When these beautiful gifts of children are born, parents often fantasize about the life the child they have brought into this world will have and all of the great things they hope them to accomplish. Being a parent is in no way a simple task. Parenting is a complex, full-time job that is very different for every family. There do seem to be some common characteristics shared by families whose children go down the wrong path in life, however. Unless you want to stop saving for your child’s college tuition and start saving for bail money and attorney’s fees, avoid these ten parenting mistakes that can lead to a future of despair, educational and professional struggles, and even a life of crime:
In a world where the news is plagued with stories about murders, child abduction, human trafficking, gruesome results of drug and alcohol abuse and a society with one of the world’s highest incarceration rates, parents are more worried about protecting their children now more than ever before. Teenagers whose parents are overprotective seem to be worse off and at higher risk for getting into trouble than those with parents who treat them like responsible human beings. The teen learns quickly whether or not their parents will not allow them to go to a party, or to the mall with friends, and when the teen already knows a parent is too overprotective to allow them to do all the things their friends can do without a second thought, they begin to become secretive out of necessity and learn to be excellent little liars. The teen whose parent forbids them from doing simple things like talking on the phone, or going on the computer without being under constant surveillance, will cause them to question their parent’s authority when they see that their friends’ parents are not as overbearing. A teen’s first authority figures are their parents. A parent that abuses their authority with their children will cause them to lose respect for other authority figures, and question the authority of other important adults in their life such as professors and police officers. Don’t be the parent who shelters your child to the point of rebellion. It never works out well for anyone, especially the children.
Lack of stability
Children that come from unstable homes are exposed to more adult behavior and situations then those that come from stable living environments. Children whose families do not follow schedules and make general plans for how the family will incorporate each family member’s respective schedule and commitments can be left feeling as though they are not important or not valued enough to have their needs acknowledged at home. As a parent, knowing and anticipating what your child will need to do their best at school, sports and other extracurricular activities is important to their progression as a responsible and independent adult. Kids or teens who have to assume the parental role when their parents have failed to provide money for school events, supply the child with the resources and materials necessary to complete school assignments, or provide the transportation to get the child where they need to go will usually seek out their own solutions for these unfortunate situations their parents have put them in. Teens that are forced to develop a hustler’s approach to life will replace long-term goals with short-term goals without fully realizing what they are doing. When a teen has been forced to find a way to quickly earn cash, or find a last minute solution to a problem, they are preparing for a life of crime without even knowing it; not a prosperous life that will come with long term problem solving and planning techniques. Don’t force your child to be their own parent, and be consistent—don’t pick and choose when you feel like being a parent; be a parent all the time or don’t be a parent at all.
Being your child’s best friend
Everyone has seen the effects of children whose parent desperately wants to be their friend rather than their parent (just look at Lindsay and Dina Lohan for a very public example). There are many psychological factors that are involved in this type of parental behavior. When your child begins to think that their parent is their friend, the parent loses much of their authority as well as their child’s respect to some degree. A teenager needs boundaries, and without an active parent close by to set those boundaries, they tend to set their own. Be a parent and educate your child on the consequences of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Do not be so concerned about your child liking you that you forget to protect them from a situation they do not know they could be in danger of encountering. There is a big difference between being overprotective and not being protective at all. Be aware of that difference, and be a parent, not a codependent “friend”.
Medicating your child
In an age where there seems to be a pill for everything that ails you, parents should take an investigative approach to their child’s health. When a doctor tells a parent that there is a pill that will quell hyperactivity and make their child easier to deal with, they should err on the side of caution and do their own independent research prior to forcing them to take psychotropic drugs. Find out what your child’s doctor wants to prescribe, what the side effects are, and what the natural alternatives to synthetic prescription drugs are. Teaching a child that there is a pill to cure everything will create the mindset in your child that they should medicate themselves every time they are facing something difficult. It is easy for a teen who has been medicated their entire life to have the misconception that they can swallow a pill and their problems will disappear. This idea can quickly translate from taking a prescribed anti-depressant like Prozac to experimenting with dangerous drugs, such as opiates like oxycodone or common street drugs such as ecstasy. Remember, the main difference between the prescription ADD drug Adderall and meth you would find on the street is basically just a prescription pad and an orange bottle from a pharmacy. So when your teen’s doctor quickly prescribes your child “Amphetamine Salts” (aka Adderall) look up what it is instead of just feeding it to your child without question. Being a parent for eighteen years is very challenging. If you don’t feel like you can raise a child without drugging them to keep them docile, you probably shouldn’t have kids in the first place.
