7 Things to Never Do for Your Kid

As a parent, it's your natural instinct to protect your child. It's part of the animal makeup we're all born with; like a mama bear, you'll do anything to keep your cub safe. Sounds great, but your kid is trying to survive a different type of wild—one filled with science projects, playground wars, and hopefully college down the road. A little breathing room can go a long way in raising a strong, independent child, but many well-intentioned parenting mistakes get in the way. Here are seven things you shouldn't do for your kid:

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It's only natural to want to help your child make the best decisions as she's growing up. For some parents, this may mean intervening in their kids' social lives, academics, and even in their careers. Keep your child happy and healthy by letting her assert her independence in the following situations.

Choose her friends

When you have a toddler, she hangs out with your friends' kids as you have a mommy gab session. Oh, those simpler times! After age 5, your child will naturally start gravitating toward certain children, for better or worse.

Next: What to Do Instead

Step Back

What to do: If your child starts hanging out with friends you're not crazy about, step back. Try to see why your social butterfly joined a certain group. Maybe you don't understand why she spends time with that loud-mouthed buddy, but for her, it's a way of becoming more extroverted.

Make excuses

"Hi, Teacher. I'm sorry Jimmy didn't finish his report on time. He's been busy with football." Sound familiar? Shielding children from the negative consequences of their actions is one of the most common parenting mistakes. Once in a while (when it's truly necessary) is okay, but If you engage in this too often, you may end up with a kid who doesn't understand cause and effect.

Next: What to Do Instead

Let Him Learn

What to do: A good mama bear knows her cub should learn that if he sticks his paw into a beehive, he'll get stung. Negative consequences are a part of learning, so make sure your child gets a taste.

Get involved in employment

There is nothing less professional than someone's mom stepping in on the job. Whether you have a teen with her first job or a 20-something slogging it out in the corporate world, your kid's employment isn't in your realm of responsibility.

Next: What to Do Instead

Stay Away

What to do: Stay out of it, always. When you step in for your child's employment, it tells her employer that she's immature, or unable to handle a corporate environment on her own. Your kid can definitely vent to you about a bad day at work, but that's not a call to action.

Make her decisions, big and small

Hey, you just want the best for your shining star, right? So it only makes sense that you would nudge him in the directions you want him to take. Unfortunately, taking over all decision-making for your child raises a self-conscious and indecisive adult.

Next: What to Do Instead

Help Him Make Decisions

What to do: Teach your child to make strong decisions at an early age. Let him choose his outfits at age 4 so that he'll be able to choose a college at 18. If you don't agree, explain why; don't force.

Resolve her conflicts

When your little one's at the playground, it's only natural that you want to step in when an altercation occurs. But constantly swooping in to save the day robs your kid of conflict-solving experiences that teach her to deal with other people, whether she's a toddler or a teen.

Next: What to Do Instead

Encourage Conflict Resolution

What to do: Give your child a chance. You might be surprised to see that she's great at working through problems on her own. If you're always stepping in, conflict could stop her in her tracks. Encourage her to make good decisions, but remember: She should have the final say.

Finish her projects

Are you that mom who, in the 11th hour, is at the craft store buying poster board and markers for a report on volcanoes? Your child's teacher assigned her that project to see what she's capable of ... not you. Taking over once means you'll be expected to do it again and again and again.

Next: What to Do Instead

Lend a Hand

What to do: Offer to lend a hand, but don't be the anchor to getting a project finished. If your kid leaves her book report to the last minute, she needs to own her decisions and face the consequences from her teacher. It's a hard knock life, but she'll thank you when she has time management down pat.

Let her win...every time

It's nearing the end of Candy Land and you're in the lead. Rigging the deck could mean your child gets the elusive Queen Frostine and the win, but it's not the best way to teach your child to be a graceful loser.

Next: What to Do Instead

Let Him Lose

What to do: It's okay for your little one to lose every now and again, since it encourages him to be a good sport, and try again. Perseverance is learned, and losing sometimes makes winning occasionally that much sweeter!

Following these rules should help your child grow into an independent thinker. Encourage your child to make her own decisions on a daily basis to keep her social-emotional health strong!

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