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5 Parenting Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

April 18, 2024

Parenting is perhaps one of the most challenging yet rewarding journeys in life. From the moment a child is born, parents are entrusted with the responsibility of nurturing and guiding them into adulthood. However, amidst the countless parenting advice and societal expectations, many parents often find themselves overwhelmed and unsure of the best approach. 

And with the countless parenting styles you may be seeing in other parents, it’s easy to become confused about which styles are actually best for your child’s well-being– especially when it comes to the child’s cognitive and behavioral well-being. 

Here are five common mistakes parents tend to make when teaching good behavior to their children:

  1. Using Punishment Instead of Discipline

Many parents resort to punishment, such as yelling, shaming, spanking, or criticizing, as their go-to method for correcting misbehavior. However, punishment only trains your child to obey out of fear– which will have damaging effects on their long-term mental and behavioral health. If you are threatening to bring negativity to a child’s life if they fail to be on their best behavior, the child will only be motivated to put on good behavior to avoid negative consequences, and not because they personally care about good behavior. 

Furthermore, if your children are obeying you just to avoid negative backlash from you, they will perceive you as barriers to their freedom rather than wise leaders in their lives. The moment they grow up and are no longer restricted by your rules, they may become rebellious or resentful with you. 

This is why it’s important to use discipline, rather than punishment. While punishment instills fear-driven behavior, discipline instills authentically-driven behavior. Discipline involves cultivating an orderly but nurturing environment, providing explanations for rules. Rather than reacting to problematic behavior with threats or backlash, disciplining involves gently teaching the child why they shouldn’t engage in the misbehavior, using patience and encouragement toward alternative behaviors. The result is that children develop a personal motivation for good behavior. Instead of obeying and behaving to avoid negative consequences, they will develop an authentic willingness to adopt better behavior on their own, learning from their mistakes and setting their own goals to make better choices in the future. 

2. Ignoring Positive Behavior and Overemphasizing Negatives:

  • It's natural for parents to address misbehavior promptly, but it's equally important to acknowledge and reinforce positive behavior. Unfortunately, many parents may inadvertently overlook or take for granted instances of good behavior while focusing disproportionately on negative behaviors. 
  • This imbalance can lead children to become fearful about negative behavior, which can lead to resentfulness or rebellion as explained above. 
  • However, overemphasis on negative behavior may also lead the child to seek attention through negative actions. To address this, parents should actively praise and reinforce positive behaviors as they occur, thereby encouraging their repetition and strengthening the child's self-esteem.

3. Reacting Emotionally Instead of Responding Calmly:

  • Parental emotions play a significant role in shaping children's behavior and emotional development. Parents who struggle with managing their own emotions may unintentionally model unhealthy coping mechanisms or overreact to minor incidents, contributing to a negative family dynamic. When a child misbehaves or fails to fulfill parental expectations, reacting impulsively or emotionally can escalate conflicts and hinder effective communication. Parents who struggle to regulate their own emotions will easily resort to punishment, which further hinders effective communication about good behavior. 
  • Instead, parents should strive to respond to misbehavior calmly and thoughtfully, focusing on disciplining through problem-solving and teaching alternatives. Positive reinforcement of alternative behaviors will help a child regulate their emotions and choose to behave on their own.  
  • For parents of older children or teens: if there are conflicts between a parent’s expectations and a child’s desires, do not give the child an “I am your parent, I know what’s best for you” response. Instead, allow the child to voice their perspectives and explain why they desire something that goes against your expectations. The goal is not to force the child into obedience– the goal is to allow the child to develop the cognitive abilities to make good choices on their own, in addition to the cognitive abilities to regulate their own emotions and desires. 
  • Be open and honest with yourself about how well you can regulate your own emotions, so that you can be prepared to respond gently and wisely when helping your child regulate their own emotions and behavior. 

4. Neglecting to Teach Empathy and Perspective-Taking:

  • Empathy is a crucial skill for navigating social interactions and forming meaningful relationships. Unfortunately, some parents may overlook the importance of teaching empathy and perspective-taking, focusing solely on obedience and compliance. And oftentimes, parents make this mistake because they, themselves, struggle with empathy and perspective-taking.
  • Be mindful of where you may stand when it comes to empathy and open-mindedness. Learn how to cultivate empathy with the people in your life, then teach your child to develop this important skill through modeling, discussions, and perspective-taking exercises. Parents should actively teach children to consider others' feelings and perspectives, fostering compassion, understanding, and respect for others.

5. Dismissing the Value of the Child’s Individuality:

  • One of the fundamental principles of healthy parenting is recognizing and celebrating the uniqueness of each child. Every child is born with their own set of talents, interests, and personality traits. 
  • However, as mentioned earlier, there may be moments when your child may desire making a decision that may not align with your expectations. If there is a conflict between what you want from your child and what your child actually desires, do not dismiss the child’s desires and claim that they should listen to you just because you are the parent. As the parent, you are there to guide the child to make good decisions, not command the child to be blind followers of rules. Therefore, when a child wants to pursue something that you are not in favor of, allow the child to voice their perspectives and explain how they decided they wanted to make their decision. To reiterate and emphasize: the goal is not to force the child into obedience– the goal is to allow the child to develop the cognitive abilities to make good choices on their own. 
  • By allowing the child to voice their opinions and guiding them to explain their thought process, they will be engaging in mindful reflection and healthy communication about their desires, enhancing their cognitive and behavioral development and growing in their capacity to make good decisions.  
  • And as parents, it's crucial to foster an environment where children feel free to express themselves authentically without fear of judgment or criticism. Encourage their interests, whether they align with your own passions or not, and provide opportunities for them to explore and develop their talents.


Healthy parenting goes beyond providing for a child's physical needs; it encompasses nurturing their emotional, social, and intellectual development in a supportive and nurturing environment. 

And teaching good behavior involves more than just enforcing rules and consequences; it requires positive reinforcement, effective discipline, practicing emotional regulation, and cultivating an environment that supports a child’s freedom to make good decisions on their own. By avoiding these common mistakes and adopting a proactive and compassionate approach to parenting, parents can foster a nurturing environment where children learn, grow, and thrive.    

My Virtual Physician is now offering pediatric behavioral health services. If you are concerned about your child's mental health needs, please book appointment with our pediatric cognitive-behavioral coach, Dr. Dalson: BOOK HERE 

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