Parenting confession time? It's not always the Mary Poppins picture of perfection. Sometimes, you don't know how to make your child eat her vegetables and don't have a catchy song to inspire her to clean her room.
Of course, what Mary Poppins didn't know is that while there are a few ways to tame kids, there are also ways to ruin them. Sure, kids have their own personalities, but parents who allow, give and shield too much can make a good apple turn spoiled rotten. A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down... but it can also result in cavities. Don't offer too much of a good thing by committing these common parenting sins.
- Never make her work for anything. Why reward your child for appropriate behavior and ideal choices when you can just hand over the goods? Neglecting to make your little one work for the things she wants tells her the she deserves your hard-earned cash for the newest games, gadgets and designer duds ... without ever lifting a finger to help around the house. This entitlement will help turn her into a "gimme" teen and later, a lazy adult. Your kid needs to learn that work reaps rewards and without effort, there aren't perks. Swapping a video game console for cleaning out the garage will lighten your load and get her on the track to self-sufficiency and independence.
- Let the TV be your nanny. Hey, every parent needs a spare moment to herself. That's what the TV is for, right? OK, it's true that an hour or SpongeBob might not ruin your kid forever, but constantly relying on the TV to "watch" your child could land you with spoiled rotten, overstimulated offspring. Instant gratification and a constant stream of "gimme that" commercials? No thanks.
- Always take your child's side. You're programmed to have your kid's back; it's a given. But when you're constantly "Team My-Child" on every issue, regardless if she's right or not, you teach her that no matter what she does, you'll be there to excuse her behavior. Whether it's a bad grade in school or an altercation with another child, letting her skip out on the consequences means she ends up looking to Supermom to always save her in the end. Give her room to work it out on her own; conflict resolution is a critical skill for maintaining positive relationships down the road.
- Use harsh, physical and angry punishment. It can be easy to lose your cool when your kids are fighting over the iPad ... again. But trying to threaten your little one into submission can lead to dire consequences. In fact, a study published in a 2010 issue of the International Handbook of Anger found that harsh discipline and scare tactics rendered aggressive and antisocial children and eventually, adults. Use firm (not scary) discipline instead and always check yourself; is the punishment used as a teaching tool or just as a way to vent your own anger?
- Offer constant praise. "Great job eating that cereal. You're the best food-chewer ever!" Helpful parent or personal cheerleader? Unfortunately, while you definitely want to bolster your child's confidence by offering praise, there can be too much of a good thing. By complimenting your child on mundane tasks or worse, stuff she doesn't control (like her looks) she ends up with a false sense of self-esteem that isn't tied to her real strengths.
- Let your child in on grownup issues. Venting to your girlfriends about your relationship woes? Fine. Venting to your 8-year-old? Not okay. Besides the fact that your child isn't Dr. Phil and can't help you deal with relationship issues is the point that you shouldn't burden kids with adult problems. Whether you're having trouble at work or you and your partner are dealing with communication issues, when you share grownup problems with your little one, she'll often put the blame squarely on her own shoulders.
- Go overboard with extracurricular activities. In a society where excellence is expected, it can be hard to contain yourself when it comes to activity registration. Even if you hope your child will be a concert violinist, soccer superstar, Olympic gymnast and renowned artist, spreading her too thin could result in total kid-burnout. Instead, pick a couple of activities that'll hold your little one's interests and then switch them up as her tastes and talents change.
- Make every decision for her. Why let a kid make choices? Because the ability to create autonomy early on life helps foster the seeds of self-confidence. When you're the one dictating every aspect of your child's life, you raise a child who constantly needs someone else's approval. While parents definitely have to step in on the biggie decisions, the ability to pick and outfit or choose an activity doesn't need to be micro managed by a too-involved mama.
Just remember: while there might be eight ways to ruin your child, there's a million other ways to be the best parent possible. Luckily, your natural intuition combined with your child's innate talents and abilities means you'll be able to create a build-her-up atmosphere that lets you ditch the drama and help raise a great kid and eventually, a confident (and humble) adult.