One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mother's Day Reminder: 100+ Ways to Screw Up Parenting and Still Raise Pretty Great Kids



100+ Ways to Screw Up Parenting 
and Still Raise Pretty Great Kids
(in no particular order)

In spite of the fact that the vast majority of my children have come from very challenging places, I’m fairly satisfied with the way all of them are turning out.  They are resilient, loving, people who struggle daily, but who persevere and are tough, in the good sense of that word. 

They love each other and are committed to making their lives different.  Several are now married with children of their own.  I’m seeing a break in the cycle of poverty and poor decisions that impacted them as children.  And my birth children, who walked beside their adopted and foster siblings through all the issues, have grown-up with a desire to give the world more than they receive.  Overall, we have raised many unique individuals and I’m happy with the works in progress. 

Another adoptive mom called me in tears yesterday saying, “What am I doing wrong that not a single one of my children will listen to anything I say?  What kind of a mom am I? 

I paused and listened to her desperation and then said, “A mom like me.  You aren’t doing anything wrong.  And you are doing lots of things wrong. But this isn’t about the mistakes you are making or even what you are doing right.  You are a good mom with a virtually impossible job. You are weary and this is a very hard life we have chosen. You can do this and they know that you love them.”

There was silence on the other end for a moment.  “This is so hard.”

Yep.  It is. But so often when I talk to parents, I just want them to remember that they are human and they will make more mistakes than they can count.  But mistakes are not what define them – especially in the eyes of their children. 

The truth is, when they are older, our children usually don’t remember what we remember.  They barely remember our faults and mistakes.  Except in cases when parental conduct is on an extreme for an extended period of time and physical or emotional harm results (i.e., abandonment, abuse, addiction, mental illness etc.), children more often remember how they felt, rather than nitpicking every decision you made.  If they feel that you loved them.  If they feel that you cared.  If they feel that they mattered to you. Then the mistakes are pretty much irrelevant.

Just for fun, I tried to think of 100 ways I have messed up parenting the 53 kids that have come through my home. Because I have been parenting for 24 years and I still have little ones, it is safe to say that I have tried a variety of approaches to this parenting gig.  In some ways, I’m lucky because I get to keep practicing!  In others, I’m not so lucky because no matter how much knowledge I have, I find myself continuing to make mistakes!

Anyway, I made myself stop at 106 – which is likely to make my OCD readers a little edgy!  But it wasn’t even a challenge.  If I had allowed myself, I could have come up with 500 without too much more thought.

Let’s face it.  Parents are hard on themselves.  And even harder on each other.  Sometimes we feel like we have all the answers and everyone else is doing it wrong.  Other times, we know that we are desperately in need of help, but we are afraid to admit our shortcomings for fear of criticism. Neither position is particularly compelling.

As a mother of so many children over such a long period, I have learned one solid truth about parenting.  Kids are resilient and parents are human.  We will make tens of thousands of mistakes as we attempt to navigate this parenting experience. Sometimes, we will have days or weeks of constant mistakes.  Other times, it will feel like everything is working better than we could ever imagine. But in the end, it is a balancing act.  Trying to avoid the extremes on a regular basis, while trying to find that magical place that allows us to raise productive members of society who have something to contribute.

So here’s my list.  If you don’t find yourself somewhere on here, please contact me immediately.  I want to know how you do it.  (I’m serious!)

