It’s way too easy for overloaded and overwhelmed parents to make parenting mistakes with their kids and even miss out on some amazing experiences, and it has nothing to do with how busy you are. It has more to do with how present you are.
As I think back over nearly 32 years of parenting, I realize that there were times when I did make mistakes and as a result miss out on some awesome moments with my kids. Fortunately, I realized my parenting mistakes and was able to self-correct so that those errors happened less and less.
Here’s what I almost missed because I made the parenting mistake of not seeing the opportunities in front of me:
The buried treasure in random moments of hanging out.
It may feel as if car rides, downtime at tournaments or even watching TV together are a waste of time, but as Mark Twain’s old saying goes, “there’s gold in them thar hills.”
So much can happen in “wasted” time: impromptu conversations with your child, shared jokes and laughter, or observations of your child with their friends.
When you are present and pay attention to your kids — which is sometimes hard to do because you have a lot going on in your own worlds at work or with family or friends — you are bound to pick up some nuggets of understanding which will help you to connect better with your kids.
Moments of Connection Because I was Afraid to Ask
In an effort to not be pushy or to give your kids space, parents often swing too far in the opposite direction and totally back off, leaving their kids alone. There are definitely times to let your child work through things without you, but there are also times when what your child really needs is for you to show you care by asking questions that will help them share their struggle.
This especially happens with teens. Parents assume that when teens don’t want to talk they really mean it. What teens want is to talk to someone who will really listen and not judge, criticize or lecture.
Often parents are afraid to ask because they fear they will push the teen away or maybe Mom and Dad are just too tired and caught up in their own lives to take the time to find out.
If you sense your child is struggling, don’t be afraid to ask. If they say no, nothing is wrong, but you know in your heart that something is wrong, don’t let it go. Look for a time when they are receptive and ask again.
And don’t be shy about asking their teachers or coaches what they are observing.
I fear that too many parents are missing important cues from their kids who are struggling with depression or some other emotional problem, assuming it’s just normal teenage behavior. Don’t take that chance.
Taking life too seriously is not automatically a part of the parenting job description, but it is exactly what too many parents do. And in the process miss out on some great shared laughter with their kids.
I’ll never forget the time my oldest–now 31, then a young teen–was in the car with her dad and they were fighting. We lived in a rural area and as they drove by a field with some donkeys, my daughter said angrily, pointing to the animals, “That’s your family out there!” Her implication of course, was that my husband was acting like a jackass.
Well, that remark struck my husband as funny and they both ended up laughing about the whole incident, which we still talk about to this day.
The point of my story?
Parents, Lighten up. It’s okay to laugh! Laugh at your own mistakes in front of the kids, laugh at ridiculous things said in the heat of an argument, laugh at your own silly behavior or your own attempts to do things that make your kids laugh. Being the “serious” parent is not the secret to winning your kids’ respect. Being authentic is.
Walking the Talk
Smart parents have many parenting tools in their arsenal, but lecturing should not be one of them. Words alone will not help your kids grow the character you would like to see them develop.
It’s easy to tell them, but much more effective to show them.
I was always really good at telling, but the older my kids got, the more I realized that what they needed more was to see me model what I was saying.
If you talk about honesty, but they see you lying to your boss, don’t be surprised with they lie to you.
If you talk about compassion, but don’t live it out, don’t expect them to.
If you preach hard work and persistence, but they don’t see you working hard at your marriage or in your job, you will most likely see them give up easily too.
I actually don’t think it’s likely that any of us can grow old with absolutely no regrets. There’s always something we could have done better in our parenting. I can think of a lot of things I should have done differently.
Being aware of the parenting pitfalls I’ve shared about will go a long way towards cutting back on your regrets and in the process allow you to build a connection with your child that will hopefully last into adulthood.
Feel like you are making some of these mistakes but don’t know how to move past them? I’m a family/parenting coach and I’d love to help. Schedule a free introductory coaching call here.