20 Common Parenting Habits That May Be Damaging Your Child’s Development

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When it comes to raising kids, there is no one-size-fits-all rulebook. However, according to various experts in the field of parenting, there are still some general guidelines to which moms and dads should try to adhere. Here’s a look at 20 common bad habits that could be damaging your child’s development.

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20. Never saying ‘no’

It’s sometimes hard to say “no” to a child. Perhaps you feel an affirmative answer compensates for other shortfalls in your parenting abilities? Perhaps you want to ensure that they have the kind of idyllic childhood you may have missed out on yourself? Perhaps you simply want to avoid any tears and tantrums. But according to therapist Sally Baker, that negative word should definitely be used on a regular basis.

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Baker told lifestyle website Fashion Beans, “Children who have their every wish fulfilled do not have the maturity to recognise their privileges. This becomes their ‘normal’ and life will be ultimately disappointing if they’re raised with a sense of entitlement whereby they always get what they want. It’s disappointment and deferred enjoyment that help children develop resilience later in life”.

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19. You struggle to let them go

Wanting to keep your children out of harm’s way is a natural instinct. But there are times throughout their lives that you need to let them fend for themselves. Indeed, by watching their every move or assisting them with every challenge they may face, you run the risk of stunting your kid’s natural growth.

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Clinical psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg told Reader’s Digest magazine, “Doing everything for your kids is actually a toxic parenting behavior. This gives them the message that you don’t think that they are competent and prevents them from developing skills.” Whether it’s giving them the responsibility of looking after the family pet, or allowing them to walk to school, kids of every age should be given the chance to prove their independence.

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18. Constant reprimanding

We all know that kids can be a handful and some way more than others. Sometimes they do need to be told in no uncertain terms that their behavior is simply not acceptable. But parents should also ensure that they don’t overdo it when it comes to reprimanding their child.

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Unsurprisingly, being constantly told that you are in the wrong can have a damaging effect. Even more so when a child continues to be punished over an admitted mistake for which they have already apologized. Parents need to show discipline, obviously, but without damaging their child’s self-esteem.

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17. Dismissing your child’s feelings

Parents shouldn’t be afraid to see their kids expressing their emotions. Of course, no one wants their kids to feel sad, worried or upset. But these are the kinds of feelings that we all have to cope with throughout our lives. By trying to stifle them, you run the risk of stunting your child’s emotional development.

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Rebecca McCann, a psychologist with Click for Therapy, told Fashion Beans, “Experiencing emotions is good for us. When your child is upset, instead of shushing them, or showing fear at their anger, ask them to name the emotions that they’re feeling, giving your child a way to communicate. This can be done verbally, through writing, drawing, with their toys, or more actively, even through punching a pillow.”

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16. You talk at rather than with your child

Talking with your child isn’t always an easy task, particularly the older and more opinionated they get. But communication is a vital tool when it comes to raising kids. Moms and dads, therefore, need to find a way to converse with their children which doesn’t involve simply shouting over them.

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“Toxic parents are known for not listening to their kids, but instead, talking over them or at them,” Dr. Greenberg told Reader’s Digest. “If parents recognize themselves doing this, they should make a concerted effort to remain silent and listen, listen, and listen some more. If kids feel listened to they will talk more and confide more.”

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15. Disciplining in public

All parents have faced that nightmare of their child playing up in public. Perhaps they have thrown a tantrum in the middle of a supermarket aisle. Or maybe they have been a little too boisterous at a kids birthday party. But whatever the scenario, it’s best to save the discipline tactics until you get home.

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Indeed, the temptation to shout and yell after losing your patience with your misbehaved kid may be too overwhelming. But disciplining your child in front of their friends, other parents and total strangers can have a negative impact on their confidence. And the embarrassment they feel at being reprimanded so publicly may stay with them forever.

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14. Offering solutions on a plate

Time is a valuable commodity when you’re a parent. And sometimes it’s just so much easier to offer a solution to a child’s problem without explaining the reasoning. But while this is undoubtedly the quicker option, it’s also one that prevents your child from learning and dealing with the problem themselves next time around.

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Psychologist McCann agrees that problem-solving is a crucial skill for kids to master. She told Fashion Beans, “Talking through solutions teaches children to think for themselves and therefore encourages a positive sense of self-worth, confidence in their abilities, and leaves them feeling empowered and part of the solution. In a situation where they have made a mistake, ask them to tell you what they have done, what they think the consequences are, and what they think should happen next.”

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13. You fail to conceal your frustrations

Parenting is often a wholly frustrating experience which makes you want to tear your hair out. But according to child psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, moms and dads should try their best to conceal their grievances them from their children. He told Reader’s Digest, “When you learn to identify and manage your own parenting frustrations, you’ll be amazed at how your child’s challenging behaviors can quickly improve.”

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So how can this be done exactly? Well, as one example, maybe you need to get up just that little bit earlier to help your kids get ready for school or prepare for that most important meal of the day? This will reduce the risk of you losing your patience and making everyone else pay for your own lack of organization.

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12. Advice instead of encouragement

All parents have gone through the trials and tribulations that come with growing up. Issues can include that first day at school, that first best friend squabble or the first sign of puberty. However, while kids can often benefit from some worldly advice, sometimes all they need is a little encouragement.

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Indeed, when it comes to the smaller things, in particular, it’s often best to let your child make their own decisions and their own mistakes. You may believe that you know better. But even if you don’t agree with their choices, it can sometimes be more helpful to offer your support rather than your advice.

