33 Things It's Time to Stop Doing to Your Kids Right Now

Cropped shot of a mother comforting her little son at home

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Most parents strive to be the best parents they can be. But some of their actions may be doing more harm than good. Now's the time to make some adjustments and kick some bad habits to the curb. Here are 33 things you need to stop doing today.

Feeling Like You're Failing

Although it's not uncommon for parents to be hard on themselves, that type of thinking is counterproductive. Instead of beating yourself up, look at the little missteps as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Recognize that some days will be better than others—that it's completely normal to make poor parenting decisions or for your kids to misbehave.

Allow your kids to see you make mistakes and learn from them. Demonstrating a growth mindset in your own life is a great way to teach them to be resilient and persevere in their own life.

Doing Everything for Them

In an effort to make your kids' lives easier, you may be doing them a disservice. The best way to raise independent children is to allow them to practice being independent.

So what if milk gets spilled onto the counter instead of making it into the glass because you didn't step in to help? Kids can learn a lot by trying things on their own. Plus, allowing them to try to master new skills shows them that you believe in them, and that helps build confidence.

Neglecting Your Marriage

It's easy to become so focused on raising your kids, taking care of them, and making sure they're happy that you neglect one of your most important relationships—your marriage. Nurture your partnership by planning date nights together, connecting with each other every day, and taking the time to talk before turning in at night.

It's also important for your kids to see you doing things together. So regularly make time for your partner even if it's just sitting on the couch and talking. Make sure your kids know that this is your special time together and that they should refrain from interrupting if at all possible. Your kids need to know that your marriage is a priority.

Fighting Over Little Things

You can't win every battle and you shouldn't try to. Pick your parenting battles wisely. The little things really don't matter. If your preschooler wants to wear a plaid shirt with polka dot pants, let them rock that mismatched outfit. Some things just aren't worth fighting over.

Plus, it's exhausting to have a battle over every little decision. Look for opportunities to say yes when you can. This way, when it comes time to say no, your kids are more receptive to your decision.

Neglecting to Assign Responsibilities

Many kids have a carefree life with zero responsibilities. That's a wonderful luxury to bestow on your child. But it also means that all of the responsibilities probably fall on you. It also may lead your child to become irresponsible, especially as they get older.

Assigning age-appropriate chores teaches your kids the importance of contributing to the household.

Give yourself a break by delegating some of your household tasks to your kids. Teaching kids important life skills and giving them chores is part of helping them become a responsible adult someday.

Overscheduling Them

We want our kids to enjoy life, learn how to do new things, and experience everything they want. But that also can lead to overscheduling them. Resist the urge to cram sports, dance, piano lessons, scouts, and other activities into their lives at one time. Not only will you run yourself ragged, overscheduling your kids doesn't give them any free time to just be kids.

Research suggests that unstructured play can have a positive impact on a child's development and wellbeing. When kids are given the opportunity to play freely, there is a lot of learning taking place. They develop games, make rules, negotiate with others, and release stress.

Putting Your Needs on Hold

Parents often unwittingly put themselves in a position of doing everything for everyone else. But this can be emotionally and physically draining and lead to frustration, irritability, and burnout. It's important to make time for activities you enjoy and to practice self-care. It's beneficial for you, but also for your family.

It's good for your kids to see you embracing your interests, taking care of yourself, and scheduling time with your friends. You will be a healthier, happy parent and avoid burnout if you prioritize your own needs just as much as you do your family's.

Overusing Technology

There's no denying that technology has become an integral part of our lives. Whether it is at work, for school, or simply keeping up with family and friends, everyone relies on technology to get things done. But it's important to have some time apart from technology to simply be with your family members.

Think about the last time you unplugged your gadgets to spend one-on-one time with your child. To help make it easier to unplug, consider creating gadget-free times and zones in your house. It may take a concerted effort, but in the end it will be beneficial for everyone if you all have some technology-free time together.

Rushing Everywhere

If you find yourself telling your kids to hurry up frequently, it may be time to slow down and take a closer look at why. Rushing everywhere is often a sign that either your schedule is too packed or you need to look at your family's time management skills. Rushing around also could be a symptom of disorganization.

