There are as many ways to parent as there are types of children out there. What is “correct” to one person may be “wrong” to another. What do experts and parents-in-the-know say, though? In their opinion, these are the three key mistakes that parents make:
1. Giving In To The ‘Bottomless Pockets’ Theory
I was visiting a male friend, “Mark,” and his two kids one Saturday, when he remembered he had to go shopping for a gift for someone. The four of us went into Target, and soon his kids wanted everything they saw. I mean, everything. Eventually, he bought them each one thing “to stop whining,” he told me.
I don’t have kids, but I wondered how this happened. Was a toy necessary every time? In researching the topic, I found that the answer is “No.”
“The parent with bottomless pockets is someone who hopes to make a connection with their child by giving them whatever they want,” said Megan Devine, LCPC. Just like it sounds, children are given material things to put an end to a behavior.
Perhaps they are tired of the child’s whining, so they stop it with a gift. Devine thinks this is common in households where kids go between different parents and step-parents and does not recommend it.
“Because it feels easy to get material goods, the child does not learn the reality of having to work for rewards or compensation,” Devine said. “This can set them up not only for future problems in the adult work world, but also in setting and achieving their own personal goals.”
She suggests saying “no,” no matter how difficult it may be. “If you want to use material things as rewards for your child, be sure they are connected with tangible expectations, effort, and accomplishments, not simply just because they asked.”
Great advice, I think, though I’m sure, in practice, it takes some getting used to.
2. Forgetting That Actions Do Speak Louder Than Words
In this Huffington Post piece, Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis talks about common parenting mistakes, and one of them was forgetting that actions speak louder than words. “How I handle rejection and adversity… how I treat friends and strangers… whether I nag or build up their father… they notice these things,” Kubiszyn Kampakis said.
“And the way I respond gives them permission to act the same.” This seems pretty easy, but I know parent friends of mine sometimes struggle with this concept and try to be more mindful of it. “They see everything we do,” Alisha, a parent in Los Angeles, tells Simplemost.
“My husband and I have to remember that we’re the primary teachers they have in how to become good people.” Very well-said (and advice I’ll have to keep in mind if I ever become a parent or when I watch people’s kids).
3. Backing Down
Like Alisha said above, she and her husband need to make sure their behavior is in check so that their kids’ behavior is in check, too.
Similarly, threatening your child to do “y” if they do “x” won’t work… if you don’t actually follow through. “Repeatedly saying ‘If you don’t stop throwing sand, I’m going to make you leave the sandbox’ won’t stop the bad behavior,” said Bridget A. Barnes, coauthor of Common Sense Parenting for Toddlers and Preschoolers.
“What your child hears is ‘I can keep doing this a few more times before Mom makes me stop.’” Barnes suggests giving your child a warning, then a time-out if he or she continues to not listen, then leaving the sandbox as the ultimate act.
When returning to the scene of the crime, so to speak, Barnes said saying the following should work, “Remember how we had to leave when you threw the sand? I hope we don’t have to go home early again today.”