Lack of accountability
Not holding your child accountable for things like lying, cheating, stealing and other inappropriate behaviors will surely instill an attitude that the rules do not apply to them. When children are consistently held accountable for their actions from a very young age, they quickly learn about consequences for inappropriate behavior. By that same token, they learn about the positive results that appropriate behavior yields. Making a child understand that they will lose the freedoms and privileges they have earned if they steal or lie will instill a cause-and-effect thought process for the child’s future behavior. Not immediately coming to your child’s rescue once they have acted out in such a way that has brought about negative consequences will also help to create a sense of accountability. They will quickly learn that they are in the undesirable situation because of the choice they made to act inappropriately and now it is up to them to get themselves out of it. When teens learn this concept early on, they are less likely to make poor decisions later on in life that can land them in jail, or worse. Children that are not held accountable by their parents early in life are often held accountable as adults later on, only by much less forgiving authority figures such as police officers and judges.
Letting your child know that they can come to you to talk about anything is just the first part of creating an open door for communication. If you want your children to open up to you, you must also open up to them and make them understand that they won’t be judged if they come to you with a problem. If you notice your child might be experimenting with drugs or alcohol, initiate an open conversation about when you were their age and you faced the same challenges and temptations. Don’t just tell them that you were offered drugs and you turned them down because you have always been a perfect person. Tell them about a time that you made a mistake and the effect that mistake had on you and on your future. Starting a conversation in a manner in which you bring yourself down to your children’s level where you can relate to them and this challenging time in their life will create a family environment where open communication is rewarding and not just an awkward challenge that results in a lecture. Closing the doors to communication leads to teens discussing important decisions with peers, who are also facing the same difficult decisions and cannot give sound advice because they haven’t lived long enough to understand the impact that the decisions they make as kids will have on their future as adults.
Tell them everything is bad for them
Parents who choose to take the fear monger approach to parenting might as well start saving for bail money during their first trimester of pregnancy. When parents try to instill fear in their child by telling them in one breath that watching a rated R movie will cause irreversible harm to them and also that drugs will ruin their lives are creating doubt and conflicting opinions in their child’s mind. When a teen is told that something like adult themed movies, music and video games are equally as harmful to them as becoming involved with drugs, alcohol, sex and criminal activity, they are more likely to view the truly harmful behavior you have warned them of as harmless. Once they realize that an explicit Eminem album or violent Call of Duty video game never actually hurt anyone they begin to question everything you have told them to avoid. If the parent were to make a clear distinction between behavior that is frowned upon by some, and truly dangerous behaviors with things like drugs, alcohol, and sex, this can be avoided. Rather than to take the lazy parents approach of labeling everything with the blanket statement of “No you can’t because it’s bad for you”, choose your battles wisely in order to keep your children safe without going too far and losing their respect.
Forbid them from doing anything you think is violent
While this approach of sheltering your child from violence seems like the best approach to avoid having a violent child, it is not. Children who grow up in homes where they are not allowed to play with certain toys that resemble weapons like cap guns or light sabers, or play violent video games, or watch violent movies will still engage in these behaviors; they will just wait to do so when the parents are not around to tell them no. Children who are shielded from these type of items and media that is deemed as violent by the parent will still engage in the behavior and will more likely develop an obsessive attitude towards things that have been forbidden in their home. They are going to be exposed to violent movies and video games at friends houses and even in shopping malls, so the logic behind the notion that saying no to the new Grand Theft Auto 5 game is going to somehow keep them from being exposed to it and other things like it is inherently flawed and will only strengthen a child’s desire for these types of things, taking it to an unnatural level. The most violent television show in existence today is the news, so unless you want to keep them from learning what what the real world is like by banning the news as well, preventing them from witnessing violence is impossible. Rather than trying to censor everything containing fictional depictions of violence, be a parent and teach your children the difference between right and wrong in real life. This approach will yield much more positive results in the long run.
Being a hypocrite
Telling your child that a certain type of behavior is unacceptable and then carrying out the same type behavior you have forbidden them from doing right in front of them is a recipe for disaster. Even though drinking a glass of wine with dinner is quite different than polishing off a bottle of tequila, your child may not understand the difference. If you want your child to develop an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, then you should by all means have a few extra drinks instead of drinking responsibly in their presence. Telling your child that lying and stealing is bad and then not being honest about getting incorrect change at a cash register or not being charged for an item you put in your cart at the grocery store is very contradictory behavior; and you are displaying a public example of the same behavior you are advising your child against. Instead of just accepting a mistake like this as good fortune, be honest and let your child see how you live by the same rules you expect them to live by. Your child will respect you more when you lead by example, and will be more likely to follow your direction.
Never letting them grow up
Attempting to keep your child in a preserved state of adolescence will cause them to want to grow up as fast as they can, and leave them ill prepared for adulthood when its time to move on to college. By treating your teen like a baby you are just asking for them to engage in attention seeking, adult behaviors. Teens whose parents treat them like children in a very adult centered world will do more harm than good. Instead, embrace their transcendence into adulthood and explore the next stage of your relationship with them. You can’t stop your children from growing up, and trying to do so is not only futile, but also extremely detrimental to their emotional growth as an adult. Trying to prevent your kids from growing up is very selfish, and will negatively impact nearly every aspect of their life.