Expert Advice

Five common parenting mistakes and how to avoid making them

It’s important that you don’t treat your children like your mini-me – even if they look like you.

By: Donna Fleming

Bringing up children is one of the toughest jobs you'll ever do – and there's a lot of pressure to get it right.

Even with the best intentions, mistakes are likely. Here's a guide to some of the common slip-ups we make when it comes to raising our kids, plus tips on ways to avoid them.

Having unrealistic expectations

Setting the bar too high can have a long-term impact on your kids. Deciding they should excel at sport or at school work, for example, without taking their abilities into consideration, can put a lot of pressure on them, leading to stress.

By all means encourage them to do their best and help where you can, but don't set unrealistic goals. It's not the end of the world if your son is not top of the class or your daughter doesn't make the Silver Ferns, but they may end up with huge self-esteem issues if they feel like they're not good enough.

Comparing them with their siblings or other kids

Nobody likes having their failings pointed out to them, but sometimes it's necessary to do it – in a sensitive and constructive way – to help your children do better next time. However, it is not at all helpful if you compare them with someone else.

Messages like, "You're so messy – why can't you keep your room tidy like your sister?" or, "Jack next door has made the school athletics team again – why don't you train harder, like he does?" not only makes them feel like they are being put down, but can lead to them resenting the person they're being compared to.

Treating your kid like your mini-me

Sometimes we can forget our children are individuals in their own right, with their own likes and dislikes, skills and talents.

It can come as a surprise to find that they are not cut from the same cloth. For example, if you are a really good swimmer and your child is terrified of the water, that can be tricky to come to terms with.

Accept their differences and let them be true to themselves.

Being a bad role model

Children learn by observing those around them and as their parents, you're usually the biggest influences in their life – at least until they become teenagers and their peers become more important.

Being a good role model is a case of "do as I do, not as I say". It's all very well telling your kids it's important to be polite, for example, but if they witness you frequently badmouthing others and being rude, they are going to get the wrong message and see that kind of behaviour as acceptable.

Teach them good behaviour by modelling it yourself.

Being overprotective

As a parent, the need to keep your children safe is a natural instinct. And, really, keeping them out of harm's way is part of your role, especially when they are young.

But as they get older, you need to give them more freedom and let them decide when to take risks. Working out if they are ready to do this can be tricky, but if you don't allow them to be independent, they will struggle to do things for themselves.