#1 Biggest Parenting Mistake

Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

Get your parenting advice questions answered at Annie´s Advice Column
Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

The #1 biggest parenting mistakeSeeing an article with the words “#1 Biggest Parenting Mistake” has got to be scary. Suddenly you think, “Yikes! Am I doing that?” Maybe you rush to click on the link, or maybe you don’t, scared by the real possibility that whatever it is, you might be doing it. Maybe you’re afraid of waking up in the middle of the night, haunted by this hidden error that you weren’t even aware of. Well, relax, because finding out whether you’re doing it is the first step to actually stopping doing it. Not only that, I can guarantee that if you are doing it, stopping will do your kids an immense favour.

It’s something we don’t even question

So what is the #1 biggest parenting mistake you can make?  Well, I’m going to bypass all the obvious stuff like not loving them, caring for them, feeding them, and those kinds of things and focus on something that doesn’t even make it onto most people’s radars. That’s because you live in a society that believes the #1 biggest parenting mistake I’m about to tell you is actually good for your children. Not only would its supporters suggest it’s good, but a large part of the economy rides on the fact that it is.

The #1 biggest parenting mistake is politically incorrect but it’s also true.

So today we’re going to question an ideology that is so pervasive and ingrained in your daily life that you’ve probably never even considered it. Ok, so what is it? It’s the idea that your children should be the focus of your activity. Sounds weird, right? They’re your kids; surely they should be the focus of your life! This is where, if I said this standing on a soapbox, I could expect some rotten tomatoes and some nasty, mouldy potatoes thrown my way. Luckily, I’m hiding behind my site. Whew!  

The secret is knowing children’s real needs.

You see, focusing your day around your children and entertaining them is guaranteed to make them unhappy. It will also do a number of other horrifying things, such as contribute to their developing narcissistic tendencies, but more on that later. For now, I’m simply going to express that “entertaining” or “focusing” on your kids every day is a recipe for disaster, the same way adding too much flour and too little water will guarantee a dry cake. It’s baked in.

Kids are designed to watch, mimic, and follow you, so if you hover around trying to entertain them, you send a message. That message comes across as the fact that you don’t have anything to do with your day other than to try and make them happy. All the other myriad parts of your life—all the things you have to do to maintain the household and your life in general—take a back seat to their entertainment.

Why do entertainments make them unhappy?

So why is this a destructive message? Well, because kids are designed to follow you, and if you don’t have any other priorities, they can’t do that. Life is literally all about them. Can you see where the narcissism comes in now? Left to its ultimate conclusion, you have a bunch of children who think the world revolves around them because it does. It’s also, I would argue, a very nasty, unfair, and horrid shock when they find out when they’re adults that the world actually doesn’t revolve around them. It also makes them less nice, less caring, and less interested in other people. After all, why be interested in someone else if they aren’t doing something for you?

Does this mean you can’t have fun?

So does all this mean you can’t occasionally go to the zoo or play a game in the park? No, of course not. Some entertainment makes the world a nicer place. Does it mean you should ignore your children, stay glued to your iPad, and just do what’s important to you? No, that would be selfish. What it means is that for most of the time you spend with your children, you should strive to make them part of your activity but not the focus of it. That means when you do dishes, they help, too. When you do laundry, let them sort the socks and so forth. When you go to the grocery store, get them to pick out the apples and bananas and help you carry the bags to the car. All these activities give children a grounding in time and space.

To avoid the #1 biggest parenting mistake: Let’s look at history

Go back 100 years, and kids were helping to get the eggs from the chicken coup and dig up the potatoes. They were happy kids back then, except when they came into contact with Dad’s strap, which thankfully we no longer use. They felt important because they had a role, not just because they were breathing. To have happy, fulfilled kids, you must give them a modern-day equivalent, and to make them care about others, they must learn to be part of something larger than themselves.

The #1 biggest parenting mistake.  More doesn’t make them happier

So why does our society think entertaining kids is such a great idea? Well, it’s become that way not because it was deliberate but because of growth economics, which has provided us with more entertainment, more choices, and ultimately more leisure time to do what’s important to us. However, just because we have the ability to spend time hovering doesn’t mean it will result in happier or more successful children. I know you’re told that if you spend more time attending to your garden, you’ll have a nicer garden. If you spend more time pursuing your career, you’ll be more successful. So why wouldn’t it work with your children? Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t, and I’ve got 60,000 years of evolution to back me up. That, and numerous visits to homes with children who are surrounded by all the entertainment they could ever want while lacking the one most important thing they require. Need more help zoning in on your child’s real needs? There are literally tons of articles on my site that are worth your time.

Ok, you can throw the rotten eggs now.

Are you a perfect parent?  Annie the Nanny has a laugh with the idea of the perfect parent.

Here’s an article on why being a victim makes nobody happy and why teaching kids to transcend issues leads to much greater happiness in adulthood.

Would you like resilient children?

Did you know Annie writes articles for other blogs?  Here’s one on teaching kids how to be nice.

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