If this tends to occur in the mornings before school, develop a morning routine for your family to make things more streamlined. It's also helpful to create a homework schedule to ensure everyone is meeting their responsibilities.

Trying to Be Together 24/7

Parent guilt is a real thing and not uncommon. Some parents even guilt themselves into trying to spend every waking moment with their kids. But not only is this not humanly possible, it's also not healthy.

Instead, try to enjoy quality time with your family, but also recognize the importance of letting your kids play alone or with their siblings. Not only will time apart allow your kids to develop autonomy and independence, but it also will lift a burden from you as well. Everyone needs some alone time.

You can't be all things to your child. It's important that they begin to develop friendships and relationships with others too.

Spoiling Them

Most parents would love for their kids to be happy 100% of the time; but this expectation is unrealistic. However, this doesn't stop parents from trying.

And when this happens, parents end up inadvertently spoiling their kids. Material things are nice, but they don't bring lasting happiness. Teach your kids to find joy in less material ways and you will be well on your way to raising a good citizen.

Instead of giving in to your child's whims or buying them everything they want, focus on teaching them how to find contentment in serving others, working hard, and going after their goals.

Overspending

There's a lot of pressure on parents to buy their kids the latest clothing styles, video games, and technology. But giving in to the temptation to buy everything at once usually wreaks havoc on the family budget. And it does little to teach kids the importance of delayed gratification.

Instead, teach kids how to plan for the things they want and as they get older, and give them a budget to work within when shopping. Teaching kids money management skills will benefit them as they grow into young adults.

Forgetting to Teach Gratitude

Overall, if you're like most parents, you're probably pretty skilled at teaching your kids to say "please" and write thank you notes, but do your kids know what it really means to be thankful? Make sure the words they are speaking aren't empty.

Making an effort to raise grateful kids who appreciate everything and everyone around them is one of your most important jobs as a parent. Being grateful allows kids to step outside of their own self-interests and recognize that they are not entitled to all the good things in their life.

Teaching your child gratitude begins with getting them to see that because nothing in life is promised, they should be thankful for all that is good in their world.

Trying to Be Like Other Parents

Facebook, the bragging mom next door, and the pressure we put on ourselves have all turned parenthood into a blood sport. Too often, parents compare themselves to others—and believe that they're coming up short.

Whether you are trying to meet others' expectations or lack confidence, imitating others can be harmful to you and even contribute to parent shaming and judgmental attitudes. Instead, focus on discovering who you are as a parent and stay true to those goals. While it's great to learn from other parents, it's also important to be true to your values and goals.

Ignoring Bad Behavior

When kids throw tantrums, speak disrespectfully, are disruptive, or fight with their siblings, it's tempting for parents to overlook the problem behaviors and rationalize that it's just a phase their kids are going through. They may even tell their kids to work out those sibling spats on their own.

While kids do need to learn to problem-solve and sometimes they are just going through a phase—it's also important to communicate that certain behaviors are not appropriate. Try to use these situations as teaching moments.

Addressing problem behaviors quickly and efficiently can help curb them before they get out of hand. Plus, there are some bad behaviors that simply must be tackled before they become a major issue. Ignoring certain behaviors can be a discipline strategy, but it should not be used in every situation. Kids need regular direction and guidance in order to learn to behave appropriately.

Glossing Over Important Chats

As your kids grow, the topics of your talks may change, but their importance doesn't. Yet it's not uncommon to neglect addressing those important subjects that are either on the horizon or affecting them at the moment. Hectic schedules may get in the way. Or you may feel nervous about broaching a serious topic and put it off.

Instead of waiting until there is a problem, take a more proactive approach and talk to your kids about important issues early and often. This will help you both feel more comfortable. Talks about sex, consent, and safe dating can really make a difference for your kids.

Being Inconsistent in Your Discipline

Inconsistent discipline is confusing to kids and doesn't help them learn the valuable lessons you're trying to teach. Come up with a plan to discipline your children and stick to it.

While it is important to try different discipline tactics when things become stale or no longer work, you should still aim for consistency where you can. Taking away a privilege one week and then doing nothing the next for the same offense undermines your discipline strategy.

