Parenting SOS
5 critical mistakes you can’t afford to make

Early in life, it is essential to understand the core mistakes that are difficult to correct 10 years later. If we consistently make these errors, it is challenging to change the trajectory of your child’s behavior in their teenage years. Below are five core mistakes that you can’t afford to make, if you seek happiness, success and responsibility from your children.

1.Trying to gain control of your home…when you haven’t gained control of your own behavior and emotions.
This is most readily seen by constant nagging and prodding (which doesn’t work), which then leads to mom or dad losing their cool. You end up yelling and screaming at the kids just to get them to listen.
Bottom line:  If you lose your cool when you don’t get what you want (from your child) expect your children to learn to do the same thing. So, when they don’t get what they want, they will yell and scream.  

2.Thinking that protecting kids is preparing kids…it’s not!
We learn about the rule of reality through the experience of reality.  If we think we can somehow avoid having our children experience any pain, we create a remarkably unrealistic view of life.  Of course, we do our job to keep them safe and help them make good decisions.  But overprotecting children disables them.   They are unable to learn about reality, and the relationship between choice and consequence.  In order to mature in a healthy manner, you children MUST experience the consequences of their choices.  
Another important component of this involves their self-esteem.  When you constantly protect, your unspoken message powerfully communicates the fact that, “Sweetheart, you can NOT handle life.  You are not ready.”  When this adds up over the years, the consequence is disasterous.  

3.Being soft on limits, and then letting kids negotiate.
Probably one of the biggest problems I consistently experience is the inevitable ugliness that flows from parents who are soft on limits that should never be negotiated.  Soft limits create a changing environment, influenced by activities that get prioritized over routine, or by children who learn to manipulate mom or dad through clever negotiation.  

Either way, it most often leads to problems. Soft limits promote anxiety and dysfunction.  On the other hand, almost every bit of common sense, as well as the clinical literature, point to one conclusion:  Kids need structure and parents to establish and HOLD clear limits.

4.Thinking your words teach critical lessons when they don’t
I find parents often believe that repeated lengthy discussions and frequent explanations are effective ways of teaching critical life lessons. Don’t get me wrong; these moments can be important, and the direction can be useful.  But for turning around negative patterns or changing habits, these talks are relatively useless.  If they were of serious influence, my job would be easy!  In fact, I would be out of a career, as explanations would get everyone back on track.  

Instead, we need to commit to a discipline plan, which is simple and direct.  Use ample words to explain math, science or talking about the joys and wonders of life.  But be realistic about the limited impact of another lecture or discussion when you want to turn around a negative behavior.

5. Investing energy into what you don’t want and expecting it to go away.
You can’t consistently and repeatedly invest your attention and energy into what you don’t want and expect it to go away.  It doesn’t work that way.  Think of your attention as an invitation.  Every time you engage a behavior or emotion it’s like an invitation from the universe saying, “I want more.”

If you repeatedly invest in the whining, disrespect, complaining and negativity, please don’t expect it to change.  Almost any message you have repeated more than 10 times over a year (while speaking to a negative moment), is likely building and strengthening the negative pattern.  It will not get better. It will only get worse.  

Next month, I will offer a simple, three-step formula to begin the process of correcting these mistakes or visit for more help.  

Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit


Comments are closed.