Parenting is one of the most physically and emotionally demanding jobs in the world, as it entails more than just providing a child with a roof over his or her head and food in his or her stomach. You’re attempting to raise a child who is brave, independent, kind, hardworking, and compassionate, but while there are many things we get right when it comes to parenting, there are some that may cause more harm than good.
There is a fine line between wanting the best for your child and unknowingly leading them astray. Parents are frequently unaware of the mental harm they are causing their children, and it is common for them to declare that “everything is for the best,” when in reality, they are harming their children’s minds.
Dr. Malini Saba, Psychologist and Chairman of the ‘Anannke Foundation’, in an interview with Hindustan Times, outlined five ways in which you may be contributing to your child’s poor mental health and how you can prevent it:
1. Drawing parallels between your child and others – The comparison to other children is one of the most emotionally damaging bad parenting behaviors. It is the underlying cause of many mental disorders in children, including inferiority complexes, a strong belief that they will never be good enough, low confidence, low self-esteem, and a lack of self-love. Parents frequently compare their children’s career choices, marital status, religious beliefs, test scores, and so on. Parents must understand that each child’s mind and body are unique, and comparing your child to others will only cause psychological and emotional distress.
2. Ignoring your child’s emotional needs – Ignoring your child’s emotional needs is a form of abandonment in which a parent purposefully develops a number of personality flaws that later prove to be mentally and emotionally detrimental to their children. Abandonment and ignorance do not always involve physical absence; a child may feel unwanted and neglected as a result of minor gestures. When a child is hurt, even if it is minor, it is critical for parents to console, comfort, hug them if they are not feeling well, celebrate their small victories, stand up for them, and, most importantly, be there for their children when they need you. If you do not meet your child’s emotional needs, they will eventually seek help from other sources, which may or may not be better for them in the long run.
3. Using guilt to your advantage – In an attempt to induce feelings of remorse or shame, parents may unwittingly send their children on a guilt trip to get something done for them. To induce guilt, they occasionally use emotional blackmail. Phrases like “you go out and enjoy yourself, don’t worry about me” accuse them of “not helping out around the house,” “not thinking about what the parents might need,” or “I don’t take care of my health because I’m too busy caring for your needs.” They may appear to be considerate on the surface, but their actions are designed to elicit guilt. When a parent instills guilt in their children, the consequences can be disastrous and long-lasting, including a loss of self-confidence, difficulty believing they can do anything correctly, and the development of self-doubt and low self-esteem. A better way to handle that situation would be for the parent to have a healthy dialogue and explain their desires or expectations to their child without condemning or blaming them.
4. Expecting perfection – Children should be taught to aim for the stars, but this should be an option rather than a requirement. A child must constantly strive and work hard to achieve more and more in order to become a perfectionist and excel in everything. This vicious cycle never ends, leaving the child with a deep sense of dissatisfaction and failure. As a result, mental health issues like sadness, stress, and anxiety emerge. As a parent, you must accept that your child will not always be flawless, will not always get the highest grades, will not win awards, and will not thrive in every endeavor.
5. Overprotectiveness – Keeping your child in a safe bubble reduces anxiety, but shielding them from danger hinders their development. Consider yourself a guide rather than a guardian. Allow your children to experience life, even if it is difficult to let go. You will give them the opportunity to gain confidence in their ability to deal with whatever life throws at them.
Dr. Malvika Samnani, Occupational Therapy, Sensory Integration, and Speech Clarity expert and founder of Feeding Clinic, discussed five parenting blunders to avoid:
1. Assuming that children will always agree on everything – Some children are raised by parents who do not allow them to express divergent thoughts or opinions and may label them as stubborn, rebellious, ignorant, or worse if they do. Typically, these parents will not tolerate their children’s questions, as even a simple inquiry implies that the child does not believe what the parent believes they “should” believe. Parents who are religiously toxic may refer to their children as “possessed.” Other dysfunctional parents may continue to label their children as “crazy.” This is poor parenting because it prevents the child from thinking for himself or herself. When children have a negative self-image, they are more likely to keep things bottled up and not say anything in the future, making their childhood tense.
2. Comfort comes first – Like failure, children must experience “uncomfortable” situations in order to develop mental strength. Trying new things will undoubtedly make children feel uneasy, but it is the first step in learning that may lead to them discovering a new food they enjoy, making new friends, excelling at a new sport, and so on. Give them a gentle push and assure them that you will support them.
3. Aspiring to realize unfulfilled dreams – Your child may have more opportunities and better facilities than you, but that doesn’t mean you should force them to do what you couldn’t. Every child is unique, and your child, like you, may have distinct preferences. As a result, raising children to love what you love deprives them of the opportunity to pursue their own interests. This could have a significant impact on their mental health.
4. Not taking care of yourself – As a parent ages, it becomes easier to maintain good habits, such as eating well, exercising regularly, and taking time to rest. As a result, it is critical to model self-care behaviors for your children. It is also critical to model positive coping strategies for your children. Consider telling your child, “I’ve had a long day at work and I’m going to relax with a cup of tea and a good book,” and so on.
5. Forcing children to conform to socially established rules and standards – Many children have their own ways of expressing themselves, and some are considered ‘different’ by society. Now, “different” does not imply “wrong,” but they are not acceptable according to the rules and norms established by society. For example, if a boy wants to learn to cook, which is traditionally a girl’s interest and hobby, he may be singled out for it, which is not ideal. As a result, as parents, you must never force your child to limit their personality, but rather assist them in developing it.
Most parents commit the aforementioned parenting blunders, which are frequently misinterpreted as harmless. Parents and society may not be sufficiently educated on children’s mental health to distinguish between bad and good parenting habits.