Not all parenting advice or beliefs are all that helpful! See if you’re following these 5 parenting myths — and what you can do to avoid them.
Have you ever said or thought these comments?
“I can’t seem to control his temper tantrums.”
“I just want my kids to be happy.”
“You’re such a good boy!”
What if I told you they’re misguided? That it’s parenting myths like these—so ingrained in society—that can lead to trouble for you and your child?
If you have, you’re not alone. I, like many parents, believed certain truths about being a mom or dad. I thought I was doing what was right, and didn’t think anything wrong of it.
Except many of these beliefs began to not sit well with me, and made my interactions with my kids worse, not better. Yep, even calling my son a “good boy.”
As I read and researched more on how to raise my kids, I learned that most parenting advice—from family or even those commonly held—are flat out myths. We’ve been saying and thinking and following these thoughts and beliefs for ages, without realizing they may not be the most effective.
5 parenting myths to avoid
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Thankfully, parenting experts like Dr. Shefali Tsabary have been shedding light and demystifying these myths.
I was a fan of her first book, The Conscious Parent, and eagerly dug into her newest book, The Awakened Family. In this book, she has a whole section on common parenting myths that many of us believe (or at one point did).
Take a look at a few of the parenting myths I could relate to, and see if you’re guilty of them as well:
1. Parenting is about fixing your child
For the longest time, I thought parenting was all about molding our kids to behave in appropriate ways. That the responsibility fell on them to learn “our” ways. That eliminating many of our struggles relies on kids changing their behavior.
And for good reason: we want our kids to be able to manage their emotions and not throw a tantrum each time they don’t get their way. To learn that they can’t always keep playing with their toys when it’s time to go to school.
But then I learned that parenting is actually about, well… the parent.
In many cases, our kids behave in response to something we can change and control about ourselves.
Take, for example, getting to school on time. I struggled with mornings because I needed to get them out the door in time for school. For the longest time, I focused on the kids. I enforced consequences and set up habits to get them to come to the door when I said it’s time to leave.
As you can imagine, this can be frustrating. After all, we can’t control our kids, no matter how much we think we can. Yes, we can guide, enforce consequences, and even physically drag them to the door, but that’s the extent of our control.
But we can control is ourselves.
I realized that by making simple changes with me and the factors in our lifestyle, I can make getting out the door much easier on everyone. But it had to start with how I can change myself, not my kids.
I began to wake up early so I can get ready for breakfast. Doing this made everything feel less hectic once the kids were awake. I also made sure they had enough time in the morning for a little bit of play, so that they felt less rushed through the morning.
Most importantly, I worked on my own responses, including harnessing my patience rather than trying to get them to do what I said. Not only have our mornings become less hectic, but my kids behave with genuine kindness and respect, instead of from fear or coercion.
2. Parenting is about making sure kids excel
I won’t lie: I want my kids to do well and succeed in life. I nurture their love to learn and help them see mistakes as opportunities. And I do all this in the hopes they’ll grow into well-adjusted, self-sufficient adults.
But I’ve also come to learn that parenting isn’t just about making sure kids get good grades and stand out from the crowd.
You see, we focus so much on helping kids “reach their potential” that we forget what “potential” even means. We use the word potential as if our kids need to reach for something they don’t yet have. But really, potential is nurturing the power—the potency—they already have.
If we constantly look to the future for what could be, we forget the amazing qualities our kids already have to begin with. We send the message that they’re still lacking in some ways.
As Tsabary says in her book, The Awakened Family:
“Who the child actually is currently is negated as inconsequential in comparison with who the child will be in an imagined future that the parents regard as all-important.”
This isn’t to say that kids are born perfect or that they shouldn’t practice and try. No one is born knowing everything or being the best just yet.
But we can focus more on what our kids are already passionate about instead of forcing onto them our own ideas of success. We need to love them for exactly who they are, even if they’re “ordinary” by society’s standards.
Your child needs to know you love her regardless, even if she isn’t the top of her class.
3. Parenting is about raising “good kids”
We’ve equated “good” with self-control, obedience, good grades, and the ability to pay attention. “Easy” kids are those who sleep through the night, are more willing to try new experiences, and don’t put up a fuss.
Basically, all the traits that allow kids to fit into our lives easily.
The problem with trying to raise “good” kids is that we label any other time they’re not good as “bad.” We focus too much on getting kids to behave how we want them to, instead of analyzing why we’re so bothered and angered by their behavior.
