10 Parenting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Jennifer Slattery

Published: Aug 14, 2019
10 Parenting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Many of us want to learn from the parenting mistakes from our parents and to do things a little differently. Or perhaps we have experienced the opposite. Maybe we had parents who ran the household extremely well, and we want to avoid the pressure of living up to their standards.

When I dreamed of motherhood, I had no idea how confusing—and rewarding—parenting would be. Feeling ill-equipped and overwhelmed, I devoured numerous child-development resources. I learned the most, however, from watching others. Some practices I wanted to emulate, while others I wanted to avoid.

Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."

Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

That can sound like a lot of pressure. We may worry that if we train our children incorrectly or exasperate them that we could push them far away from the Gospel and from good living. Perhaps we have heard examples from other parents about how their child has strayed away from home and doesn't return calls, and we fear the worst.

It seems we can get a lot of advice on parenting, but today, I want to discuss some long-term mistakes to avoid with your children. Whether your children are well along in years, or you haven't yet had your first child, use this list as a guide on how to avoid these detrimental mistakes.

Here are 10 parenting mistakes that can create long-term damage and how to avoid them.

Photo Credit: ©Getty/Maskot

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1. Creating a fear of failure.

1. Creating a fear of failure.

There’s nothing wrong with demanding excellence, but our expectations must never override or cancel out grace. When that occurs, we paralyze our children’s growth. The child who's afraid of falling will never climb on a bike. Similarly, the student who fears poor grades will likely choose classes that are too easy for them.

The solution: Let your kids know failure is expected and celebrate each failing as a learning opportunity. Just as importantly, never withhold love and affection. For example, when disciplining, instead of canceling a mother-daughter outing, withhold her electronics and always reaffirm your love while dealing with the misbehavior.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/pixelheadphoto

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2. Parenting in anger or frustration.

2. Parenting in anger or frustration.

When we’re frustrated, it’s hard to parent with grace. We’ll likely say things we regret. We may weaken our relationship, thus hindering our ability to reach our child’s heart. We’ll also be prone to set consequences disproportionate to the misbehavior. Plus, we can’t train our children to manage their emotions if we haven’t done so ourselves.

The solution: Give yourself a “time out” when tension rises. Say, “I’m frustrated and need a moment to pray. I encourage you to do the same.” This lets the child know you plan to deal with the issue and models how to remain calm when upset. You’ll be more able to parent with wisdom and grace having first sought God. 

Photo Credit: GettyImages/evgenyatamanenko

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3. Making decisions for them.

3. Making decisions for them.

Children of controlling parents come to believe they’re incapable of making decisions. They’re also likely to develop an unhealthy fear of failure. Though we never want to overwhelm them with too many choices, we do want our kids to develop problem-solving skills. They can’t do that if we plan their lives for them.

The solution: Empower your children to make wise choices then entrust them with opportunities do so. This will increase their confidence, teach them they have a voice, and convey that their voice matters. When they choose poorly and you hold them accountable, you teach them to take responsibility for their actions.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Flamingo Images

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4. Failing to listen.

4. Failing to listen.

When parenting, it’s easy to do most of the talking, but we can’t reach our children’s hearts—where true change occurs—if we haven’t paused to listen. A child who feels unheard will feel misunderstood and is likely to tune us out.

The solution: Actively listen. Asking probing questions with a genuine desire to understand helps children open up and strengthens bonds of healthy communication. Then, when teenage years hit and the stakes of every decision and temptation rises, we’ll have developed an atmosphere for safe and open dialogue. As a result, they’ll be more ready to come to us, rather than hide from us, when they encounter problems. 

Photo Credit: Getty Imgages/Marcos Calvo

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5. Correcting rather than connecting.

5. Correcting rather than connecting.

When a child acts out, it’s easy to focus on their poor conduct. Perhaps we chastise them for losing their temper or lecture them for lying. But this tends to result in surface-level behavior modification rather than lasting change.

The solution: Get to the root of the problem. For example, Amy Brannan, a parent of three from Bellingham Washington, asks herself what need her child is missing in that moment. “Most often, they’re expressing an emotion," she says. “When we shift from ‘I need to correct what they did wrong,’ to ‘What can I help you with? You seem frustrated?’ we’re connecting. This builds a relationship not based on fear.” Don't forget to connect before you correct your child. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/gpointstudio

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6. Holding a grudge.

