When parents make mistakes


One common parenting mistake is jumping to conclusions about your child’s guilt without even giving them a chance to explain first. — Positive Parenting

If you have ever mistakenly raised your voice towards your child or blamed him for something he did not do, you must know how awful that feels like.

Parents commit mistakes too, but as authority figures and role models in the family, they may find it hard to right their wrongs.

Mistakes are bound to happen, whether due to stress, overwork, lack of sleep, poor judgement or carelessness.

However, this is not an excuse to be ignorant or dismissive of one’s missteps.

What we can do is to learn from our mistakes today so that we can be better parents tomorrow.

It may not be easy to overcome our ego and admit our mistake to the kids.

But by role-modelling such behaviour, we can teach our kids (and ourselves) to be better human beings.

Common parenting mistakes

To learn from your mistakes, you will first need to accept that a mistake has been made.

It may occur unintentionally or due to past ignorance.

Here are some common mistakes:

> Breaking promises

You promised to take your daughter to her favourite restaurant after she did well in her test, but you were too busy and ended up not going.

Parents promise all kinds of things to their kids, but it can be hard to fulfil all of the promises made.

> Telling lies

White lies are common for various reasons – as an excuse, to avoid difficult topics, and often, to calm children.

Parents may also tell a lie to another person in front of their kids.

Even if the lie seems harmless, it teaches the kids that it is okay to lie – and this is not okay.

> Jumping to conclusions

Some parents tend to blame or scold their kids without giving them a chance to explain things first.

By assuming that our kids’ past behaviours and choices dictate present and future ones, it limits how we view our kids and can cause us to judge them unfairly.

> Using bad words

Rising anger tends to blind us.

You may not realise the bad words being uttered and there is no way to retract them once they are said.

It is bad enough when said to another person, but worse when said to your own kids.

> Comparing and criticising

Constructive comments are okay, but belittling your child, comparing him with others, and criticising his weak spots, all with the intention of “building up his character” are not.

> Too much teasing

Joking, teasing and kidding with your kids are some of the ways to have a laugh and fun with them.

However, you may be taking things too far if they are not laughing.

Even worse is if you press them for not being able to take the joke.

> Forgetting things

Having a busy schedule may lead to occasional slip-ups, causing you to forget simple errands (e.g. to pick up your child from tuition), or even important events and dates (e.g. your child’s birthday or school sports day).

> Being hypocritical

Parents are the main role model for their kids.

When parents do not practise what they preach, they risk confusing the kids with conflicting messages.

> Hurting them physically

Parents may accidentally inflict physical harm onto their children, e.g. injuring your daughter’s finger while closing the car door.

Some parents also tend to take out their anger or frustrations on their kids (including yelling, cursing and hitting).

Righting the wrong

After realising that you have made a mistake, what can you do?

> Don’t be too hard on yourself

No parent is perfect, so do not beat yourself up too long for being a “horrible parent”.

Instead, focus on correcting your mistake and finding a solution.

> Admit mistakes and apologise

Once you and your child have calmed down somewhat, gently talk about what you regret and apologise for your mistake.

Ask for a “do over” and try to make things right.

This can be a great opportunity to demonstrate forgiveness and humility to your child.

> Reconnect with your child

Let your child express how he feels.

Be open, present and willing to listen and engage with him.

Try to put yourself in his shoes and see (and feel) from his point of view.

This will build empathy and a deeper understanding to reconnect with one another.

> Aim to be better

Focus on self-improvement as a person and parent.

Learn to regulate your own emotions by practising self-compassion and learning to stay centred whenever there is a crisis in your household.

Loving your child starts with loving yourself.

It is part of human nature to make mistakes.

In our lifetime, we will (or should) exchange apologies and forgiveness countless times, including as a parent.

The important thing is to acknowledge that a mistake has been made and to learn from it, make amends, reconcile and gradually develop to be a better parent and individual.

Alexius Cheang is a behavioural psychologist. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only, and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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