Bad Parenting Habits
Parenting doesn't come with a handbook. It's all on-the-job training. But the same is true for kids trying to grow into adults. No guidelines, just lots of unwritten rules that restrict who our children think they want to be. Ultimately, both parties want the same outcome: the kids' independence. Parents just tend to want to attach a couple of modifiers to that: responsible, successful independence.
There are subplots in every family drama, hurdles that must be overcome before our goals are met. Some of those hurdles we set up for ourselves. Often our good intentions, hopes and desires sabotage our parenting program. Sometimes we'd rather be the good parent than engage in good parenting. And sometimes our kids are right. We just don't understand what they're going through.
Parenting isn't just a job; it's a lifelong commitment. And when you're caught up in the day-in, day-out adventures of raising kids for around two decades, it's easy to fall into habitual behavior. Unfortunately, some of those habits are counter-productive.
Attempting to bribe your child into good behavior often has negative results. Food rewards can lead to unhealthy eating habits. Over time, bribery can get out of hand, with your child demanding ever-increasing rewards for doing what he or she is supposed to do anyway. It's better to catch your child being good and reward them for that than to try to buy his or her way out of bad behavior.
Not Following Through
Guiding children's behavior through rules and limits is a big part of parenting. At some point in their development, children will experiment with you to see just how serious you are about those boundaries.
That's why parents need to establish and clearly communicate the consequences of breaking those rules.
Here's the problem: Parents don't really want to punish their kids. It's so easy to think that a warning (or two or three) will avoid a fight, save everyone's feelings and fix the problem. Instead, failing to enforce the consequences of bad behavior just makes your child see you as unreliable and easily manipulated. And since engaging in the bad behavior carries no consequences, your child has no reason to change it. In fact, your child's behavior may become worse if not appropriately disciplined. Kids want the limits, and they'll probe until they find them.
If you want to change someone else's behavior, the best place to start is by changing yours. Set the limit, communicate the consequence and then calmly follow through when your child steps out of line. Be sure to create consequences that have meaning for your child -- like taking away a favorite toy for young ones or a cellphone from older kids -- and that you're willing and able to enforce consistently.
Consistency is important when you're trying to change your image as an unreliable parent. But there will be outrage when you first enforce the consequence. After all, from your child's point of view, if you didn't mean what you said last time, why should you mean it this time?
In another scenario, parents may tell their children they'll do something for them or with them, and then don't. Both of these are examples of failure to follow through. The first deals with discipline; the second is a broken promise. The outcome, however, is the same. When you don't do what you told your child you would do, you become someone he or she can't rely on.
If only they came with instructions.
Not Setting Limits
Children come into the world knowing precious little. They learn almost incidentally by observing the happenings around them and manipulating their surroundings through touch, sound, facial expression and movement. We set physical limits to keep our exploring munchkins from danger. As they grow in size and ability, though, physical limits are inadequate for the sea of behaviors they'll experiment with. It's our job as parents to let our kids know which...
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