Adapted from the Huffington Post article by Sherrie Campbell, PhD.

We, of course, parent our young ones with as much hope and good intention as we can muster in the daily chaos of family life. Sometimes, however, even our best intentions can lead us amiss.

 Over the next two blogs, we’re going to cover 8 common and incredibly easy mistakes that have been shown to have an insidious negative impact on the long-term mental health of our children. We suggest that as you read through this, think of both yourself and your parents: which of these behaviors might you have learned from your well intentioned, but uninformed parents? Which might you be transferring to your own child, and how?

1.     Ignore or Minimize Your Child’s Feelings.

You don’t like this, why do it to your child? Mocking, teasing or ignoring your child’s emotions is simply setting them up to mistrust their feelings and themselves. By honoring, understanding, and helping your child work through their feelings, you are building resilience, self-awareness, and empathy. Plus, by showing your child that YOU honor YOUR OWN feelings, you’re modeling all of the same things. And, by honoring both your own and your child’s feelings, you’re taking advantage of some fantastic opportunities for the open, vulnerable moments that don’t come often enough.

2.     Inconsistent Rules.

This one is difficult. Consistency is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting for many people, because it requires a constant eye and a readiness to be firm at any moment. I like to compare this to parking signs: if the signs are clear, you may not like the information, but you know exactly what the rules are. How infuriating is it if the sign is unclear and you get a ticket? Or, once you park in a space without getting a ticket for awhile, then one day, suddenly, you get a ticket? Or if a new sign is put up stating you can’t park in your favorite parking space?  Inconsistent rules are the same for your child. If rules are given, they must be followed every time, or discuss why some rules exist in one place, but not in another. These rules and boundaries provide a safe space for your child to explore him or herself. In the absence of firm boundaries, children will use behaviors to seek them out, looking for the limits. If boundaries are inconsistent, children will lack respect for even those boundaries that ARE given, which can result in problem behaviors and low self-esteem.

3.     Make Your Child Your Friend.

Your worries are not your child’s worries, nor are your children old or mature enough to give you advice, no matter how precocious. By sharing your problems and concerns with your child, you are making their world just a little less safe. Someday, your child will know your inherent fallibility, but by sharing this with them before they’re adults, you rob them of one of the great safety nets of childhood – respect for one’s parents. Model for your children your ability to be strong, to face challenges, to keep an eye on that light at the end of the tunnel. Be honest, own your emotions, but never burden your children with your problems. If they see that you’re defeated, how can they trust you to be there for them?

4. Put Down Your Child’s Other Parent.

 How do you show your spouse or partner affection in front of you child? How do you fight? What are you teaching them by each? Speaking negatively about your child’s other parent in front of your child can create anxiety and permanently affect your child’s relationship with their other parent. The unspoken communication your child receives is that in order to please you, they must also dislike their other parent, which creates confusion and distrust in relationships throughout life. Allow your child to come to his or her own conclusions about the other parent. Do not speak negatively to your child, or within hearing of your child. They pick up on far more than we think.

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