by Craig Playstead for MSN Living, 1.5 million pageviews
1) Spoiling kids
There’s no doubt that parents love their kids and want them to have all the things they didn’t. However, this comes at a price. A ton of well-intentioned parents have ended up spoiling their kids to such a degree that the kids aren’t even happy with all the stuff they have. The impact is that they’re never satisfied and always want more. Junior doesn’t need one more piece of crap, what he needs is some special time with his parents. Think of it this way: How will they ever be prepared for disappointment throughout their life—or learn to be thankful for anything?
2) Inadequate discipline
When you’re too lazy to discipline your kids, you pass the little devil you’ve created on to your relatives, coaches, teachers, and his friends’ parents. It’s not OK to let your kids treat your house like it was a Jump Planet because that’s exactly how they’ll treat other people’s homes. They should also be better behaved when they leave the house and visit elsewhere. I’ve lived through this nightmare first-hand, with the same kid at my house treating my $1,500 couch like a trampoline, and then calling my daughter “ugly” while the kids were eating dinner. All within a 15-minute span. If you don’t discipline your “little nightmare,” someone else will—and you won’t like it.
3) Failing to get involved at school
School is where your kids will spend more time than any place besides home. It’s also the place that will have the most responsibility for shaping their life—from teachers and their peers. Now, that being said, how can you not want to be involved in what’s going on there? It doesn’t matter if it’s you or your spouse: Your family needs to have a presence at that school. And don’t use work as an excuse—take a vacation day if you need to. You’ll immediately see that it’s time well spent. You should also have at least an e-mail relationship with their teacher. It’s a great way for that teacher to see that you’re interested in your child’s development, and the teacher can alert you to anything concerning that may be going on with your son or daughter. Your kid’s teacher may take a much more active role with your child if they know you’re keeping close tabs.
4) Praising mediocrity
While we all want to encourage our kids to do well and build their self-esteem, there is a point of going too far. Building a child’s self-esteem is great, but having a big party for a mediocre accomplishment skews what they view as a real achievement. One big place I see this is in sports. A participation trophy for anyone over the age of 6 just ends up devaluing the meaning of a real trophy. It’s happening in my household. While I was against trophies for my 7-year-old son’s basketball team, a few moms overruled. My son has played exactly four seasons of sports and has earned more trophies than I did in my 40 seasons growing up. Something is out of whack.
5) Not giving kids enough responsibility
Your kids shouldn’t be expecting any payment for doing chores around the house. It’s a home, not a hotel. That being said, an allowance is a very good idea … for extra work. They should be pulling their weight as part of the family. If they grow up without enough responsibility, how in the world do you expect them to hold down a job, or get through college? When they get “of age,” make sure they’re taking some of the burden off you around the house—from unloading the dishwasher to picking up dog crap in the backyard. While they’re not your slaves, they sure aren’t on vacation, either.
6) Not being a good spouse
How you treat your husband or wife is crutial to the way your kids will develop relationships, especially as adults. If you treat your spouse poorly, or if your only way to settle any kind of dispute is to yell and scream at each other, you’re teaching your kids to handle themselves the same way. Kids learn from watching you much more than they learn from listening to you. If you treat your spouse with love and respect, it will also show your kids the value of their family. It will also make them feel their family is a safe haven in what can be a dark, scary world.
7) Setting unreal expectations
When dealing with kids, you need to set reasonable expectations for them—especially the little ones. If you want to go out to a nice dinner and expect your 2-year-old to sit there like a little prince, you are setting yourself up for major disappointment. Also, if you have visions of a football star and your son weighs 80 pounds and likes to play the clarinet, you need to reset those expectations. Don’t have unreal expectations for your kids: The expectation you should have is for them to be happy.
8) Not teaching kids to fend for themselves
Many parents tend to baby kids these days and cater to their every need, and that eliminates the value of hard work and becoming independent as they grow into adults. I fear that we’re raising a generation of wimps. Kids nowadays expect everything to be done for them, from cleaning their room to band-aids for hurt feelings. Teaching them to toughen up and do things on their own doesn’t mean that you love them less; it means you love them more.
9) Pushing trends on kids
Let kids be kids. Parents shouldn’t push their trends or adult outlook on life on their kids. Just because it was your life’s dream to marry a rich guy doesn’t mean we need to see your 4-year-old daughter in a “Future Trophy Wife” t-shirt. The same goes for the double ear piercing—that’s what you want, not them. Teaching kids about your passions is great, but let them grow up to be who they are. And yes, this goes for you pathetic stage parents as well. It’s hard enough for kids to figure out who they are in the world without you trying to turn them into what you couldn’t be.
10) Not following through
I have trouble with this one sometimes. If you’re telling your kids that they’ll be grounded if they paint the neighbor’s dog one more time, you’d better follow through. Unfortunately, following through on punishments or promises makes your life a little more difficult, but building trust is what’s most important. If you’re not true to your word, your kids will assume anything you say is just talk. Then you have a real problem on your hands. You’ll also end up with kids who don’t trust their parents.
Craig Playstead is a freelance writer and happily married father of three living in the suburbs of Seattle. In the past, he’s also been a sports writer, online editor, and talk show host.