Seven Key Parenting Pitfalls: Traps to Avoid

This article discusses seven of the most serious obstacles to improving your child's behavior.

In this article, you will find:

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Seven Key Parenting Pitfalls: Traps to Avoid

  1. Having unrealistic expectations
  2. Relying on punishment alone
  3. Sermonizing and dramatizing
  4. Punishing without warning
  5. Extending punishment too long
  6. Failing to give clear directions
  7. Establishing too many rules
Pitfall 1: Having Unrealistic Expectations
Sharon: Not only must you have reasonable expectations for the rate of change, you need to have realistic expectations for what your child can achieve. You must see your child as he is--not as who you thought he was or who he ought to be. If he has a developmental disorder, it's unreasonable to expect him "to act his age" without training. Similarly, most children with ADHD are easily distracted by anything that crosses their radar screen at the moment. Therefore, when you send him upstairs to put his shoes on, he may never come back. The fact that his younger sister returns promptly should not be your measure of whether your child with ADHD can realistically be expected to do so. Nagging, yelling, and lecturing won't increase his ability to successfully complete the task. You are increasing his stress level and raising your own blood pressure.

Unrealistic expectations frustrate parents and defeat their children. Knowing what your child is reasonably capable of achieving makes it easier to recognize incremental progress. Based on past performance, what would constitute improvement? Using this measure assures that your expectations are reasonable. Stepping back and focusing on what your child is actually doing (not what you wish he'd be doing) will help you recognize progress when it occurs.

Pointer for Effective Parenting
Knowing your child for who he is, not who he ought to be or who you thought he was, enables you to better recognize progress when it occurs.

Pitfall 2: Relying on Punishment Alone to Change Behavior
Sharon: The children who most challenge us are usually those who have been punished the most. Although this approach comes naturally to parents, it does not result in effective behavioral change. Punishment doesn't change behavior because it does not teach your child a better way to behave.

Despite the fact that it hasn't worked, parents keep right on punishing their kids "to make them behave." They punish and punish until "there is nothing left to take away." These children descend into a cycle of misbehavior that results in their digging a hole from which they cannot emerge. To break this cycle, you need to help your child climb out of that hole by looking for positive behavior and rewarding it as soon as you see it.

Pointer for Effective Parenting
Punishment alone doesn't change behavior because it does not teach your child a better way to behave.

  • From Chaos to Calm
    From Chaos to Calm
    From From Chaos to Calm: Effective Parenting of Challenging Children with ADHD and Other Behavioral Problems by Janet E. Heininger and Sharon K. Weiss. Copyright © 2001. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

    If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.