The process of learning parenting is rough on the first born. Inexperienced parents can have the best intentions and still make mistakes that have long range negative impact on their children. Child-Compassionate Parenting adheres to developmental stages and provides for the healthy personality to develop while maintaining parental control and reason. Here are ten parenting pitfalls to avoid.
1. ARGUING IN FRONT OF THE CHILD
Irritation and exhaustion make parents more volatile. Complaining and bickering may relieve some built up pressure but these anger embers can explode into a yelling fight. Young toddlers can be so alarmed that they may have accidents or get ill when their parents become angry. Screaming and anger were part of a survival reaction when the mother deemed an intruder was life threatening. There is no excuse for putting this much stress on a child. Discuss adult issues and disagreements in civil and polite tones. The person who is yelling is trying to win an argument by acting violent and that is unfair fighting.
2. SENSORY OVERLOAD
The body can handle millions of bits of information intake but then it needs a break. The noise level of children, their television programs, appliances, pets and phones can leave a parent confused and stressed. A fifteen minute walk, with only the sound of the birds, can do wonders for your psyche. When the child is safely in his or her stroller and you are away from unimportant urgency, telephones and chaos, then you can process and relax. A slow stroll without any other purpose than to “Listen to the song of life,” as Katherine Hepburn often said. At home, if your child is clearly in sight, make a cup of hot green tea and sip it slowly wearing earplugs. The combination of antioxidants and silence is healing. Sound is a necessary warning signal, so mini breaks only.
3. NO NO’S
As a child ages they can learn from other peoples mistakes, but toddlers want to experience everything for themselves. Eliminate the possibilities for disaster rather than spend the precious time you have with your child saying, “No” so many times that the child becomes immune to the word. Save “No!’ for dangerous moments that could be life threatening. You want that word to stop them in their tracks so do not over use it on meaningless control issues. If the child is drawn to Grandma’s colorful vase, put the vase away and replace it with a plastic object or stuffed animal. Let the child explore, touch and occasionally taste the room’s objects until they have learned what they need to learn. Usually, the child only makes one pass across everything. Follow the child patiently helping them to explore the breakable items, explaining that this will break so we leave it alone. Then, put the vase up where there is no chance of a mistake. The vase is nothing compared to your child.
Teach your child to swim . “Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children ages 1 to 14 and the leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4.” (usa.safekids). Even if you are afraid of the water yourself or hate the amount of chlorine your child is exposed to in public pools, teach your child to swim . Drowning is preventable unlike a car accident or many other accidents. Chlorine is as hard on your lungs as your eyes so insist on better ventilation at swimming pools especially an indoor pool with low ceilings. Non-chlorinated disinfectants are available and used in many European pools. But if all you have is the local pool reeking of chlorine, you owe your child a fighting chance to swim to safety. Teach your child to swim now.
Good idea but the human body is complicated and requires B12 and Vitamin D and fish or nut oil good fats that can not be supplied in many limited diets. Feed your child a variety of healthy organic foods as often as possible but do not be too restrictive. We only know a fraction of the intricacies of the chemical reactions in the body and many facts become fiction as science discovers new evidence. Waiting for water in plastic bottles when often municipality water is superior can lead to dehydration and serious complications. Letting a young child feel painful hunger pangs because the food is not perfectly nutritious is counterproductive to good parenting. Sometimes it is O.K. to help the child deal with difficult situations with a full belly of just O.K. food.
6. ASSUME THEY ARE GOOD
See that mischievous glint in your child’s eyes that alerts you to impending trouble? Remember it well so that you recognize it when as teenagers they get that same look when they have an exciting idea. Even as you absolutely know for certain that they are doing something wrong, discipline means teaching. Remind them of the consequence of disobeying you and wait to see what they do. They will weigh the potential pleasure reward of doing what they are thinking versus the severity of your consequence. Typically, they will choose pleasure. Calmly, shake your head and say I asked you to do that and instead you did the other. The consequence will now be this. If you are really clever you will have already pasted the crime and punishment on the refrigerator before it happens so you can say, “See.” Start with very tiny logical consequences, like a minute of time out that matches their age and loss of gadgets and privileges when they are older. Save the big punishment for drug and alcohol use, stealing or not using a condom, much later. Never use big threats or joke with threats. When it is really important they will not know whether you are serious or joking.
7. YOU ARE ON
After a long day of work, a couple just wants to eat, shower and sit down. But who is watching the baby? Never leave a child unattended. You must get a response from the other parent acknowledging that they are on duty before you run to the bathroom or step outside even for a moment. When you are on, you must prioritize your job of protecting your child from harm over a television game, surfing the internet or making dinner. Make a section of a visible room a safe play area that is baby gated and away from obvious danger. Toddlers can stack toys together to make an escape faster than you can get back to your computer chair. Never leave a child in front of a television while you go back to sleep. They can open a door and be in the street so quickly. You use to love to play. Perhaps, you could play with your child joyfully for a while. Some day they will not want you anymore. So relax and enjoy running in the park, puppets and card games again. When they leave for college, you can repaint the house and get new flooring. Tolerate messy toys, spills and other accidents.
8. TRUST BUILDING
Realities of life are extremely harsh. As humans we must suspend the truths of our short existence. Our vulnerable body can die in a few minutes from a cut or a few inches of water. Knowing how to balance protective parenting and fear inducing anxiety is tricky. Teaching the kindness and beauty of the world is more important than teaching the horrific things people do to each other. If you want your child to know Jesus, teach the wisdom of Jesus, not the sadistic brutality of Roman gladiators nailing a man’s hands. If you want your child to love animals visit a zoo, or adopt a pet rather than watching the television footage of a lioness eating the belly of a living deer. You need to stay informed, but the news is also on at ten after the child is asleep. Can you really explain to them why other parents allow their adult children’s bodies to be contaminated and destroyed in wars? Can they believe it won’t happen to them? Protect your children’s hearts and minds at every opportunity until they are in school where they will learn the history of man soon enough.
9. NIGHTY NIGHT
Never use bedtime as a punishment. A child abruptly left in a dark room to sob is abhorrent to experienced parents and anyone who has a heart. Such selfish parental quick fixes will result in long term damage to trust and self esteem. If you must punish a worn out tired child, use time out instead. Then, begin a pleasant nighttime ritual of bath, brushing teeth, p.j.’s, a book, a favorite bear and blanket, a kiss and good night. This ritual will cut down on phobias, nightmares, guilt, anxiety and hysterically crying rejected little children. Bedtime is one of the most loving experiences of parenting that when done correctly results in strong bonding.
10. BUDGET BABYSITTERS
Funds are tight and so many purchases seem important, however, spend money on a babysitter at least once a week. Time alone with your spouse in dating mode will help keep your love alive. Like a delicate flower you must water, feed and care for you living and changing love. Men need attention from their wives and wives need nurturing from their men. Hire a babysitter, grandparent or older teen to play with your child while you spend time with each other as a couple. Go play miniature golf, or bowl or dance, feel young again, carefree and unencumbered for a little while. The best gift you can give your child is a stable, happy home life, not an abundance of things or fancy schools.
Forgive in your heart the struggles of childhood and parent with a compassionate, not critical code of behavior. Parenting is the hardest job you will ever do. Your reward will not be your child thanking you for your sacrifices. Your reward will be the realization that your parenting skills advanced forward as you watch your grown child parent your grandchild with Child-Compassionate Parenting.