May 9, 2012

Top 10 Parenting Mistakes

Posted in Parenting tagged , at 8:18 am by Andrew

Three facts: 1) America loves lists. 2) There are millions of parents. 3) Parents make a slew of mistakes. So it’s only natural for DwyerTime to publish a list of the Top 10 Parenting Mistakes. Regular readers know this is a service-oriented web site, so I’m happy to help parents get back on track.

As you read this Top 10 list, you’ll notice an obvious trend: Most parenting mistakes stem from laziness. Parents generally know the right option in any given situation, but they’re just too weak to choose it. Why? Because parents use the difficulty of parenting as an excuse not to do the right thing. But quit making excuses, and start parenting!

So here are the Top 10 Parenting Mistakes. If you only make 8 of them, you’re way above average.

1. Talking baby talk.

When your toddler says “waw-waw,” and then you say “Here’s your waw-waw,” you know what your kid thinks? “My parent’s a moron.” Don’t you get it? A kid’s mind says “water” but his mouth can only say “waw-waw.” Quit modeling stupidity to your kid and speak like an adult.

2. Rushing in to pick up your toddler when she falls.

If you don’t want your kid to fall…don’t let her walk! Otherwise, let the kid deal with some struggles. Frantically picking up the kid as if she fell onto a bed of nails only teaches her that she can’t handle anything…ever.

3. Letting them watch TV.

Whether it’s a 3-year-old watching two hours of TV every day, a 10-year-old watching sitcoms seeped in sexual references, or a 15-year-old watching R-rated movies, it’s bad bad bad. Wake up and take responsibility, people! Are you really so ignorant that you don’t realize the negative effect on your kids? The material is inappropriate for children, but you’re just too laaaaazzzzzyyy to step up and take control. Shame on you.

4. Losing control of technology.

Again, there are too many examples to name, but here’s a sampling: 9-year-olds with unlimited texting, 12-year-olds with Facebook accounts, and ANY AGE KID with Internet access or a TV in their room. Seriously? Face it, you’re an absentee parent. Quit catering to your kid’s whims and say “no” more often. And don’t tell me “kids are tech-savvy these days.” Parents are failing their kids by abandoning them in an over-sexed, vitriolic media world…and there’s nothing virtual about the danger.

5. Failing to enforce bed times.

I don’t care if your kid is 2, 10 or 16…they need sleep…more than they’re getting…and you’re flat-out lazy or ignorant to think otherwise. Decades of scientific research (not to mention common sense) confirm the hazards of lack of sleep. From surliness to reduced capacity for learning, you’re doing your kid a disservice. So why do you do it? Because it’s easier on your schedule to let them stay up, and you’re too weak to enforce a bed time.

6. Holding your kid back in school.

Parents who wait until their kid is 6 to start Kindergarten should be ashamed of themselves. They’ll claim the kid is “emotionally immature” or “socially awkward” or “he’s just not ready academically.” 95% of the time, the real answer is this: “My kid’s fine, but I’m weak.” As mentioned in #5, decades of research prove a child’s brain is ready for kindergarten-level academia at age 5. You hold your kid back out of fear. You’re afraid he’ll struggle. And it’s just so darn easy to ensure “success” for your kid by holding him back. But quit kidding yourself – that’s not good parenting, it’s cheating. Then again, maybe your idea of “success” is an 8-year-old completing homework designed for a 7-year-old, or a 12-year-old running back blasting through a defensive line of 11-year-olds. After all, as the saying goes, “it’s not how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose.”

7. Ignoring the caffeine facts.

Sure, let your 7-year-old drink caffeinated soda. Let your teenager drink Starbucks…because you’re a cool parent, and you and your kid are coffee-drinking buds. That’s so fun…and ignorant. You can bury your head in the sand, but facts are facts: adolescent brains don’t process caffeine well. But then again, the scientific research probably doesn’t apply to your kid…because he’s just so special.

8. Succumbing to the Sports Industrial Complex.

Youth sports have run amok. That’s not hyperbole, urban myth, or a quaint complaint from a throwback parent. It’s just a fact. Youth sports start at a very young age and accelerate rapidly until they command the majority of your time. Here’s a typical situation: A group of 1st-graders play a traditional soccer season, consisting of spring and fall. Then the coach or a parent suggests “we keep the team together” and play an indoor winter league. That’s how the treadmill starts, and it’s nearly impossible to disembark. Gone are the days of “football season” and “baseball season.” Instead, every sport involves a 9- to 12-month commitment. Any off time is filled with camps, clinics and endless practicing. We tell our kids to resist peer pressure, yet we parents follow along shamelessly as youth sports devour family time, dinner time, down time, and play time. There are very few phenoms in this world, but there’s no shortage of parents who are too weak to admit their kid is not one of them.

9. Dismissing parenting guilt.

Our society has become fond of the concept of “no regrets”…or saying “I wouldn’t have done anything differently.” You know what that is? Self-indulgent idiocy. Same goes for parenting. Parents are told not to blame ourselves or feel guilty. Poppycock! If you can’t shoulder a little guilt, get out of the parenting business. Parenting is hard, and we all make mistakes, but what happened to “learning from our mistakes”? Hold yourself to a high standard, admit your failures and do better next time. You let your kid stay up too late, you failed to enforce the rules, and you ignored what you know is right. Own it, regret it, improve it!

10. Not enough hugs!

Let’s end on a positive note, because this is the easiest mistake to fix. We need to hug our kids more. Sure, we hug our 3-year-old, but I’m thinking about the teenagers. Dads, hug your 16-year-old son…every day. Moms, don’t ever think your son is too old for a hug. You may be uncomfortable with it, you may think your son doesn’t like it, but you both need it. And of course, daughters of every age need hugs…especially from Dad…that last a minimum of 10 seconds, preferably 20. Granted, I don’t have research on this one, but are you really going to argue with me about hugs? Despite our best efforts and everything we do right, we also fail our kids routinely (thus this column.). So think of a hug as confession from someone seeking absolution. We’re all dopes – parents and kids alike – but a hug at the end of the day says “I love you and you’re special, and any troubles between us…they’re nothing more than a few clouds on a beautiful day.”