Top 5 parenting behaviour that should be shunned

Parental influence reflects on children's behaviour, views, and outlook. Bad parenting can impair a child's development. How well are you parenting your child? Do you recognise these signs of bad parenting?

A recent forum post from a parent concerned over his daughter's behaviour made me mull over the issue. Parents mean well, but there are times when parents, unwittingly, do more damage than good. I, often have people turning to me for guidance, on child-related issues; and I don't know if I exude wisdom and confidence that they see, or it is the fact that I have raised a successful daughter that draws them to me.

Being a parent has taught me lessons that can only be imbibed through practical experience and an awareness of how the human psyche functions. The biggest lessons of these are that love and prudence don't mechanically keep parents from nurturing in ways that prevent kids from blossoming into the person that they have the capacity to become.

Also, I studied child-psychology and have had enough interactions with children and parents, to be able to learn from them. My experiences have taught me to discern between functional and dysfunctional child-rearing behaviour. Well-meaning parents sometimes fail their children, through their obsessive cossetting behaviour – excessive mollycoddling can impede development and adversely affect behaviour in children.

Here are a few pointers for parents to correct damaging parenting behaviour –

Do not overprotect

Parents have a natural instinct to protect and keep their offspring safe. However, with new dangers lurking everywhere, the need to enforce the 'safety first' rule has compounded, to an extent that a few parents become unduly protective, and shield and insulate their children even from routine life.

Children need a safe environment to live in, that remains indisputable, but they also need to experience risks. Children need varied experiences and allowing them to indulge in healthy risk-taking behaviour, is good for them. Protecting them each step of the way can shackle their growth and result in serious repercussions.

For instance, children need to romp around outside, experience nature, fall and sometimes skin their shins, knees and elbows. You cannot keep protecting them from minor playground injuries. Minor falls teach them to be less careless, in future - these incidents act as a learning experience. Children learn that dangers exist and that there are always consequences for their actions.

We don't teach our children anything, by eliminating the risks. Children have to be able to encounter some amount of healthy-risks for their defense mechanism to kick in. Over dependence of children on their overindulgent parents often leads to low self-esteem and egotistical behavior, in the children.

Let them problem solve

Parents come to their children's rescue, a tad too quickly. Stop hovering over your kids – give them space and the freedom required to develop life skills. Parents who descend almost immediately to their children aid, actually hamper their development. There is no learning experience if parents resolve everything.

To be able to survive in the real-world children should be capable of making decisions, they need to learn from mistakes, they need to experience failure, they need to learn to steer themselves. And for this, they need to live and experience things. Don't make things easy for them, by doing everything for them. Guide them, but let them do things on their own, under your supervision if necessary.

Overindulgent parents end up doing everything for their kids. They mistake their pampering attitude as being loving and caring. This short-term parenting fails to equip children with the skills required to cope without assistance. Children become overdependent on their parents and become accustomed to the idea of someone coming to their rescue. They don't worry about consequences, because they know that their parents will smoothen things out. Such kids lack basic survival skills.

Stop becoming over ecstatic

I strongly believe that efforts deserve recognition and should be applauded; it helps build self-esteem. But, it's the overdoing the applause bit, which is a problem. Haven't we all come across parents raving about how good their children are at certain activities when they actually aren't.

Yes, it's good to encourage, but undue praise is wrong, it works to boost the morale for just a short period. Unnecessary praise eventually turns kids complacent, because they see their parents pleased with their mediocrity. They don't make any effort to improve, because they already meet their parent's approval.

Praise makes the kids feel good at that moment, but such praise is bad for them, for it's not close to reality. They become smug and this prevents them from flirting with the idea of really working towards excellence.

Applaud good behavior/performance, and correct bad behavior and poor performance. Children should be encouraged in the right measures, mostly when it is deserved. Parents must also be critical of their children's behavior and performance, when necessary. Praising poor performance shields them from the harsh facts. How will a child improve if all he hears is praise? And more importantly, how will the child learn to accept failures, in life.

I understand the need for parents wanting to shelter their kids, but children also need to be conditioned, to face life. It is essential to create a balance. And a good way of doing this is through concerted effort on handing defeat.

Don't fall into the guilt trap

Another mistake that parents make is allowing guilt to take over rational behaviour, which prevents them from disciplining and training their children. It is alright to say 'no' once in a while. It is equally important to set rules and make sure that they are followed.

It is also important to not get emotionally blackmailed into giving in to every demand of your child. Don't encourage tantrums; children should get used to hearing 'no' and 'not now'. Sure, not giving in to their demands will make them hate you for a few hours, but they'll forget and get over it. But, if you heed to their every demand, they'll never get over the effects of being pampered. It will be an uphill task to undo the damage that your behavior as a parent can cause. Children who always get what they demand, grow into unreasonable, adamant adults.

Reward them appropriately when the occasion is right and they will learn to appreciate the value of things and know that they are deserving of it. Getting things whenever they ask for them, sends a wrong message - that they are entitled.

Reward suitably

This is a tricky one. Parents having more than one child will relate better to this. One child excels in something – sports, academics or just being more responsible, like leaving things back in their place etc. Parents generally reward such things, as part of praise; which is a good practice. But, this practice can go wrong, when the under performers enjoy the rewards too.

Most parents think it would be biased to praise and reward only the child who has achieved success. So, if they are given a reward, the other children who did nothing, get something too. Do you see how unrealistic this is? It sends out a wrong message. Parents should instead take such occasions as a chance to instil the right values in their children - that achievements are a result of their actions and efforts.

Praise appropriately, but don't make it only about material rewards. Good grades and good behaviour are not up for batter. So, don't promise rewards in lieu of good performance. There can be no bargaining here - good performance should be a way of life and not an outcome of the prospect of a reward. Don't base your relationship with your child on material rewards. It cannot compensate for the real values that you should help children imbibe. Material rewards do not equate to unconditional love. And motivation through such rewards is only temporary, children begin to expect rewards for everything.

The key point

The bottom line is that children need to be disciplined. There can be no two ways about that. How you do it, is your choice. Discipline is not about rules alone. It also means taking responsibility, knowing to do the right things, social behavior and more such behavior that helps children evolve into outstanding adults.

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