6. Holding a grudge.

We can’t explain God’s grace if we’re withholding grace from our children. I’ve heard of parents criticizing their children for a mistake they made years prior. This communicates three things: Mistakes are irrevocable, acceptance is conditional, and change and growth aren’t allowed.

The solution: When children make mistakes, correct them with love and truth, then move on. Once they experience the consequences for their actions, consider the mistake gone and forgotten. If the child broke your trust in some way, establish steps for how they can earn that back. But focus on their growth and ultimate freedom instead of “punishing” them out of illogical expectations of perfection. Doing so will only distance them from you, damage your relationship and stunt growth. It will also hinder their future relationships by teaching them to withhold grace from others.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/DragonImages

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7. Parenting alone (married or single).

7. Parenting alone (married or single).

Even the wisest parents are bound to make mistakes. This is especially true if they rely solely on their wisdom. We all have areas of deception, personality traits that hold weaknesses, and often operate from a skewed perspective.

The solution: Practice interdependent living. If we’re single parents, we need to proactively create a support system where we can learn from others, whether through family, friends, or other sources of community. Not only will we gain wisdom through community but we’ll encourage others to do the same, finding sources of strength in others 

If we’re married, God wants us to lean on our spouses. We need to recognize and benefit from the ways their differences balance us out. When we feel our ideas or interpretations are challenged, it’s easy to develop an “us vs. them” mentality, but Christ calls us to unity and teamwork. God uses our spouse’s strengths to compensate for our weaknesses and our places of wisdom to speak into his areas of deception and vice versa. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/fizkes

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8. Obsessing over social media.

8. Obsessing over social media.

Do you remember the days when phones not only went unanswered during dinner, but were left on the wall, forgotten for most of the day? Family members once communicated with one another on outings without incessantly pausing to check their mobile devices. Today, walk into any restaurant and you’ll likely see nearly half of the occupants staring at a screen of some sort. Technology and social media has changed the way we parent.

Not only do we losing precious, irretrievable moments, we also risk making our children feel unloved, unnoticed, and unheard.

The solution: Create technology free zones and times. For example, when our daughter was a teenager, phones weren’t allowed at the dinner table. We had ample time to check messages and emails before and after.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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9. Giving things instead of time.

9. Giving things instead of time.

Not to sound cliché, but love is spelled T.I.M.E. We’re all busy, and it’s easy to allow meetings and little league practice to crowd out our relationships. But busyness can’t build a heart, and that’s our responsibility as parents.

The solution: Ruthlessly reduce your schedules so that you have margin for relationships. Block out time for lazy, unhurried interaction, knowing every smile, laugh, and silly conversation is strengthening your child’s heart. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Vanessa Bumbeers

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10. Not getting help when needed.

10. Not getting help when needed.

Parenting has become more difficult than ever. Our children are constantly bombarded with content, be it through social media, television, overheard conversations, or their peer groups, their brains aren’t able to process. Studies show this upcoming generation is more anxious, depressed, and lonely, and have poorer social skills than any preceding them, as this U.S.News article reveals. As a result, many of us feel overwhelmed and ill-prepared—likely because we are. Few parents received mental health training and are therefore trying to piece together snippets of advice they hear from others, or that they’ve pulled from online sources like this one.

The solution: Get help. We understand the importance of seeking out trained professionals when our child becomes sick or breaks a bone. The same applies when it comes to mental health. Seeking help from a counselor isn’t a sign of weakness or defeat. It’s an indication of love, strength, and wisdom.

Parenting is challenging and confusing and often feels like tossing arrows at a clouded target. Though we’re guaranteed to make numerous mistakes, with prayerful intentionality and grace, we can ensure our wins overpower our losses. With Christ’s help, we can raise healthy, resilient, God-loving adults who become all He created them to be.

Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’saddressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She contributed numerous devotions Drawing Near: 90-Daily Devotions, is the author of Restoring Her Faith and numerous other titles, and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

Originally published Wednesday, 14 August 2019.