Being a parent is a very rewarding experience. But, the rewards do not make the job easy.
Perhaps the hardest part about being a parent is that oftentimes, even when we think we are doing the best possible thing, there is a chance that we could be doing the wrong thing. It can be frustrating to always wonder, “Am I messing everything up?” Living under this mindset is only going to destroy your mental health, and that isn’t good for you or your child. So, when you read this article, don’t walk away thinking that you are a failure. The fact that you want to do better, grow, and understand where you could improve says everything you need to know about yourself as a parent: you are doing the best that you can.
The purpose of this article isn’t to shame you or make you feel even more pressure. It’s to get you thinking about things from a new perspective so you can make the best possible choices as a parent.
With that in mind, here are 8 unintentional, but harmful parenting behaviors to stay mindful of.
1. Talking at your child instead of communicating with them.
According to Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., “Toxic parents are known for not listening to their kids, but instead, talking over them or at them,” continuing, she explains, “If parents recognize themselves doing this they should make a concerted effort to remain silent and listen, listen, and listen some more. If kids feel listened to they will talk more and confide more. ”
2. Being overly critical.
Another bad habit that parents don’t always realize could be damaging is being overly critical. Many of us grew up with parents who had good intentions (most of them anyway, I suppose a lot also had bad intentions) and thought that criticizing us would make us “tougher.” Unfortunately, criticizing your child doesn’t make them tougher, it destroys their mental health. Instead of criticizing your child, if you notice a problem, talk to them like a human being. If you can’t because they are upset and because you are upset, take a moment for both of you to calm down and then re-approach them once the waves have settled.
3. Invalidating your child’s emotions.
Emotional invalidation is very problematic for your child’s well-being, not only now, but into the future. Being able to handle your emotions is key to being able to handle anxiety, being able to handle depression, processing anger and even expressing love. Needless to say, emotional regulation is something that ripples into every facet of our life. When your child has emotions, and you say “Stop acting like that,” or “It’s not that bad,” or “Why are you crying, you big baby?” you are invalidating their emotions. In response, their first thought is that emotions must be bad, and avoided at all costs. And because emotions HAVE to be expressed, they will find other ways (unhealthy ones) to express them.
4. Intimidating your child.
Intimidation does not do anything beneficial for your child. When you intimidate your child, you are destroying the bond you have with them, teaching them you aren’t to be trusted, and instilling fear in them. If you want to teach them, try communicating with them.
5. Not allowing your child to fail.
It may feel counterproductive to let your child fail. It may even be uncomfortable to watch them. But, failure is what will push them to figure out how to do something the right way on their own. We learn from failure. We discover how to stand on our own, through failure. So, allow your child to fail.
6. Burdening your child with adult problems.
Not only is this a violation of your child’s boundaries, but it’s also a sure-fire way to make them extremely anxious and depressed. Do not discuss adult problems with your child, because they aren’t an adult. The only thing this will do is put a massive weight on their shoulder that they are powerless to control.
7. Disciplining to punish, not to teach.
It’s a common misconception that discipline means punishment. It doesn’t. It means to teach. And teaching can happen through communication, rewarding effort, consistency, and continued expression of expectations and consequences. When you are disciplining your child to punish them out of anger, you are doing it for the wrong reason.
8. Labeling your child.
Children are like sponges, they absorb everything we say to them and pick up on the words we use to describe their behavior. When you use labels like “You are so lazy,” they are going to fall into the behavior of someone lazy because they are going to take your word for it. Be careful with your words.