Our parenting strategies influence our children’s outcomes in so many ways: they can build or destroy their self-esteem, transform them into independent or dependent beings, and make them learn to see mistakes as proof of their failure or, on the contrary, as a normal learning process.
Nobody needs convincing that parenting styles influence children’s behavior – this has been proved beyond doubt by the numerous studies undertaken on the subject. All these studies say that certain parental behaviors can lead to behavioral issues in children.
This article looks at common parental behaviors that have a negative impact on children’s development.
When parental behavior leads to behavior issues
There are many ways in which our behavior can lead to behavior issues in our children. The biggest problem is that if your child does not learn to develop important skills in childhood, they are likely to struggle with these skills throughout their lives.
Here are three common parental behaviors that can influence your kid in childhood and beyond.
Doing too much for your kids
When you are too present in your child’s life, you prevent them from doing things they should be doing by themselves. Worse, you teach them that they are unable to do these things by themselves, and that they need your guidance to do even the simplest things.
A group of researchers observed more than 3 500 children over several years to determine how being an “over-concerned parent” influenced children’s lives when they reached adulthood.
The researchers found that parents who overindulged their children often did so to meet their own needs and not those of their children. They gave too much, for too long, and this resulted in dependent kids who found it difficult to undertake tasks by themselves.
Other researchers who tracked over 5 000 people found that the adults who spoke of having overcontrolling parents in childhood had a harder time managing difficult emotions, were less fulfilled with their lives, had lower psychological wellbeing, and found it harder to control their behavior.
While this study may have been biased, it is line with other studies that have found that being an “omnipresent parent” has a negative and lasting impact on children.
What to do instead
Be honest about whether you do too much for your kids: Do you give them responsibilities? Do you let them make decisions? Do you allow them to learn from their mistakes? Are you always present? Are you an omnipresent parent? Take the quiz below to find out!
Once you have a clear view of your overindulgence, decide on how you are going to change things: what will you do less of? Will you give them more age-appropriate chores? Will you stop “doing their homework on their behalf”? Will you stop doing everything for them?
Not doing enough
While some parents overindulge their kids, others are emotionally or physically absent. Evidence shows that parental involvement is pivotal for the success of children throughout their school years and beyond. We now know that:
- The more you read to your child, the easier it will be for them to pick up reading skills when they start school.
- Children who have strong relationships with their parents have fewer behavioral issues and are less likely to turn to substance abuse.
- Children tend to copy the behavior they see their parents’ display.
Spending time with your children helps strengthen your parent-child bond, and this has an impact on your child’s behavior. That said, it is not always easy to balance family and professional life, and there are times we just don’t feel like playing with our kids!
The good news is that being present is not always a question of quantity. The quality of the moments spent together is what matters most. If you have a hard time finding time to hang out with your child, here are a few simple things that might help:
- Grab “little pieces of time” to connect. Talk about your day when you’re in the car or in a queue.
- Talk about your emotions – tell your child about difficult emotion-provoking situations that you faced and how you managed them.
- Set up a routine to ensure that you spend time with your kid every day. That could mean a morning routine, an after-school routine, a nighttime routine, or anything that works for you.
- Undertake the activities you have to do in close proximity to your kid. For example, reading your book next to where they are playing can give them the impression that you are hanging out.
- Involve your child in your activities. Get them to help you do the household chores or even help out in the garden.
Another simple way to ensure that you hang out with your child is by fitting that time into your schedule. Block off 15 to 20 minutes a day to do a fun activity with your child every day. The free 30-day challenge below has lots of activities you’ll both enjoy.
Providing poor structure
Poor structure refers to failing to set appropriate limits, to provide clear expectations, and to hold your child accountable for their behavior.
Children need to know what is expected of them, what is non-negotiable, and the consequences of not meeting those expectations.
Several studies have shown that kids perform better on the social, academic and psychological front when their parents are firm and receptive at the same time. In other words, being authoritative leads to better child outcomes. This means:
- Setting firm and reasonable rules and establishing appropriate consequences when those rules are broken.
- Being clear about what really matters and what is negotiable and non-negotiable to make it easier to set clear expectations
- Being sufficiently flexible to change the rules depending on the context
- Being consistent regarding your non-negotiables – behavior that is punished today and ignored tomorrow sends mixed signals to your child and prevents them from having a clear understanding of your expectations.
Remember that strategies such as democratic parenting can ensure that you parent in a way that supports your child’s development.