Yelling.
Not yelling when the situation demands it.
Losing your temper.
Losing your mind.
Spanking.
Not spanking.
Being overly impatient.
Wishing that this wasn’t your job.
Making this job all about you.
Telling your child the truth in a hurtful way when you are frustrated or angry.
Refusing to tell your child the truth so that you won’t “hurt feelings.”
Crying in front of your kids.
Trying to hide all your emotions from your children.
Creating a fantasy world with Santa Claus, the tooth fairy,
 the Easter Bunny, etc.
Refusing to participate in “white lies” with your children.
Having no rules for your child.
Having too many rules for your child.
Allowing your own emotions and frustrations
 to impact your parenting.
Ignoring your own needs for the “sake” of your children.
Standing up for your child when his conduct is unworthy.
Failing to stand up for your child
 when they deserve your support.
Trusting your child when they are not trustworthy.
Failing to trust your child 
when they are actually telling the truth.
Allowing your child too much freedom.
Giving you child too little freedom.
Trying so hard to be your child’s friend 
that you forget to parent.
Trying so hard to parent that you forget
 that they are growing up.
Giving your child whatever he wants without earning it.
Failing to reward your child for anything.
Praising your child for everything (good or not) 
to make your child feel special.
Thinking your child is not “good enough” (perfectionism).
Criticizing too much, too often, and too harshly.
Being afraid to critique your child 
even though your child needs to learn.
Missing nights of homework.
Placing homework and school above everything else
 at any cost.
Giving in to a tantrum just to get it over with.
Not realizing that tantrums are sometimes the only way
 young children can communicate a strong emotion.
Keeping your child up too late.
Refusing to change bed time for any reason.
Holding your child all the time.
Choosing not to hold your child all the time.
Keeping a strict feeding and sleep schedule,                                                     
 even though it means you have to miss opportunities.
Remaining flexible and allowing the day to run its course,                                
even if things get missed.
Laughing at your child when they are humiliated.
Not laughing with your child.
Attempting to entertain your child all the time.
Refusing to entertain your child at all.
Missing a major event (recital, play, etc) 
due to other obligations.
Attending every single activity for you child,                                                        
 at the expense of other important activities.
Letting your baby cry it out.
Not letting your baby cry it out.
Taking your child to the doctor too often 
out of fear, insecurity, or uncertainty.
Refusing to take your child to the doctor 
when it might be a good idea.
Choosing vaccinations.
Refusing vaccinations.
Creating a calm, scheduled, routine, predictable life,                                          
  at the expensive of last minute opportunities.
Creating a relaxed, wild, unscheduled,
 fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants life, at the expense
 of missing opportunities due to poor planning.
Planning every detail of your child’s future.
Failing to plan any details of your child’s future
Overreacting to every emotion your child feels
 and trying to fix it.
Ignoring your child when they need you.
Not using a car seat properly.
Letting fear make you overly zealous
 in your safety precautions.
Letting your child do something others perceive as dangerous because you feel like they will be fine.
Not letting your child try something
 for fear they might get hurt.
Allowing your child to fail and feel the consequences.
Correcting every mistake your child makes so that he does not bear the feelings or responsibility for his actions.
Missing the signs of depression in your child.
Thinking that every normal hormonal teen act of crazy                                
    requires institutionalization.
Comparing your child to every other child you meet.
Missing major warning signs in your child’s development.
Allowing your child to participate in too many activities,                                
 causing stress and exhaustion.
Refusing to allow your child to participate in any activities out of fear or laziness.
Allowing your children to spend the night with friends.
Choosing to keep your kids at home at night for safety.
Allowing your child to be his own parent.
Refusing to allow your child to grow up.
Over protecting your child from the outside world.
Giving your child total freedom.
Home schooling your children.
Sending your kids to public or private school.
Letting your child sleep in your bed.
Choosing not to let your child sleep in your bed.
Not sitting down for a minute and talking to your child/teen.
Trying to listen to every little thing your child/teen has to tell you, at the expense of other important people and issues.
Putting your children before your marriage.
Hurting your children to protect your girl/boyfriend or spouse.
Drug testing your child even when they are clean.
Denying the obvious signs of alcohol and/or drug use in your child.
Spinning your wheels in an effort to make your child happy.
Not caring whether your child is happy.
Making sure that your child has everything (and more) 
that their friends have.
Not buying your kids anything that makes them feel included in their peer group.
Constantly catering to picky eaters.
Refusing to make anything your child likes to eat.
Overfeeding your children, especially junk food.
Underfeeding your child.
Trying to solve every problem your child encounters.
Not helping your child find solutions to problems they face.
Doing your child’s homework just to get it over with.
Refusing to help with the homework at all.
Babying your children so they wont grow up and leave you.
Treating your children like adults 
and making them grow up too fast.
Centering family completely around your children
Forgetting you have children 
and making it all about the adults.
Making every craft on Pinterest to impress your children, who could care less.
Thinking you are a failure because you can’t make anything on Pinterest and you think your children care.

So, there is it is.  My long long list of faults.  Tomorrow, I might print the next 100!  Come on guys.  We can do this. 

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