Being a parent is a rocky journey. Just like many dads out there, I have made more than my fair share of parenting mistakes. From my corporate years up until now, there are three major parenting mistakes that have made, and that you will probably relate to. But you should try to avoid them at all costs.
Over discipline and over control
Would you rather be loved or be feared by your children? This is the number one question you must ask yourself. One that I wish I have had asked myself the very first day. A lot of parents especially fathers tend to be hard with their son at a young age. I was sadly no different. While I gave and give my son plenty of attention and love, I wanted to be perceived as an authority figure, one that he should be afraid of. My fear of screwing up parenting by raising a bad human being turned me into a disciplinarian. I would not yell often, but when I would, I would make sure that he sees in my eyes that I mean business. While this practice gave me a sense of comfort and the illusion of control it has also turned my stomach upside down more time than I can count making him miserable and me even more.
The epiphany of it all was when prompted to tell me if he was scared of me, he said yes without hesitation. I burst into tears. It was a huge eye opener and a very painful one. Never in a million years, I would have thought that my kid was afraid of me. So, let me save you A LOT of time. Yelling does not work. Spanking does not work. It will drain your energy down and create a chaotic vibe in the household. Where there is fear there is no love. Instead, try to always come from a place of empathy and understanding. Become a better listener instead of silencing your kid. Open a dialogue instead of escalating a maddening behavior. If you feel like you are going to lose it, take a deep breath or take a walk.
Comparing my child
Comparison is the most destructive action you can take as a parent. This is the queen of all parenting mistakes, hands down. When I say comparison I mean comparison at large: comparing your child to other children or worse comparing your child to yourself at the same age. I have been guilty of the latter many times. I have pride myself for a long time to be precocious in many areas of life. I was walking at nine months old, potty trained extremely early, left home early, graduated early, got married early and therefore associated success or intelligence with being precocious. For a long time, my ego made me project this belief to my son. I would get worried or worse angry when my son’s development was not in par with my own at the same age.
The best example is potty training. Enzo does not pee in bed anymore but still wears a diaper at night as it still gets “accidents” from time to time. As the years progressed and as Enzo was still using diapers, I use to get SO angry and sometimes say hurtful things to him or to my spouse about the supposed “delay” of my son on that department. I would let my own experience or society “average” statistical age clutter my judgment.
I would forget all of the great things that make him unique. That he has been fluent in three languages by age 3. That he has incredible emotional intelligence and deep empathy for others. I implore you to refrain to compare your child to anybody. Do not point out that his classmate reads better, eat more vegetables or behave more appropriately in public: what good does that bring? How does that contribute to building self-esteem? Instead, I am trying to let my children evolve at their own pace, giving them the opportunity to grow and offering my help to improve themselves, without judgement and without comparison.
I can safely say that having unrealistic expectations is one of the most common of all parenting mistakes, but how much do we realize it? The best example is food. How many times have you tried to force feed fruits or veggies to your children while eating crap yourself? How many times have you guilted your children for overreacting or for a sstate of madness while screaming at them? How many times have you blame them for being slow to get ready in the morning while you had pressed the snooze button ten times before waking them up? I have been guilty of those few examples and still am for some of them. But let’s think about it for a minute: how freaking hypocritical? How come we are able to put so much pressure on our children while not abiding to the very rule ourselves?
When I took a serious on myself, I quickly realize that I was expecting too much from my little boy. Worse I was expecting more of him than I would expect from myself. I have now decided to make great changes in my personal life to positions myself as a better role model instead of asking him to do things that I would not apply to myself. Becoming a vegan for example, allows me to be impeccable in my diet and therefore encourage my children to have a healthy lifestyle. Also, a regular meditation practice lead me to react in a calmer way when faced with frustrating situations at home. While I still have work to do in that area I know that my change of behavior has been noticed by my son with whom I have started to share the benefits of meditation. The bottom line is to embody whatever behavior you would like to see in your children: be the change you want to see in your household ?.
I am still making many parenting mistakes but have found two steps that work all the time. The first step is to acknowledge them with honesty and to forgive yourself. The second step is to approach all situations with empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of your children. It always help gain perspective instead of reacting emotionally.