How to Avoid

7 Disabling Parenting Mistakes

I do not presume to know all there is to know about parenting.

But I have been financing, feeding, nursing, housing, teaching, organizing, celebrating and fiercely loving seven children for more than 35 years. My mistakes would fill volumes.

What works boils down to a few things.

I believe that the reason we all do anything is to feel good or to avoid feeling badly. By avoiding these seven mistakes, I am confident you will feel better about your parenting.

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Mistake # 1: Not having a plan.

Will our little ones ever make it on their own?

Wouldn’t it be nice if our kids came with owner’s manuals: a road map with details about how to create a healthy, wealthy, wise child. Specific instructions about exactly how to create self-reliant humans. A book of wisdom, chock full of life-changing knowledge passed down from generation to generation and timeless.

Where do you find truth like this? The answer is inside you.

If that’s the case, you say, then why don’t I know what I’m doing?

Start by articulating your aspirations for your life and your children. Write them down in the notes app on your phone. It’s the best place to start. Your phone is always with you, right?

Make certain your dreams encompass your whole life (no dropping balls) and are:

  • Aligned with your intentions
  • Focused on what matters to you
  • Driven with compassion and love.

Create your actions off your dreams. Nothing else will work as well.

More on starting your GPS for Life here.

Mistake # 2: Not teaching your children to plan their life.

But my child struggles with ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, Dyslexia…

So do mine. Just remember, they all have dreams. Build on those. What do they want?

Start with the first thing. Help them get it. (Don’t get it for them.)

Be their coach. Teach them how to create a vision and make a solid commitment to a daily plan to create their dreams.

Ask them regularly how they are doing. What problems are they finding? Be the coach of their dreams.

A good coach helps them create a game plan, a framework, a way to act that gives them a reasonable chance to succeed.

To live a healthy, wealthy and wise life they need to break life down into a play book. Each area of life has must-do’s for every day.

For example, to succeed financially, we must spend less than we earn and save for our future.

As our kids’ life coach, we give them a leg up by identifying the key areas of life. Then we help them determine what they want in each area. Then teach them to plan their day to get it.

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Mistake #3: Not using a problem solving process.

Be your own (wo)man on the white horse.

Circumstances will challenge us on our way to our dreams. We cannot control other people, or our past, or how much things cost. Anything out there is beyond our control.

We can control our thoughts, feelings, and actions. That’s the good news because those things determine our success.

Our thoughts cause our feelings, drive our actions and create our results. The problem is that no one teaches us that how we think determines our life.

Every problem we have is one of four things: a thought, feeling, action or result.

When we look at our mind — compassionately observe what’s going on in there — we understand that our thinking is the root cause of all our suffering, all our problems.

We’re not going to beat ourselves up ever again but understand with curiosity and fascination why we believe what we believe and do what we do.

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Mistake # 4: Not teaching your kids how to problem solve.

Stop solving their problems.

All parents say, “I just want my kids to be happy.” That’s because we believe that when they are happy, we are happy.

But if that were true, we would be a mirror of their feelings 100% of the time. We’re not. We can’t be. Thank goodness. It’s impossible, and not desirable.

What we really want is to see our kids get what they want out of life. Now that they have an idea of what they want (see Mistake #2) we know they’re going to have to solve problems.

Lots of obstacles will be in their path. How they act in the face of those obstacles will determine the results they achieve.

How they act is determined by how they feel and how they feel is caused by their thoughts. Teach them to understand what they think, then how to think with intention. It’s how they’ll get what they want.

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Mistake #5: No risk management.

But we bought life insurance…

The worst that could happen is a perfect example of inversion, a critical thinking skill that spotlights error and roadblocks that are not obvious at first glance. Instead of thinking what to do, inversion asks what not to do.

Success is overvalued. Avoiding failure matters more.

What should you avoid? Sometimes it is more important to study the reasons for failure and guard against those: sloth and unreliability, alienating customers and co-workers, being untrustworthy, accumulating debt. Overeating, overdrinking, overspending, over doing it in any area of life at the sacrifice of health, wealth or wisdom.

Mistake #6: Not teaching kids what not to do.

Create margins of safety and prevent the unexpected.

What’s most important to avoid in life? Here is a very incomplete list.

  • Finance: Stop trying to impress others by spending more than you make.
  • Food: Overeating.
  • Health: Excess sloth.
  • Home: Clutter.
  • Job: Giving less than your best.
  • Keeping: Ignoring maintenance.
  • Learning: Not applying it to your life.
  • Legacy: Isolation. Ignoring loved ones.
  • Virtues: Dishonesty.

Live your future life carefully. 

Remember when Atticus asked Scout about her next chess move, in To Kill a Mockingbird, “Are you sure you want to do that?” 

Asking is not the same thing as telling, so ask away. The brain loves to answer questions, so it helps to plant them in your kids’ brains regularly.

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Mistake # 7: Trying to do too much.

Extraordinary results happen by focusing on one thing.

Our kids want an infinite number of things. (So do we all.) Great food, fun vacations, useful tech, great games, homes, sports wins, coaches, precious pets…the list is endless.

What is most important? What’s the ONE thing? You decide then help them decide. Then go get it. Rinse. Repeat.

Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism, details the payoffs of the process of saying “no” to the “trivial many” so we can focus more on the “essential few”. Here’s a summary. I highly recommend his book.

In a nutshell, the best parenting practices we’ve found for ourselves and our children are life planning, using a problem solving process, preventing errors, and doing only what’s essential. 

It’s been humbling practicing them ourselves and teaching them to our children. And we know we’re not done teaching our younger children and serving as consultants when our adult children ask our advice.

Have any of these parenting practices worked for you? Please share below.

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