5 Common Mistakes Parents Make

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Have you ever wondered why some children turn out to be top of the class scholars graduating summa cum laude, while others have a recurring antisocial and violent behavior even from an early age, drowning their best years in drugs and alcohol? Psychology has a comprehensive perspective upon this slice of reality. Many studies over the years have shown that DNA holds the half-truth as to why, if given the same upbringing conditions, children will develop differently. It seems that some of us are hard-wired or predisposed to a certain type of behavior due to our biological inheritance. However, the environment explains the other half that DNA cannot. So practically, each and every one of us is a chemically induced cocktail spiced with outside stimuli. I invite you to take a look at some of the most common mistakes parents make while raising their children.

5. Is physical pain the best punishment?

Unfortunately, the image of a father beating his child with a belt or a stick is still a common practice amongst modern day upbringing styles. It seems as though physical punishment has been awarded the “best way to keep your child out of trouble” award when the truth is miles away from it. If anything, studies have shown that adults frequently beaten as children have serious problems with emotional attachment and communication; they also find it difficult to trust people and are usually control freaks. In other words, physical pain is psychologically traumatizing the child for life (the earlier in life it happens the deeper the scarring) shaking down his sense of integrity and diminishing his self-worth or self-image only to a frail sketch in comparison with what his real potential is.

4. What do children learn from everyday parental behavior?

When growing up, as the child learns to walk on its two feet and learns that a smile means more hugs or more time to play, mirror neurons fire up establishing vital connections between certain neural regions of the brain. Practically, their functionality ensures that the child will learn by imitation how to be an adult; however, there is down side to this that not many parents are aware of. If the parent has unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking, the child’s values’ compass will integrate them under the “good” or “acceptable” category. Also, if there is constant violence in the family, either verbal or physical, this kind of abuse will be assimilated unconsciously and consciously (although censored) as something that “is not that bad”. These and many other types of harmful behaviour travel across generations, although should not be tolerated or allowed.

3. “You will achieve everything I couldn’t!”

So the story of the birth of your child starts with a dream: “I never want my child to go through the hard times that I have had to endure!” and it ends with: “If you don’t do as I say, you’re a failure!”. Ok, let’s pause for a second and fill in the blanks. While parents do everything possible to ensure that their children live in the comfort that they never had or have a real opportunity at building a solid professional career, some cannot accept that once grown up, their children start wanting different things for themselves and a future that may be far from anything parents envisioned. Therefore, the conflict stems out from what children start doing when they are old enough versus what their parents want them to do. Anything crossing this boundary is considered a failure from a parent’s perspective, although he/she should respect their children’s free will and ability to make their own choices, even if they might not be the right ones.

2. “Because I’m older, I’m right and you’re not!”

Even from ancient times, the elderly were the most respected group of people in a community, entrusted with the political and social decision making, with offering advice and practically ruling over society. And this practice has partly been kept throughout time because of the association between old age and wisdom or life experience. Modern family dynamics reveals that the relationship between parents and their children is based on a similar principle: being older equals more authority that can easily turn into abuse of power. Therefore, we should not be surprised that there are many cases when, although a child is entitled to his/her opinion about something specific (i.e. what classes to enroll with or whether to be a vegetarian or not), parents will dismiss it arguing that they are older, therefore they know best.

1. Is spoiling children with financial goods and a lavish lifestyle the best way to teach them the value of hard work?

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Social economy has segregated today’s population into classes, but then again this has been a reality for centuries. Some people are born under a lucky star with a substantial bank account and wealthy parents, while others barely make a living, working hard from dawn to dusk for a meager salary. In the former context, parents tend to spoil their children with everything their heart desires, without considering the possibility that this behavior entails an unhealthy attitude towards hard work. When one does not have to put effort into acquiring something of value or importance, like a car or an apartment, he/she will most likely attribute the privilege of having it to a false sense of superiority. What parents need to do is condition this lavish lifestyle so as the child understands that he/she has to do something in return, for example:  study hard, and get a scholarship, work during summer and so on. This will teach them the true value of hard work and will help them appreciate more what they already have.

I welcome any suggestion or commentary on this open subject, as I am sure each childhood experience entails subtle and complicated conflicts that we could further explore, such as: the firstborn complex, emotional unavailability, abandonment and addiction to heavy drugs (heroin, cocaine etc.).

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