As parents, we try to do right by our kids. We want them to grow up to be smart and successful but, you know, in a balanced way. We want them to be confident but not cocky. We want them to be healthy but not vain over their physical abilities or appearances. Moral but not haughty, intelligent but not a smart aleck, yada yada, you get the picture.

So we parents try our best to raise our kids, but there are some things even the best parents do that turn out to be ultimately bad for our kids. Think you’re doing everything right? Think again. Here are five things that good parents do that end up messing up their kids.

  1. Telling Them They’re Smart. Did you know that 85 percent of American parents believe it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart? I fully admit to being in that majority. But as it turns out, labeling your child as smart may cause them to underperform. Instead, tell them that they worked hard. Psychologist Carol Dweck says, “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control ... they come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”
  2. Keeping Them Happy. Of course we want our kids to be happy in general, but that doesn’t mean they won’t go through bouts of disappointment or get an occasional case of the sads. It’s more important to let them know that feelings are just feelings -- it’s how we respond to them that matters.
  3. Rescuing Them. How else are kids supposed to learn that there are natural consequences for their actions (or lack thereof) if we parents are always coming in and rescuing them? So if they fail a class, don’t try to cajole the teacher into letting them do some easy extra credit; let them retake it. Nothing like a little summer school to motivate kids to apply themselves during the school year.
  4. Making Excuses. Similarly, we’d do our kids a great favor by not making excuses for them. If they didn’t write a thank-you note to your aunt for their birthday gift, it isn’t because they were too busy, it’s because they didn’t do it. Now if they did do it, and you forgot to put it in the mail, then that’s your mistake to own. Not that that has ever happened around here ...
  5. Putting Them First. Your little sweeties may be your precious darlings, but really, they’re just kids that will someday be grown up people. Let’s please stop with this entitlement attitude? No, your needs do not trump everyone else’s by virtue of your existence. Take a number.

Are you “guilty” of any of these parenting sins?


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