8 Parenting Mistakes to Stop Doing Today

No matter how conscientious we are as parents, we all make blunders from time to time – like giving consequences for something our child didn’t do. (Yup, got that T-shirt.)

We may feel awful about occasional slip-ups like this, but they are less serious than the mistakes we repeat consistently.

8 Parenting mistakes to stop doing

Here are some parenting mistakes you may be making without realising it:

1. Repeating instructions and making threats

Do your kids only obey once your voice raises a notch, your eyes narrow, and you use their full name? If so, you’re probably guilty of repeating instructions and making threats, hoping they’ll get the point and obey you.

They don’t.

Tolerating delayed obedience teaches delayed obedience to all authority. It also teaches kids to depend on their parents to remind them of their responsibilities instead of thinking for themselves.

You’ll know you’re in the habit of repeating instructions if you hear yourself saying,

  • “I’ve told you a thousand times…”
  • “How many times do I have to tell you…”
  • “I’m not going to tell you again…”

           And threats sound something like this:

  • “If you don’t do … you’ll be in big trouble…”
  • “Just wait ‘til Daddy gets home…”
  • “One…two…two and a half…two and three quarters…three! Wow, you juuuust made it!”

Instead of making threats, speak once and apply consequences if they don’t obey. This will teach your kids the law of cause and effect and save them a lot of heartache later in life.

2. Bribing for obedience

The difference between a bribe and a reward is that bribes are given to motivate behaviour that should be mandatory – like obedience or chores.

A bribe is an effort by someone without power (parent) to buy a favour from someone with power (child).

Bribing pretty much tells your kids that they are in charge and that you are at their mercy.

Examples of bribes:

“If you behave in the grocery store I’ll buy you a treat when we’re done.”

“If you stay in bed I’ll let you play on my iPad.”

Bribing buys compliance without reaching the will and heart of your child. Do it often enough and kids will grow up expecting payment for everything.  

3. Allowing excuses

When a parent allows a child to make excuses for their behaviour, they encourage the child to misbehave. A child whose excuses are routinely accepted develops a victim mentality and grows up to believe that nothing is ever their fault.

When we make excuses for our kids, or allow them to make excuses for their behaviour, we send a message that if a good enough reason can be found, they’ll avoid punishment.

This doesn’t mean that a parent shouldn’t find out why a child behaved the way they did. Once a child has accepted responsibility for their behaviour they should be allowed to explain themselves, “I’m sorry I got out of bed, Mommy, but my teddy fell out.”

4. Speaking harshly

We often do this because we are tired, haven’t done point no. 5, or don’t have our own feelings under control.

But, speaking harshly conditions children to respond only to harshness. They know that any command given any other way is not to be taken seriously.

Speaking harshly and roughly arouses an obstinate, stubborn spirit in a child, provoking resistance instead of encouraging obedience.

 You can retrain your children by telling them that from now on you will only speak once, (and calmly), and then give consequences for disobedience.

And then follow through or you’ll be making another common parenting mistake:

5. Not following through

Not doing what you say you will do, or ensuring that your kids do what you’ve asked them to do, sends a message to your kids that there is no need to take you seriously.

And they will push the boundaries to see how far they can go!

Teach your kids to trust you by always following through on requests and always doing what you say you will do – whether it be reading a promised story or giving a consequence.

Related: How to get your kids to listen in 3 easy steps

6. Minimising your child’s feelings

We often minimise our kid’s feelings by saying things like:

  • It’s not such a big deal
  • Don’t be so sad
  • At least he didn’t …
  • You still have xyz

Your child needs to know that it’s healthy to express and talk about their emotions.

When we don’t acknowledge the emotions, we teach our children to suppress them.

Rather say, “I know you’re angry right now. What happened wasn’t fair. What would make you feel better?”

There is an appropriate time for helping your child move on from negative emotions, but first empathise before you advise.

Related: How to teach kids to deal with strong emotions

7. Always rescuing them from trouble or failure

It’s hard to watch your kids struggle with challenges – especially when you know you could fix it easily.

But doing your child’s school project for them won’t help them learn accountability, perseverance, planning etc.

Don’t solve every problem for your child. Let them learn to fight life’s battles on their own while you stand by and support them.

8.  Expecting perfection

Remember, you are raising little humans, not robots. They will have bad days, make bad choices sometimes, and mess up really badly.

Expecting perfection can lead to a lot of stress and pressure for your child both now and later in life when they expect perfection of themselves.

Make sure your expectations are realistic (not too low and not too high). Stand by and encourage them. And help them get up when they fail.

We often make these parenting mistakes because we’re tired, couldn’t be bothered, or are preoccupied and not paying attention.  

Making mistakes is going to happen, but correcting mistakes takes being intentional.  

It takes courage to admit our faults and make changes in how we parent. Thankfully, kids are adaptable and very forgiving!

Read 20 Ways to Provoke Your Kids for more parenting mistakes you may be making without realising it.

Which of these common parenting mistakes do you make?  

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has three grown kids and is married to her best friend, Richard. She started this website as a platform to help families, and specifically women, to take control of their lives and grow themselves spiritually, mentally & emotionally, and to discover their God-given purpose and live it out with confidence. She is a trained Life Coach and has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). She is a certified SYMBIS (Save Your Marriage Before It Starts) facilitator. She lives in sunny South Africa.


  1. Tamarynn | 17th Jan 20

    Thank you for this post. It was an eye opener for me in that I’m guilty of making some of these mistakes. I tend to repeat my instructions before my kids obey. How do I get this to change without being harsh which is another mistake I tend to make. What should be the consequences if they dont obey the first time I have given an instruction? And how do I explain that to them without it sounding like a threat? Thanks so much for this post.

    • Jennifer Lovemore | 17th Jan 20

      Tammy thanks for your comment! Isn’t it just so easy to slip into these mistakes!?

      I think avoiding repeating instructions starts with recognising you do it and then having a plan. We get harsh when we don’t have a plan. The plan boils down to knowing what you want from your kids and then seeing that it happens. So – decide that you want your kids to listen the first time and then decide what you are going to do if they don’t. Back your authority up with some kind of consequence which will make the disobedience counterproductive. Experiment and find what works for your kids – extra chores, remove technology, cancel a play-date, etc. If you don’t follow through with a consequence your kids will learn that you don’t mean what you say and will see no need to obey.

      Explain your new system to your kids calmly, stating the consequences of future failure to listen to instructions. This is not a threat, just a statement of the way things are going to be from now on. Threats usually have an angry/frustrated undertone. A statement of intention doesn’t. 🙂 I found that the more I lowered my voice, the more my kids listened!

      One last point – make sure your kids have actually heard you when you give instructions. Sometimes they are preoccupied with play or technology and don’t register what you are saying. Get their attention and eye contact, then state your instruction and then get them to repeat it back to you. This may be more effort at first, but will save frustration later.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Tamarynn | 17th Jan 20

    Thank you so much for the guidance and advice Jenny. It helps alot. God bless you and Richard and the work you guys do.

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