As a mom I’m always thinking of ways that I could potentially be messing up my child and I’ve realized there are so many. Shouting at them, maybe smacking them, creating food issues, no boundaries, too many boundaries…and on and on we go.

Then I found an article called “12 Ways to Mess Up Your Kids”. Of course I thought I must be doing at least 14 of the 12 things wrong and so I got to reading it immediately…

Below is my summarized version. Click here for the full article – http://www.theatlantic.com/life/archive/2011/10/12-ways-to-mess-up-your-kids/246806/

Threaten to leave your kids behind – the threat of abandonment is deeply damaging to a child and so it’s best not to use this tactic when they won’t leave the park, get in the car, etc.

Lie to your child – a simple rule when dealing with children is not to lie to them. According to this article you shouldn’t tell your child that the family pet is running around footloose and fancy free on some dream ranch when the truth is that the pet is dead. Using age-appropriate explanations is good and works well. Little ones especially don’t need long explanations

Ignore your own bad behaviour – a lot of parents like to use the old adage “Do as I say, not as I do” but there’s a lot of research to show that this doesn’t work. Children learn by example so if you preach good manners then you got to ‘live good manners’. If you want your children to be respectful, kind and caring adults then you’ve got to show them what kind, caring and respectful means…


Assume that what worked for your first – or for you – will work for your second – one size does not fit all when it comes to parenting. What works for your first born won’t necessarily work for your second or third child. And expecting it to is putting a huge amount of stress on you and the child

Have a panic attack because your child broke a rule – most parents have a general idea of the things that are OK and aren’t in their home, but what you do when when rules are broken can really make a difference between teaching your child a valuable lesson and simply making them angry and resentful. The bottom line is if you’re raising your child in an environment that is supportive, loving and positive then the occasional ‘no no’ activity will not be the end of the world and won’t have so large or negative an impact on your child’s development

Think your baby shouldn’t be babied – despite old school ‘wisdom’ it’s virtually impossible to spoil your baby by being too attentive to their needs or holding them in your arms for much of the day. In fact, research shows that babies who receive more sensitive and responsive care become the more competent and independent toddlers.
For older kids there’s a balance between being responsive and over-responsive to their needs. Should your toddler fall and scrape their knee they look to the parent immediately to see how they should respond. If a parent over reacts, so too will the child

Punish or scold your child when she acts out, hits or throw things – expressing anger, frustration, sadness by hitting or throwing things is perfectly normal behaviour for little ones. It’s a way for kids with limited language and immature cognitive abilities to express emotion. Punishing them for doing this gives them the impression that having those emotions in the first place is wrong

Try to be your child’s best friend rather than a parent – this is an easy mistake to make. Even parents want to be liked by their kids but it’s important to always be the parent. If you can be authoritative as opposed to authoritarian you’ll do way better with your kids

Fill your cupboards with junk food and skip family meals – in the fast paced world we live in it’s easy to slip family meals or sit in front of the TV having dinner but research shows that families who eat together, at a table, are healthier, physically and mentally. It’s not so much what’s been eaten (though of course healthy is better) but it’s the chatting about the day, catching up with one another and just being together that makes a huge difference

Don’t walk: drive everywhere – this is sometimes easier said than done, especially living in JHB, but the point is to exercise. Go for a family walk in the park with the dogs or run around the back garden. Tell your kids to ‘take a hike’ in the nicest possible way…and take it with them

Think you bear sole responsibility – or none – for your child’s development – we’re all aware of the impact that our parenting has on our children, but sometimes it’s easy to push that idea to the extreme, thinking that everything you do will have a make-or-break impact on your child’s success. Becoming a guilt-ridden and intense parent is one sure way to mess your kids up. Even thought it’s hard to swallow we have to realize that as important as we are in our child’s life, we’re not the only factor

Assume there is one way to be a good parent – we all read this article to learn some parenting disasters and tips but as mentioned already there is NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL when it comes to children and parents. Kids are different and there’s a lot we can’t change. What we can do is celebrate and delight in the distinct little personality that he or she is, and will grow into, in the years to come

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One thought on “12 Ways to Mess Up Your Kids

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