Google the word “parenting” and you’ll find over 335 million hits. You could spend a lifetime and never finish reading all the websites and books, attending all the classes, and viewing all the videos that give you advice on how to parent a child. Maybe it’s enough to know the top four common mistakes most parents make when raising kids, and especially teens, and how to recover from making them.
Mistake #1: Controlling Your Child’s Every Move
Parenting is all about attending to your child, not controlling your child. It’s a common mistake to step over that invisible boundary line that brings you from taking care of things to dominating your child’s every move, from choosing the color they want to dye their hair to scrolling through their phone every night. You may be controlling your child because you think it’s best, but you also may have found that restricting a child’s every move has the opposite effect, causing you to try to oversee even more of what your teen does. Here are the three top ways parents tend to over-control their adolescent’s life, and how to stop:
- Doing your teen’s homework: Supporting is different than doing. Ask your child what they need to complete their homework. In the end, let your child handle the struggles and the consequences when it comes to homework. (Hint: most educators know when you’ve intervened in their student’s homework efforts.)
- Applying for jobs for your teen: Yes, your teen may seem sluggish, bordering on lazy. But it’s best to suggest and send job opportunities to your child and offer to help update a resume, but never call or email a potential employer on behalf of your child. You will undermine your teen’s confidence in finding a job on their own, which can lead to problems through adulthood.
- Over-disciplining your teen: If your child is late coming home or gets an unsatisfactory grade, you might think it’s best to severely threaten your child with discipline as a way to squash any future incidents. Heavy discipline is a way to control your child’s every move, and it typically backfires. Have empathy for your child, but explain, if there’s a next time, the consequences will be a bit harsher.
Mistake #2: Comparing Your Child
In this age of social media, it’s tough to avoid seeing how well your friends’ kids appear to be doing in life. Dean’s lists and other school accolades, scholarships and internships, graduations and early acceptance letters to dream schools, proms and dances, athletic awards … the list goes on. It can be heartbreaking when your child does not appear to be doing as “well” as other kids. And so you compare. Then it slips out in conversation with your child. Constantly comparing your kid to others will make your child feel inferior, and it won’t change your child’s grades, personality, or friendship choices. The trick to stopping is to keep in mind that you don’t have a complete picture of what’s really going on behind the façade of a post filled with smiling faces and loads of congratulatory responses. All you can control is focusing on the positive growth you see in your own kid.
Mistake #3: Always Pampering Your Child
You may love showering your child with material gifts and money, excusing them from chores to make their life a little easier, and dropping whatever you’re doing to accommodate their whims. After all, you love your child, right? An occasional pampering is fine as a loving gesture. Overly pampering your child may come from your own emotions, such as guilt or the desire to be best friends with your child. But excessive pampering tends to create an unskilled young adult who can’t do much on their own. Many parents give in to their child’s demands (for a cell phone or car, for example) for a number of reasons; it’s oftentimes quicker to get things done and easier to say yes and avoid the fallout. Letting your child learn that they’re capable of getting things done by themselves and earning the things they want is one of the best gifts you’ll ever give them.
Mistake #4: Ignoring Your Gut Feelings
Well-meaning friends, family, and even strangers love to tell other parents how to do their job. Unsolicited advice on how to raise your child is often off the mark. They are not the expert of your child or family. You are. The solution: always listen to your own gut feeling about parenting. It may not always be right or perfect, but your gut feeling is probably closer to what you need to do. And if your gut is urging you to ask a specific person for advice, listen to them closely.
If your inner voice is urging you to find professional help to navigate parenting a tough teen, reach out to turningwinds.com. There, you’ll find a community of compassionate academic and therapeutic professionals who understand what it takes to parent teens in this complex world.