Kids need structure and a predictable environment. Inconsistency could lead to more discipline issues.

Although it is hard work to keep correcting the same behaviors, letting things slide is not going to help you achieve your goals. Keep your focus on your long-term goals and try to remain consistent with rules, rewards, and consequences.

Allowing Bad Habits to Slide

Sometimes when kids chew with their mouth open, pick their nose, or bite their nails, parents let these behaviors slide. And while it is true that some bad habits will disappear over time, you may need to partner with your child to break the habit, especially if they are experiencing some negative effects from it.

For instance, nail biting may lead to infected nails or nose picking may cause nosebleeds (or teasing from peers). To help your child break their bad habits, you work with them on making a change.

Ask them how they want to approach changing their behavior and offer suggestions for alternate behaviors. Offer your support and encouragement and provide rewards, if they are motivating for your child.

Failing to Teach Street Smarts

Being street smart goes beyond looking both ways before you cross the street. Talk to your kids about how to stay safe when they are riding their bike, visiting the mall, and hanging out with friends.

Make sure they know how to be aware of their surroundings and what to do if a stranger approaches them. Require that they go places with a friend and keep you informed of their whereabouts.

Stress that they trust their instincts. If something feels wrong or unsafe, it probably is. They are probably not overreacting and even if they are, who cares? It is better to be cautious than to take risks.

Allowing the Wrong Friends

Every parent wants their kids to socialize with their peers and make new friends. But if a friend isn't exactly the influence you want, it may be time to intervene.

Make sure your kids know what constitutes a healthy friendship and how to identify fake friends or toxic friendships. Learning to identify unhealthy relationships could save your child a lot of heartache later.

Depending on the severity of the situation, there are plenty of ways to handle things when you're concerned about your kids' friends. Obviously, the best option is to talk to your kids about your concerns. You also could establish limits and help your children learn how to set boundaries for themselves.

Forcing Friendships on Them

The flip side of not liking your children's friends occurs when you end up forcing another child on your own kid. You schedule play dates, enroll them in the same activities, and pester your child to text them because you're just so giddy about this friendship. However, if your child is less enthusiastic about the friendship than you are, you need to lighten up.

While it's fine to help them establish friendships, forcing your child into a relationship with a person that they don't connect with will ultimately lead to failure.

Let your child take the lead on who they befriend and spend time with. As long as the person they choose is not a bully or engaging in peer pressure, it's probably a suitable friendship.

Blowing Up at Them

One of your children shoved a paper clip into the light switch. Another climbed the pantry and helped themself to a bag of marshmallows. Your last straw was when your toddler managed to give the dog a new hairdo with baby lotion.

Parenting can be frustrating, no doubt. But blowing up at your kids isn't the answer. Stop yelling and find a better way to communicate with them so they'll actually listen to what you have to say.

Getting Distracted

With smartphone games to play and social media status updates to read, not to mention juggling all their work, home, and family responsibilities, parents are more distracted than ever before. A 2014 Highlights study found that 62% of kids between the ages of 6 and 12 feel their parents are distracted.

To avoid being in that group, try to be present when you're around your kids. Put the phone away when you go to the park. Log off of social media when it's homework time. Pay attention at their sporting events, recitals, and school performances. If you're working from home, do it in a dedicated space away from kids if you can, so you're not having to divide your attention all day long.

Trying to Raise Perfect Kids

Here's a secret—your kids aren't perfect. No child is and that's perfectly acceptable. Don't get hung up on trying to raise perfect kids. Not only is it simply not possible; it could be damaging to your kids' self-esteem.

Applying pressure to excel or behave in a certain way can cause kids to become perfectionists, which negatively impact their performance in the classroom and in life.

Expecting your kids to be perfect can devalue the effort they put in. Instead of pushing your kids to strive for perfection, focus on their hard work. Good results are nice, but the real learning takes place in the journey to get there.

Neglecting the Little Moments

Do your best to slow down and appreciate the little things in your child's life. Before you know it, they will be a busy teenager and then heading off to college.

Consciously take a breath and enjoy watching your toddler color or all of your children working together to build the biggest fort. Remind yourself, too, that you don't need big vacations or expensive toys to create family memories. Some of your best memories may come from mundane events like cooking dinner together, raking leaves in the fall, or playing cards on a rainy summer night.

