Parents: The 3 Most Catastrophic Mistakes Parents Make and How to Avoid Them

In all the years I have been working with children and parents, I am amazed at just how many parents believe they can tell their children what to do and their children should just “do as they are told”.

Well I am here to tell you: nothing could be further from the truth. Most of these parents who expect or demand compliance from their children are needlessly headed for frustration and ultimately disaster. The worst part is: it just doesn’t have to happen!

As parents, we know we are far from perfect. We know we make mistakes; in fact, mistakes are a part of life, so it is inevitable. However, what we want to avoid are those serious mistakes that create larger problems that are difficult to resolve.


• Getting into power struggles that create resistance in your child
• Treating your child as if they know nothing and you know everything
• Towering over and overpowering your child to get them to do as you want


All three really deal with power OVER your child. While you have responsibility for your child, ultimately you want them to develop to their full potential so they can live fulfilling, independent lives. If you tell them what to do all the time, they will not learn how to problem solve effectively for themselves.

Think about what you would feel if someone were to assert power and control over you, at your expense. It would be hard to thrive. In nature if a sun loving plant lived under a tree with a huge canopy, the lack of sunlight would mean the plant would not thrive.


Parents who micromanage their child and overshadow every move their child makes, will often say, “it worked for me…I turned out OK… Actually, I was so wild I needed that type of control”.

What a parent who was micromanaged often does not realize is that much of their upbringing and behavior was a product of their parent not knowing other options.

While most children ultimately bend to their parent who exerts their authority in a controlling manner, they do not learn effective coping skills. This hampers them in resolving conflicts through means other than overpowering someone else. Imagine using a sledge hammer when a small hammer would work so much better.

No matter how well intentioned an overpowering parent might be, they build a resistance in their child. A child might submit but silently defy. Silent defiance comes in many forms, perhaps in “showing” the parent that no matter how tough the parent is, they will not give the parent the satisfaction of crying or showing emotion.

This becomes the stoic child who stores their anger and frustration. These emotions when under pressure tend to either leak out or explode at some point with someone less powerful that they can intimidate.

Some children respond to over control with anxiety and fear. Over controlling parents then may feel frustrated that these children seem to have “no backbone”. These children may perceive themselves as weak and ineffectual.

We need to let children struggle against the elements of life, in order for them to develop their strength. If we squash the evolving strength with our rules and demands, we can weaken them.


• Connect with your child, step into their shoes to experience the world as they do
• Calm your emotions because emotions are contagious and if you are calm they will catch your calmness
• Listen to their thoughts and feelings. Children see things, as they appear to them in the moment. Enjoy the humor; children can be enormously entertaining as they tell it like it seems to them. Art Linkletter interviewed thousands of children on his early TV show, and showed us how “Kids Will Say The Darndest Things”.
• Limits are important but you will deliver them very differently if you complete the first three steps first.
• Fresh-Starts are very important because it gives you and your child freedom from mistakes. It normalizes mistakes and communicates your belief that you child can correct the mistakes. This is important as a way to focus on making better choices in the future. With fresh-starts, there is no making a child feel bad about past mistakes once they correct the problem.

No matter how long you have been a parent, chances are you are missing one of these steps or applying them out of order. The good news: you can follow the simple steps I have outlined to stop making mistakes that have lasting impact, and insure that you connect to have positive influence with your child.

Sandra, psychotherapist and Child Expert, creator of the 5-Word Parenting System: Connect, Calm, Listen, Limits and Fresh-Start. Learn it once use it for life. Contributing author to All-in-One Marriage Prep.http://one-step-ahead-parenting.com

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