Ever wondered what the biggest parenting mistake is that I see in my private practice? Want to learn what to do to correct it? Well, let’s start by reframing the idea of parenting mistakes. I hate to use the word mistake because for all of us, parenting is a learning experience. Every action gives you more information about your child that can be used in the future. So, if we think in terms of opportunities instead of mistakes, I would rephrase that question into:
So what is the #1 Mistake?
Lack of consistency. Yep. Basically, this means lack of consistent routines or schedules. Or rules that are enforced sometimes but not all of the time. Or fun activities that are started by then fall by the wayside. This lack of consistency in both positive rituals and in consequences for behavior creates confusion for children and is the biggest mistake that I see from parents.
What Can You DO?
1). Be Consistent With Your Attention-Dedicate time in each day to provide attention to each of your children individually. Feel like you don’t have the time? This can be just a few minutes each day during bedtime rituals or a planned play session for thirty minutes once per week. Just commit to spending time just hanging out with your child on a consistent basis.
2). Be Consistent with your Rules-If your child is not allowed to jump on the couch today, they are not allowed to jump on the couch next Wednesday when you are tired from working two shifts. A rule is only a rule if it is enforced. Make rules sparingly, but when you do, be prepared to enforce them 100% of the time.
3). Be Consistent With Your Responses– This is a follow up from #2. If the consequence for jumping on the couch is a time-out (more about time-outs later), then it is always the consequence. Warning, time-out. Warning, time-out…consistently. More often, we yell, “Don’t jump on the couch” twenty times and then sometimes we use time-out, other times we just forget the rule, and other times, we might lash out and spank a child. While I certainly do not advocate for spankings, if you consistently provide the same, appropriate response, your child will learn to regulate their own behavior.
Start Correcting This Mistake Today
Be mindful of the theme of CONSISTENCY this week. Challenge yourself to be more consistent in your interactions with your child. Let me know your struggles and your successes!