Your children only gets their childhood once. There are no repeats or do-overs. It is amazing how those years of growing up can affect the rest of their lives. As adults we ponder, analyze, and reflect on all that our childhood had to offer us, both good and bad. It’s a parent’s responsibility to protect their child so that the preventable bad stuff doesn’t happen during childhood. Not all bad can be prevented, such as the death of a parent or a debilitating illness, but there are some things that can be prevented or avoided. It is up to the parent or caregiver to help avoid these damaging factors that afflict so many during childhood.
1. Treating Children As Though They Are Adults
I have heard parents refer to their kids as mini-adults. They are not mini-adults. They are children. They don’t have the same ability as adults to process information or even think abstractly. Children don’t have fully developed brains, so they are not emotionally or mentally mature. The expectation of parents or adults for children to be anything like an adult is absurd. Taking your toddler to a fancy restaurant and then getting upset with them because they are acting their age is silly. Don’t expect your toddler to act older than they are because you will be disappointed every time.
Don’t take them places where you know toddler’s behavior isn’t accepted or tolerated. If you have to, for example be on a plane ride, prepare to keep the child entertained with age appropriate toys and videos. Anticipate that they will act their age, because when they are two years old they will act like a two year old. They only get to be a child once in life, so embrace it and let them be a child.
2. Over Scheduling
Far too many kids are getting burned out before they even head off to college. There are many kids who are over scheduled, over schooled, and over worked on a weekly basis. How did we get to this point where kids go to school all day long, have after school activities/sports for several hours every night, and then hours of homework once they get home?
At the end of the day they have zero free time to just be a kid. They end up being stressed out just trying to get it all done and keep up with a crazy schedule. It’s time to rethink the amount of activities that we have enrolled our kids in.
Many kids these days start activities from the time they are babies. From music classes to toddler sports activities, to play dates to learning sign language. Many kids are doing too much and being pushed too hard, too fast. They have their entire lives to run the rat race of life. Childhood is the time when they need extra rest as their bodies and minds grow. It’s great to stimulate minds and bodies for growth, but over scheduling happens far too easily these days.
Kids need time for plenty of free play and to allow their imaginations to thrive. Part of development is allowing kids the time to be creative, time to pretend, and imagine. Those activities fall by the wayside when kids are overschuled and don’t have free time to play. Limiting a child’s play time because of overscheduled activities can negatively affect the child’s development. The American Academy of Pediatrics clearly explains the important of playtime: “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.”
3. Physical Or Emotional Abuse
It is a no-brainer that physical abuse is damaging to a child. Emotional abuse is just as damaging and some parents don’t even realize they are doing it. Words stick like glue. They can’t be erased once they are said. When you call your child dumb, bad, ugly, or anything derogatory those words can’t be unsaid. It hits to the core of the child, especially when they are said by a parent. There isn’t anyone’s words who can harm a child more than the words of a parent. Be careful with words and if you need to correct your child speak to their behavior, not who they are as a person.
4. Expecting A Child To Handle Adult Problems
Don’t expect your child to carry the burden of your problems. It is the job of the parent to shield and protect their child from adult problems. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and addictions are just some of problems of which a child shouldn’t be exposed to.
A very common way that parents are damaging their children today is in divorced situations. When a parent tries to pit their child against the other parent this causes major emotional strain to a child that can damage a child emotionally. If you are divorced don’t speak ill against your ex in front of your child. The child will internalize those words, as they are made up of half of you and half of their other parent.
5. Pressure To Succeed
The pressure to succeed is way too high these days. Parents wanting the best for their kids is one thing, but wanting their kids to be the best is another. There will always be someone who is better at whatever it is your kid is doing. Let them do their best on their own will. There is a big difference between encouragement and pressuring. Know that difference so that you can be your child’s encourager.
Psychological Researchers say that pressuring your child to succeed can actually backfire: “When parents are overly invested in performance, kids are less likely to develop their own, more sustainable, motivation”. Encourage, don’t pressure, as the pressure on your child to succeed can end up actually thwarting their sucess.
6. Social Isolation
Kids need to be around other kids. Being around adults and only interacting with adults can damage a child’s future ability to interact with their own peers. They need to be around other children their own age on a regular basis in order to develop good social behaviors. Those first few years of life are an important time when children need to be around other children, as it will affect their ability to be socially accepted later.
Research from Child Encylopedia states that “Peers play important roles in children’s lives at much earlier points in development than we might have thought. Experiences in the first two or three years of life have implications for children’s acceptance by their classmates in nursery school and the later school years. Children who are competent with peers at an early age, and those who show prosocial behaviour, are particularly likely to be accepted by their peers.”
Help your children early in life by planning play time with other children their own age. Their proper development depends on this interaction with their peers.
7. Poor Role Models
Having positive role models is very important. If a child looks up to someone who abuses drugs and alcohol, they will think that behavior is permissible or even encouraged. Parents are the most important role models for a child. Are your behaviors worthy of your child’s admiration? Would you want your child to repeat your behaviors? Parents are role models for their children whether they want to be or not. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry states the following: “A role model is a person whose serves as an example by influencing others. For many children, the most important role models are their parents and caregivers. Children look up to a variety of role models to help shape how they behave in school, relationships or when making difficult decisions.”
Are your behaviors ones that you would want your child to emulate? Be a positive example for your child, as they are watching all that you do in life.
Featured photo credit: Magdalena Battles via livingjoydaily.com