The five parenting mistakes the most loving mums and dads make

publication date: Apr 24, 2007
  1.  Answering all your child’s questions. A child’s first teacher is his mum and when they’re small they look to us as a font of all knowledge. Most mums answer their kids questions almost automatically and sometimes, like when you’re out or if you’re short of time, it’s the best option. However, once they reach school age, you’ll be doing them no favours and really need to encourage them to find answers themselves by teaching them how to use dictionaries, encyclopaedia and other reference books.
  2. Letting your child give up when he’s discouraged. Most children want to give up on things they don’t find easy to do but for many activities - like learning to play a musical instrument - there’s a lot of hard work before you actually start to enjoy playing. Whatever the activity, offer encouragement and help if you can and suggest a time limit. For instance with an instrument you might like to suggest a grade to achieve. The chances are that as a child becomes more confident in what he’s doing his enjoyment will increase too.
  3. Giving too much praise. Praise is great for boosting a child’s confidence and self esteem but if you praise everything, the child may feel you’re exaggerating or that you’re not really paying attention to what’s being done or shown. A child knows that everything he does isn’t perfect and he needs you to acknowledge that too. Be critical but in a positive way. In a painting point out what you like and perhaps compare with other paintings he’s done. Save your absolute praise for things which deserve it and you child will know you mean it and get a boost to his confidence. 
  4. Not being aware of when to step in - and when not to. While it’s quite natural for a mum to want to defend her offspring, there are times when it’s better to stand back. Children need to learn how to resolve situations between themselves so as long as one child isn’t beating hell out of another, it’s best for parents to give them time to sort out an argument. Similarly at school, a child needs to know there are consequences to unacceptable behaviour. So if he is disciplined, don’t rush to minimise the the upset and he’ll be less inclined to get in trouble again.
  5. Protecting your child when he doesn’t need it . You can’t wrap a child in cotton wool however tempting it might be and overprotecting your child may lead him to lose confidence in his own abilities. Children need to learn to take risks within a safe environment. So in the park or playground you have to stand back and let them suffer a few tumbles. The best thing you can do is make sure your child is aware of potential dangers and also give him strategies for becoming independent. Lead by example - if you always cross the road in a safe manner, he will too once he has to do it by himself.