Forcing Them to Eat

If you're like most parents, you want your kids to eat healthy foods and you likely go to great effort to provide nutritious choices for them. But if your children gag every time they bite into a green bean, there's a good chance that no matter how hard you try, you're not going to change their food preferences.

Instead of forcing them to eat foods they don't like, expose them to many flavors and textures without requiring them to eat anything. Offer nutritious choices that you know they do like alongside less preferred or familiar ones. If they insist they don't like a certain food, forcing them to eat it is setting you up for a war no one is going to win.

Saying Yes to Everyone Else

You are one person. You can't sew the costumes for the class play, coach three days a week for each one of your children's sports teams, and bake 300 cupcakes for the school bake sale in two days.

Help out on your terms and don't succumb to guilt. Volunteer at your child's school once a month instead of every week. Be the team parent once a year instead of every season for all of your kids. You simply can't say yes to everything and it's important that you place some limits on how frequently you get involved.

Overindulging in Praise

Every parent thinks their kids are awesome and we want them to know it. But it is possible to go overboard. In fact, overpraising can actually cause kids to develop narcissistic tendencies. Praising your children's efforts (which they have control over) is more effective than praising their talents (which they don't).

While it's important to build your child's self-esteem, focus on giving praise in a healthy and productive way.

Recognize your child's hard work and efforts rather than complimenting them on their appearance, their intelligence, or their athletic abilities. If kids think their worth is tied to these things, it will be harder for them to navigate setbacks or changes.

Depending on Electronics

Tablets and video games are great babysitters. It can be very tempting to rely on tablet time just to sneak in our own kid-free moments.

As tempting as it is, don't depend on electronics to entertain your kids. Set time limits, stick to them, and plan other activities, like board games and crafts, that still give you a break without leaning on electronics as a crutch.

Acting as Though Failure Is Bad

It's not uncommon for parents to go out of their way to make sure their kids don't ever fail. In fact, some parents will practically write their child's book report or stay up until the wee hours of the morning working on a science fair project.

When this happens, it's often referred to as lawnmower parenting, because parents mow down all the obstacles in their child's way. But really, it's healthier to allow your kids to experience the natural consequences of their actions, choices, or inactions.

Although failure is uncomfortable and maybe even disappointing, trust that if given the opportunity your kids will probably come up with their own plan to rectify the problem. Most importantly, your kids will not likely want to feel that disappointment again so they'll make sure they take one more step closer to becoming responsible children.

Living Your Life Through Theirs

Remember when you wanted to be a world-class violinist, tennis player, or actor? Now you have kids and you can get them involved in all of those activities. But sometimes our children's interests are not the same as our own.

If your kids really do love all of the activities you did when you were young, consider yourself blessed. But if they don't—and it's highly likely they won't—be ready to back off so they can find and pursue their own passions. Even though you may have dreams of coaching your child's little league team, you have to be willing to let that dream go if your child has no interest in baseball.

Treating Them Like Adults

Children aren't adults trapped in tiny bodies. They're kids, learning, growing, and trying to understand their own feelings more and more every day. They think like kids and they act like kids. Treat your children like the kids they are, not the adults we sometimes mistake them to be.

Strive to have realistic, age-appropriate expectations for their actions and behaviors. It's especially tempting to treat them like adults when they reach the teen years, but kids are still learning and developing even at this age. Rather than trying to be their friend, focus on being their parent instead.

Comparing Your Children to Others

Parents naturally tend to compare their children to others. But it's unfair. It can make them feel guilty for not having the same successes as others. And it can harm their relationships with the people you're comparing them to.

Comparisons among siblings, for example, can fuel sibling rivalry and even lead to sibling bullying. No one wants to be compared to anyone else, especially kids who are still trying to figure out who they are.

Instead, try to find the beauty and uniqueness in each of your children without comparing them to anyone else. When you let your kids know what makes them special, you are helping to build their self-confidence.

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4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Kids Health. Your child's habits.

  3. Highlights. National Survey Reveals 62% of Kids Think Parents Are Too Distracted to Listen.

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