Living with Children: Biggest mistake parents make is...
A journalist recently asked, “What is the biggest mistake parents make?” I had to think about that. Which parents? The biggest mistake made by some parents is they pay entirely too much attention to and do entirely too much for their children. These children usually, but not always, end up as spoiled brats.
Why not always? Because some children, by mysterious means, manage to do well in spite of less-than-optimal parenting. The notion that one is produced by the manner in which one is raised is belied by the many exceptions, including children who do well despite bad upbringings and children who do badly in spite of good upbringings.
On the other hand, some parents' biggest mistake is that they pay entirely too little attention to their kids. Those folks are not generally found reading parenting columns, so I will not belabor their misdeeds. It would only serve the purpose of giving my regular readers reason to celebrate themselves, which is an untoward thing to do under any circumstances.
The biggest mistake made by still other parents is that they think the misbehavior of a toddler is cute, or they rationalize their failure to discipline at that critical state by saying things such as “He's only 20 months old,” and “It's just a stage. he'll grow out of it.” Parents of the pre-psychological era understood the need to nip misbehavior in the bud, when it first reared its ugly little head.
Today's parents lull themselves into dangerous inaction with fluffy, largely meaningless homilies such as, “Don't sweat the small stuff” when, in fact, all of the big stuff begins as small stuff. Without early correction, tantrums grow into rages, disobedience grows into defiance, occasional disrespect grows into belligerence, and not picking up one's toys grows into refusal to do one's schoolwork.
The biggest mistake made by lots of parents is they combine wordy explanations with instructions, as in “Honey, a friend of mine is coming over and I'd like to serve coffee in this room, so I need you to pick up these toys and move them somewhere else, OK?”
Explanations invite push-back, as in, “I was here first! Why can't you and your friend use the kitchen?” These parents tell me their children are argumentative, which simply means that they, the parents, combine explanations with instructions. Under those conditions, all children, being clever, will seize the opportunity to push back. In this example, the proper form is “I want you to pick up these toys and move them somewhere else, right now,” and the proper response to “Why?” is “Because I said so.”
And then, as in the above example, the biggest mistake made by some parents is attaching “OK?” to the end of what they think are instructions. This quickly becomes a bad habit.
I once had a parent count the number of times she did that in a day. She reported more than 50, telling me that even though she was counting, she couldn't make herself stop. “OK?” is not an instruction. It is a namby-pamby request, a petition made to the resident prince or princess of petulance. It deserves to be ignored, which is what usually happens.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NASA head tells Pitt grads their generation will ‘walk the face of Mars’
- Man fatally stabbed in Braddock Hills
- Fire caused $75,000 in damage to Beltzhoover playground
- Rossi: Penguins’ best bet is on Martin
- From injuries to front office, Penguins’ season didn’t lack drama
- Spirit Airlines lifts fortunes of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
- Aftershocks terrify survivors of quake in Nepal that killed 2,500
- Young defensemen make case for future with Penguins
- Rossi: Crosby, Malkin didn’t sign on for this
- High risk, reward with 1st-round quarterbacks in NFL Draft
- Crews battle 5-alarm fire at North Union industrial building