For instance, my son is learning how to ride a bicycle. For the most part, the desire to learn has overridden the inevitable falls and challenges that come with learning something new. But at one point, he had fallen—hard. So much so that he threw a fit right in the park, in front of everyone to see.
Immediately I thought, Why does he ALWAYS behave this way? Why can’t he get back up again without a fuss? I had been pointing the finger at my son instead of looking within at why I was so upset. Because when I did, I realized a few things:
One, that I get embarrassed when my kids act out in public because of how people might see me. And two, my thoughts were in response to an irrational fear that he wouldn’t learn how to use a bicycle. I worried about whether he had the desire to keep learning if he was throwing a fit like this.
When I saw that my responses were rooted in fear and the “what if” of the unknown future, I knew I needed to change, not him.
4. Parenting is about raising a happy child
Ask any parent what they most want for their kids, and you’ll likely hear a large number say happiness:
“I just want my kids to be happy.”
And yes, I do want my kids to feel joy and happiness, and hopefully for many moments of their lives. But the problem with always making kids happy is that it assumes happiness is something kids need to seek, find, and acquire. That something in the present is lacking.
I’ve been guilty of this a few times. Seeing my kids struggle and feel difficult emotions like disappointment and sadness is hard for me to do. I just want to swoop in, brush aside the mess, and fix everything for them.
But I’ve since learned that parenting isn’t about making our kids happy—far from it.
In fact, we shouldn’t shield them from life’s ups and downs, and instead teach them how to ride these waves. That way, once they’re adults, not only will they be equipped with knowing what to do, they won’t try to hide from these difficulties, either.
It turns out kids already come equipped with the ability to experience all of life’s emotions, both good and bad.
You’ll often see a child who’ll cry her eyes out during a tantrum, and then when it’s done, she’s ready to feel peaceful and happy again. We adults might get frustrated with a heavy downpour or being stuck in traffic, while our kids seize the opportunity to splash in the rain or play waiting games in the car.
Happiness isn’t the ultimate goal—helping our kids manage through all of their emotions is.
5. Parenting is about controlling kids
Think about what you consider a “good” parenting day. Usually it’s when the kids get along, they listen to what you say, and they don’t question your routine. “Bad” parenting days are usually the opposite: The kids challenge us and—deep down—take away our sense of control.
The whining, the tantrums, testing our patience… we get so angry and frustrated with our children’s behavior because we want to be in control.
So, what’s with control? Why do we want so much of it?
For one thing, we feel like we need to be in control to steer our kids toward the right direction. We don’t want them to make poor choices or counter the values we’ve been teaching.
And a second reason is that we see kids as a product of parenting. That somehow, if we just do x, y and z, we can shape our kids to fit the mold we envision for them.
The trouble is, we can’t control kids—we can’t control anyone else but ourselves. We can influence and guide, but we also need to respect that they are unique individuals.
How do we then help our kids make good choices?
By letting go and giving them the autonomy and guidance to practice and learn.
By solidifying the type of relationship where they’ll want to respect us, not because we force them to.
And if they don’t—if they develop their own interests or go down a different path—then by continuing to love them, no matter what.
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We want the best for our kids and to encourage their full potential. We’d love for our days to run smoothly and to avoid tantrums as much as possible.
Unfortunately, many of our parenting beliefs stem from our fear and desire for control. We focus too much on fixing children when we should be looking more at ourselves and our relationships with them.
By understanding these parenting myths, we can change our mindsets to accept our kids—including their messy sides. So we can celebrate them for who they are, and not who we wish them to be.
Maybe then, we can stop measuring our kids’ worth depending on how well they conform to our lives. We can provide them with just as much support when they’re going through challenging days as when they’re happy.
We won’t try to control their tantrums and instead teach them how to best cope with their emotions. And we can take a cue from our kids and realize that happiness isn’t sought—it’s right here in the moment.
Get more tips:
- The Awakened Family by Dr. Shefali Tsabary
- Mom Guilt: 7 Reasons We Shouldn’t Blame Ourselves for Everything
- How to Be a Better Mom with Authoritative Parenting
- 8 Warning Signs You Need to Be a More Patient Mom
- 4 Myths About Parenting No One Wants to Talk About
Tell me in the comments: Which of these parenting myths ring most true to you?