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11. Failing to explain a punishment

It’s easy to dish out a punishment to a child for something they have done wrong. But discipline is only effective when parents offer an explanation in a calm and rational manner, too. If a kid has no idea why they are being reprimanded for something, then they don’t have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

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“Be clear with your language,” is a golden rule according to McCann. The psychologist told Fashion Beans, “Work with your child to help them to understand their mistake and find a solution together in a supportive way. It’s important the child knows that their behavior is unacceptable, not them as a whole. Separating their actions from their view of themselves will foster good emotional intelligence and learning.”

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10. You give your child a label

Parenting is such a 24/7 job that time for reflection is a luxury that most can’t afford. You may see your offspring as a problem child, but their bad behavior doesn’t mean that they’re a bad person. And labeling them as such can have a catastrophic effect on their personal identity. Indeed, many adults often struggle to shake off the negative tag they were given in their childhood.

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Dr. Bernstein told Reader’s Digest, “Toxic labels such as lazy, problematic, selfish, and inconsiderate can result in parents influencing their children to be locked into a negative identity. And labeled kids are usually fraught with frustration, hurt, anger, and resentment. They will be demotivated for making positive changes. Toxic labels leave toxic baggage.”

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9. Not leading by example

“Do as I say, not as I do” is a mantra to which many parents will rigidly adhere. But unsurprisingly kids are often unable to separate the two. And by displaying bad habits and troubling behavior in front of them, you increase the risk of them following in your footsteps.

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So if you’re wondering where they picked up that offensive word from or why they’re getting up from the dinner table before they’ve finished their meal, then you may need to look inward. Chances are, they have picked up such behaviors from the adults with whom they spend the most time. Indeed, kids are often way more perceptive than we recognize.

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8. You expect too much

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming of that perfect night’s sleep when your normally restless child doesn’t wake up even once. Or that family meal out where the food doesn’t end up flying everywhere. But you also should be prepared for the fact that the opposite scenario is far more likely.

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“When we set unrealistic expectations we are in the mindset that our child is in the wrong by not being ‘perfect,’” McCann tells Fashion Beans. “But no one is beautifully behaved all the time. By not being realistic with your expectations of your children, you’re setting them up to fail, which will have a detrimental effect on their emotional development and sense of self.”

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7. You openly put yourself down

We all have those moments when we feel particularly dejected about our appearance or how we’re perceived by others. But parents should try to keep these emotions in check when in the presence of their kids. Indeed, you may not always feel like it inside. But a positive front will always have a more beneficial impact on your children than a self-defeating one.

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Dr. Greenberg toldReader’s Digest, “Children look toward their parents to see examples of just about everything, self-esteem included. Devaluing yourself in front of your child is a toxic parenting behavior. Children model after their parents and if you are calling yourself ‘fat,’ ‘stupid,’ etc. then guess what? Your kids are likely to do the same.”

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6. You give your kids the fear

It’s only natural that parents want to ensure their offspring are safe at all times. The days of kids being given the freedom to play outside from dusk till dawn definitely seems to be a thing of the past. But that doesn’t mean you need to wrap them up in cotton wool, either.

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Indeed, if you refuse to let your kids stray from your side, then you’re actually hindering more than helping them. They may end up developing a fear of every new situation. And this can be a particularly difficult phobia to handle when it comes to building a social life and forging a career.

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5. Putting your kids on a pedestal

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. And parents need to be careful that they don’t instil the latter instead of the former. Putting a kid on a pedestal can give them an overwhelming sense of superiority that can often alienate their peers. It can also leave them with a crushing weight of expectation which their life will almost certainly never fulfil.

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“We all know at heart that we are not perfect,” McCann told men’s lifestyle site Fashion Beans. “We all make mistakes and accepting this helps us to learn and grow. But when parents act as though their child is perfect and incapable of making a mistake, this stifles their development.”

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4. You want to be your child’s BFF

Of course, we all want to get on with our children. But if the boundaries of your relationship start to blur, then a whole range of problems can occur. Indeed, treat your kid like your best friend and you risk stunting their emotional growth and burdening them with an uneasy sense of guilt and responsibility.

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You may think you’re simply taking an interest by becoming friends with your kids’ peers or copying their dress sense and the way they talk. But by overstepping these parent/child boundaries, you’re creating a dynamic which is wholly unhealthy. And the child may come to resent you as they eventually outgrow you but feel afraid to leave you behind.

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3. You never trust your kids

Kids essentially start fibbing from the moment that they first learn to talk. Whether it’s denying they had that extra chocolate cookie or blaming that drink spillage on someone else, children can often be casual with the truth. But that doesn’t mean that parents should always view them as untrustworthy.

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Indeed, by allowing them that that extra hour before curfew or giving them unsupervised access to the TV, you’re giving your kids a chance to prove themselves. If your child doesn’t feel trusted, then that can cause them to play up on this negative trait. Parents need to set boundaries, of course. But they shouldn’t be afraid to move them, too.

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2. You criticize their friends

You might not be able to choose your family, but you can choose your friends. And some kids are better than others when it comes to judging character. Indeed, in every friendship group there’s usually one individual who may give you cause for concern. However, it’s sometimes best to keep your misgivings to yourself.

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Speaking to Reader’s Digest, Dr. Greenberg said, “Toxic parents criticize their child’s friends. If you criticize their friends, you are criticizing your kids. At least, that’s what they take from this behavior. Instead, find out why each of their friends are special to them.”

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1. You compare your child to their friends

When you’re living with your children through all of their ups and downs, it can be all too easy to think the grass is greener on the other side. If one of their friends appears to be perfect on the surface, then it’s perhaps only natural to compare them to your own. But you should never do this out loud.

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In fact, comparing a child to your own who you may only see every now and then and who is therefore likely to be on their best behavior can be downright toxic. Dr Greenberg told Reader’s Digest, “Instead, you should celebrate each child’s individuality: comparisons damage self-esteem and do not serve as motivation.”

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