We all have bad parenting habits we need to break. See if you can relate to these habits that are easy to fall into—and how to avoid them.
“Gotta stop doing that.”
I’ve said this so many times to myself. I know what I “should” be doing as a parent, but I sometimes keep repeating the same bad parenting habits I mean to break.
You know they’re pretty bad not so much because its consequences are dire, but because you keep telling yourself over and over not to do them anymore. It doesn’t help when your fellow moms and peers seem to avoid these frustrations with no problem.
And while these aren’t signs of bad parenting, they’re still annoyingly persistent, despite your best intentions.
Bad parenting habits we need to break
For you, maybe it’s all those times you relented and allowed your toddler that extra piece of candy. Or when you hopped on the computer or phone when you should’ve been playing with him.
Even in adulthood, we all have our guilty moments when we realize we’re doing exactly what we told ourselves not to do.
If you can relate, you’re not alone. Rest assured you’re still a fantastic mom, regardless of the bad parenting habits you tell yourself you’ll stop once and for all. And don’t get too down on yourself—we’re all trying to be a better parent to our kids.
Below are some of the bad parenting habits many of us have been guilty of, and the encouragement you need to break them:
1. Not preparing the night before
Do you leave tasks to the morning when you could’ve prepared them the night before? If you’re like me, you only have an hour to spare between when the kids wake up to when we need to get out the door for school. Preparing the night before is a lifesaver.
That might mean packing your lunch and pump parts, and picking the clothes you’ll wear to work. These will be much easier to handle the night before, instead of in the morning when you’re half-awake.
Perhaps it’s as simple as a mental note, telling yourself what to prepare for breakfast or pack for the kids’ lunches. You don’t even have to do these things so much as at least have it in mind.
Because yes, we’re tired at night after a long day and want to cave in to procrastination. But we’ll be even more tired (and groggy) the next day.
Do as much as you can the night before when you’re alert. Come morning, you’ll have fewer tasks to do (especially if you’re trying to get out of the house by a certain time). And for those times when you still procrastinate, at least make a mental note of what you need to pack.
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2. Not really listening to the kids
“Oh, wow…” “Uh-huh…” and “That’s so cool…” are some of the should-be-said-more-enigmatically phrases I tell my kids. The thing is, sometimes I’m not paying attention to what they’re telling or showing me.
*Cue the guilt trip*
I always a “good” excuse for these negative behaviors, of course. I was cooking, tending to another child, cleaning up toys. Or maybe their topic of conversation made little sense to me (“The ocean water is this thick,” they might say. Huh?). And why do they keep interrupting right when we have the least patience?
Now I’ve learned that, no matter how busy we get or the bad days we experience, it’s more effective to stop what we’re doing, look them in the eye, and listen to what they’re saying.
For one thing, they feel acknowledged and know we’re present (which means they won’t tell us the same thing again a few minutes later). And of course, listening is simply more respectful—we’d hate for someone to say “uh-huh” absentmindedly to us, so we shouldn’t do the same to our kids.
3. (Over) reacting
Let’s just say I had a tendency of freaking out over every little thing.
I reacted when I saw my eldest plop down on his brother’s legs, as if it was the worst thing he could’ve done based on my reaction. Had I kept my mouth shut, he wouldn’t have been in tears and assumed he had committed the most horrible thing ever.
Reacting, after all, is a dis-empowering way to view your circumstances. We’re letting what happens around us determine how we’ll feel, instead of being more purposeful and mindful of what’s happening. It’s easy to let the negatives outshine the choices we have.
It can be hard to manage our reactions and perspectives, of course, so it’s a constant work in progress for me. Yes, I might still shoot out of my chair and run for a rag when my kids spill a cup of water, but hopefully I’ll do so without yelling and making a big deal.
4. Making requests instead of statements
Do you find yourself asking requests, like “We’re going to the grocery, okay?” or “Want to do your homework now?” Complete with the rising inflection at the end of the sentence, of course.
The thing is, we need to be careful about the questions we ask our kids because sometimes, they’re not questions at all. Going to the grocery and doing homework can be non-negotiable situations that they actually don’t have an option about.
I suppose these “question type” comments is really us saying, “We’re going to the grocery. Do you understand?” But phrasing the necessary as a question invites their opinions when they don’t count. You can see why they tend to throw a temper tantrum in these cases.
Now I’m learning to simply state the task as a fact: “We’re going the grocery,” or “It’s time to take a bath now.” I then save questions for when I can honor their answers and actually accept input, like asking which shirt they want to wear or book to read.
5. Waking up at the same time as the kids
Yes, I consider the privilege of sleeping in a bad habit, but only because I hate when I’m fumbling about in the morning while the kids need my help. I end up handing them bananas while we make our way around the kitchen, hoping this buys us some time.
Because there’s nothing worse than your kids needing you for just about everything, all while you’re still half awake and in no mood to show affection.
Now I know better. On school days especially, I schedule at least an hour for me to wake up before the kids. During that hour, I’ll wake myself up, do a bit of work, and make breakfast. An hour too long? Even ten minutes to wake up can take away the anxiety of a rushed morning.
Another positive change that can help? Giving the kids more independence, from using the bathroom on their own to pouring their cups of water. The more self-sufficient they can be—especially in childhood—the less they’ll need you to do everything for them.
Perfection is not the goal, of course. We won’t ever have a string of perfect achievements, and that’s okay. But we can always look at our bad habits as guidance on what to change moving forward.
Those tactics could include preparing the night before or truly listening to your kids while they share a story. It’s keeping your emotions in check instead of overreacting about every little thing, or phrasing instructions as statements, not questions.
And it might even be as simple as waking up earlier as them, so you’re not groggy and dysfunctional first thing in the morning.
We do our best and hope the good habits outweigh the bad in the long term. After all, a late wake-up time or a forgotten lunch has never caused anyone harm.
Get more parenting tips:
- Small Habits to Improve Your Parenting
- 7 Positive Parenting Skills All Moms Need to Have
- What to Do When You Feel Like You’re Failing as a Parent
- Time Management for Moms: Tips You Can Actually Apply
- Top 5 Parenting Myths: Are You Making These Mistakes?
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