The Parent Trap

parent trap

Growing up, The Parent Trap (1998) was one of my favourite movies. However, while the post has been titled after the movie, there is no resemblance. This blog covers pitfalls and traps parents often find themselves in.


Parenting is Tough

The first humans (the predecessors of modern humans) walked this earth about a million years ago.  The modern human being evolved roughly 200,000 years ago. One would imagine that humans would have cracked the parenting code by now. How is it that we learned how to perfect many things over time, but we still make mistakes (sometimes bad ones) with children? However, with each baby born, parents begin their parenting journey afresh. Perhaps our instincts develop and sharpen once we have kids. Maybe it’s hormones and emotions that cloud judgment. Or maybe there is some other, as a yet unidentified and unresearched phenomenon. Parenting is the world’s hardest job. That much is understood.


Let’s explore some of the worst mistakes people make – and this is global. This is a set of things we’ve dubbed The Parent Trap.


Living Through Your Kids

As children, we may often miss out on things or make mistakes that ultimately seal our fate. Maybe, someone wanted to be an astronaut badly but couldn’t. The regret is like a hole in the heart. And then, having a child may feel like getting a chance to do things all over again. The child getting to do everything the parent never did is a way to attain closure for the parent.


And this is the parent’s trap right there. Your child is a unique human being, an extension of the parent, not a clone. As individuals, children have their own interests. Parents often get upset when children don’t have the same hobbies or interests. Don’t let this difference come between you. There are other ways to repair the hole in your heart; your child isn’t it.


Letting the TV/Screen Raise Children

The digital age has been an eye-opener. But there are many pitfalls attached too. Now, it’s not the fault of the technology; it’s merely the way we use it. Handing a smartphone with a colourful and attractive YouTube video to a child buys time for the parents. They can do whatever they need to while the child is deeply engrossed in the video. Sounds great in theory. But in practice, nothing is worse than letting a video or a game be your child’s parent.


There’s nothing wrong with allowing your child to watch a few rhymes or play a game. But giving complete control of screen time to your child or letting the technology supervise your child for you is the problem.


Being A Helicopter Parent

We’ve already established parenting is hard. But what’s the hardest part? Striking balance. Letting children run around doing as they please is wrong. But so is adding too many restrictions.

So, what exactly is a helicopter parent? It’s a mom or dad who is overprotective, overcontrolling and over-perfecting. Helicoptering in your child’s life leaves a deep impact. Children of helicopter parents find it difficult to make it in adulthood. They often have no skills to support them as their overprotective parents did everything for them and they never had to do anything. On the flip side, these kids can also become rebellious, take risks and ruin their potential.


How can parents find balance? Maybe let kids play with friends outside for a while. And let them make a few risky decisions (not dangerous ones). This can be a good start.


Empty Threats

Many parents often make empty threats. “Don’t play with the ball in the living room, or else…”. Even the kids know that “or else” will be followed by… no action.


Empty threats result in children not taking their parents seriously. Forever. Kids have a good laugh when their mom or dad do this, because they know they will get away with anything. A good rule is to not threaten children, instead come through with an action. Your child will listen to you if you follow through on your directives. As an example, don’t threaten to take away a child’s video game. Take it away.


Spoiling Children with Excesses OR Being Stingy

Both extremes are harmful to children. As mentioned above, striking a balance is essential. Learn when to say no. We have all known at least one annoying brat in our lifetimes. Their parents would move heaven and earth instantly to get their child something when the child cries for it. How does this harm the child? The child will grow up unprepared for real life. They will also be overly dependent on others. Not a future anyone wants for their child, we’re sure.

The opposite – being stingy – is also bad. It’s good for children to have somethings. Not getting occasional treats may lead children to be stingy adults, without compassion. Remember Scrooge McDuck? It’s exactly like that.

In a previous blog, we explained why it’s important for children to learn financial literacy. Explain to children why you can’t buy them everything. They will understand and appreciate this early economics lesson.

Not Letting Children Do Daily Tasks

Today, many adults are inept at doing everyday chores. They cannot do basic tasks such as cleaning, cooking, or washing dishes. One of the reasons for this may be is because their parents never assigned any tasks to them when they were kids.

Show your kids how to do some basic chores. Not only will you be spending quality time with your child, but also teaching them valuable lessons for life.

Picking Favorites

Parents often compare the performance of their child with other kids. If you have more than one child, or nieces and nephews or some other child whose behaviour is better than your kid, comparing your child’s sibling or friend to them is irresistable. “Why can’t you get better grades like your brother?” or “Look at x, he doesn’t ask for new video games every week”. This competition can be damaging. Children may grow up feeling inferior and may resent their brother or sister or other kids for being a favourite. Instead, point out the good characteristics in all of them. Life may be competitive, but as a parent, you should teach your child to strive for success, not measure them against your own yardstick.

Being a Poor Example

There are many parents who say one thing to children but do something else for themselves.  For lack of a better word, they’re downright hypocritical. Some parents fight in front of their children, while telling their kids not to fight. The bottom line is that everyone has their own set of bad habits. When children see the parent doing things, they will want to do it too.  Even if parents try to discourage them.

Think about your habits. What are some unappealing traits you don’t want your child to follow?

The Takeaway

Childhood is beautiful. It influences a person’s life completely. It even shapes one’s adulthood.  As a parent, there will be many times when you catch yourself falling into the parent trap – behaviour that doesn’t does reflect your values.  The main thing to remember is that you must do your best with everything available. Raising them in a fitting manner can help your children succeed and live life to their full potential.


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