3 Common Parenting Mistakes That Make Your Child's Life Harder

Learn to be available but not intrusive.

Last updated on Apr 02, 2024

Father interacting with son Alena Darmel | Canva

Parenting is hard work, but sometimes, we make it even harder on ourselves. This leads to unhappy parents, stressed out families, and you can't enjoy your children's great moments.

Need a few examples? There are three common ways parents make their lives (and their children's lives) far more stressful than necessary. I've also included some parenting tips for making minor changes that lead to big happy results:


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Here are 3 common parenting mistakes that make your child's life harder:

1. Trying to make your child someone or something they aren't

Your child is naturally introverted, yet you want an extroverted, social child. Your child likes to read, but you insist on having an athlete in the house. Does your child like to do their homework later in the day versus right after school, yet you insist they sit at the table for hours until they get their work done?

Parenting is always easier when we follow our children's cues instead of forcing them to follow our agendas. That doesn't mean we don't set limits, but it does mean we watch for the natural inclinations of our child, use those to build positive skills and interactions, and then help our kids stretch into areas outside their comfort zones.


Try following your child's cues for a week or two and watch the peace level in your house rise. We are only our children's guides, not the owners of their destinies. Sit back, relax a bit, and let your child lead you on the journey.

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2. Hovering over your child's every move

Do you constantly comment on every aspect of your child's life? Do you say things like, "Are you wearing that? It doesn't match, and you look like a bag person. What's wrong with you?" Or, "Why aren't you getting good grades like you're sister? I got good grades in school. What's wrong with you?" Or, "How come all of your friends are losers? How come you don't have better friends or more friends?"


If you recognize any version of these diatribes, you are over-parenting your children with your nagging and probably making your family miserable because of it. Lectures and criticism DO not work; listening, asking non-judgmental questions, and offering kind and compassionate advice work—IF you do it consistently and without a bad attitude.

Your child picks up on your disappointment, and they are likely to feel how disappointed you are until you start recognizing their strengths and helping them grow into those strong qualities. Next time you are about to say something negative to your child, stop and ask yourself if your words will benefit them in any way. If not, don't say them.

Also, ask yourself how you would feel if someone said those same words to you. Most of us don't like someone nagging or criticizing us at work, so why would your children respond well to that at home?

parent hugs child


Photo: fizkes via Shutterstock

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3. Not following through or setting firm limits

Children are very wise to their parent's weaknesses and if you tell them they will lose screen privileges if they don't clean their room, but you don't follow through on that, you've just taught them not to believe your word.

Don't set a lot of rules in your home, but set a few important ones and make those non-negotiable. A few examples might be following curfew times, not being mean to siblings, or feeding the dog.

When you allow your children to break the rules, you teach them not to listen or respect you. If they don't respect you, you will likely be angry and frustrated and resort to overparenting, as explained above. Following through initially is the key to not having to give more consequences in the future. If your children know you mean business, they will stop doing the behavior you disapprove of.


Why make parenting more difficult? Accept your children for who they are and work with them from that point. Don't involve yourself in too many details of their lives, particularly as they get older. Be available but not intrusive.

Finally, set firm limits on crucial behaviors and expectations and follow through on them so your child learns to both trust and respect you. You only get a limited time with your children in your home, so don't you want to make that time as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible?



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Lisa Kaplin is a psychologist, certified professional life and executive coach, and a highly experienced corporate speaker. She helps people overcome stress and overwhelm to find joy in their personal lives and success and meaning in their professional lives.