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Revealed: The seven biggest mistakes parents make

Published:Monday | April 5, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Parenting expert Tola Onigbanjo reveals what youngsters think are the most common errors Mum and Dad make trying to raise them.

Over the years, I have investigated the craft of parenting not just by looking at how parents do their job, but by constantly asking many different youngsters where do their parents go wrong? It's amazing how much insight young children and older teens can give on the subject. I've broken this information down into the seven most common claims that kids make about where their parents are going wrong.

PARENTS DON'T UNDERSTAND US

As parents, we spend the first seven to eight years of our children's lives telling them what to do, when they can go out, what they can wear, and so on. As they continue to grow, we stay in that same mode of telling. Before we realise it, they have started to have opinions of their own and have become inquisitive. They now begin to question what we say and we don't like it. Instead of answering their questions, we tell them they can't have or do something without any explanation and expect them to be content with that. If we do not allow them to ask questions, and we in turn answer them, we will not understand them. Remember, one question leads to another and eventually gets to the real question they wanted to ask you.

PARENTS DON'T SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH US

Being at home (whether as a stay-at-home parent or as a parent that gets in from work and is there for most of the evening) does not qualify us as parents who spend quality time with our children.

Sitting down in front of the television hooked on the soaps, or spending hours of your time using up your free minutes talking to friends will eat into the time that you can be giving to your children. The simple things such as helping with their homework or reading with them are priceless. Showing interest in the things that they enjoy, finding out what goes on at school or in college, sitting down to have meals together, as simple as they may seem, are memorable occasions for a child.

You can't place a higher quality on such things. It's not the length of time that you spend with a child, it's how you use and what you do in that time that will determine whether or not it is quality time spent.

PARENTS DON'T TEACH US VALUES, THEY TEACH OPINIONS

How many times have we taken the opinions of friends and family members as gospel in our homes? Children need to know what your values are. It's not enough for them to find themselves in a situation and then to be wondering 'Well Mum/Dad did say that Mr or Mrs John Doe said they don't mind their children having body piercings'. That's Mr or Mrs John Doe. They want to know what you would say.

THEY DO NOT GIVE US BOUNDARIES

A lot of the time, as parents, we just assume that our children think like us. We expect them to know what to do most of the times and the moment they do something wrong, we come down on them hard. We fail to set boundaries, then we get angry when they fail. Children need boundaries not just for curfews, but for most things that pertain to them. When we set boundaries, we help them to become more disciplined as they now begin to set boundaries for themselves.

THEY EXPOSE US TO TOO MUCH

How many of us argue with our partners in front of our children? How many of us sit down with our children watching programmes or films that are for adults? How many of us have conversations on the phone that our children should not be listening to? How many of us do things, thinking that our children are too young to understand? The problem is that we expose our children to too many things before their time and when they start to act out certain behaviours, we get upset and angry. It's up to us to guard our children from certain things such as song lyrics that are derogatory, or films and soaps that are not for their age.

THEY DON'T GIVE US ENOUGH PRAISE

Now I'm not saying that we should raise our children to be praise junkies, but I recently did a radio interview and my guest pointed out something that I found to be so true. He said parents, when their child does something good, spend all but two minutes giving them praise for it; but when they do something bad, they spend the next two months telling them about it. Why are we letting the negative outweigh the good that our children do? If the only way they can get your attention for a long period is by doing something bad, then they will continue as they know it's the one way that they can get more of you. Praise them more for the good they do and they will make it a habit to keep on doing good.

THEY ALWAYS COMPARE US WITH OTHERS

I am sure many of us as parents are guilty of this. We fail to realise that no two children are the same, and we spend a lot of their lives comparing them to their siblings or our friends' children. "Why can't you just be like your brother/sister?" we ask them. "Harry is going to university this year, why can't you go too?" Instead of taking time to understand our children, we try and mould them into being someone else. Even as adults, we do not like to be compared, so why do we then do it with our children? Allow your children to be the unique individuals that they are. They already have their own identity so don't try and give them someone else's.

Tola Onigbanjo is a family and parenting mentor. She is also a speaker and trainer on parenting and youth issues. She hosts a weekly parenting show 'Wise Words with Wise Tola' on Tuesdays on www.playvybz.com from 4-6pm and is also the founder of www.parentingdomain.com, and www.stepstogether.com. To contact Tola email: tola@stepstogether.com.: