No matter how much preparation you do beforehand, much of parenting is a “learn on the spot” job. That said, there are a lot of misconceptions about childcare from a variety of sources, from television and movies to parenting books written by non-experts. While there is no fast-and-hard “correct” way to raise children, there are some central elements and concepts that hold true for parenting.
These are some of the most common mistakes parents make while caring for their children and how to change to be more effective.
Don’t: Stock Up On Lots Of Diapers
We get it: when there’s a sale, you want to capitalize and stock up. There is no denying that babies are expensive, and they seem to be non-stop poop-making factories that rip through diapers like it’s their day job (which in some ways, it is).
However, babies grow rapidly in size, with their weight increasing by about 140-200 grams a week, and therefore diapers you buy don’t have a large window of time for use.
Do: Buy At Regular Intervals Based On Growth
Being in too tight of a diaper can cause serious discomfort for an infant (which you’ll definitely hear some crying about). Instead of stocking up on tons of diapers, instead try to buy in regular intervals while keeping your child’s growth in mind. This way you don’t end up with excess undersized diapers.
If buying in bulk is your only real financial option, try to buy a multi-size pack that will accommodate growth or buy multiple sizes when there’s a sale.
Don’t: Ask “Did You Win?” At The End Of Games/Competitions
We all want to see our kids succeed in their areas of interest and it’s far too easy to get caught up in the competition yourself. If you’re not there for a game or competition, don’t ask about the scoring/placing, and especially not the “did you win?” question.
This type of questioning focuses on the outcomes rather than their performance and can lead your child to develop perfectionism later on in life, with each failure feeling devastating.
Do: Ask “How’d You Compete” Or “Did You Enjoy It?”
If they’re engaging in an activity with a recreational or interest-based attitude, it’s important that you ask them about their enjoyment level rather than performance. This type of attitude enforces that children can like an activity without needing to be the best at it or be productive, which helps them develop healthy hobbies and stress-relief tactics later in life.
If they are competitive in an activity, focus on how they felt about their performance. This teaches them self-reflection and self-critique that can be applied to improvement.
Don’t: Change Them Right After They Go
Infants tend to poop or pee in small, quick intervals in comparison to the steady one-and-done way that older children do. If you go to change the diaper immediately, you might become the unfortunate victim of an *ahem* splash.
Apart from the sheer grossness of the event, it’s also wildly inefficient because your child could also not be entirely finished their bowel movement or bladder emptying by the time they’re redressed, meaning that their new diaper will be instantly dirtied.
Do: Wait A Few Minutes Before Changing Them
Just about all modern diapers have been designed with the capacity to absorb excrement for hours while continuing to keep your baby’s bum dry, sanitary, and free from rashes.
After you notice that your kid is dropping something a little less than pleasant in their pants, wait a few minutes (anywhere from 5-10 minutes) before rushing to clean them up. This way you can ensure that they’re done doing what they had to do while not making them sit with it too long.
Don’t: Check The Child’s Temperature With Your Hand
Babies and very young children’s bodies tend to run at a warmer temperature than older children and adults. An infant’s normal temperature can range from 97-100.3°F (compared to an adult’s average temperature of 97-98°F). You might misinterpret overheating from a young child because you’re comparing their temperature to your own.
Anything above 100.3°F is considered a fever and needs to be treated accordingly. If you’re trying to gauge their temperature by using your hand, you’re unable to detect the minor differences in temperature between normal and a fever.
Do: Use A Thermometer
Pediatricians recommend always using a thermometer to measure your child’s temperature when you think they might be too warm and have a fever. For babies under the age of three months, a rectal thermometer will give you the most accurate reading.
While an oral thermometer might be the best option until your child is one-year-old, the best type of thermometer to use from toddler age and up is a digital in-ear thermometer for an accurate and quick reading.
Don’t: Let Them Get Away With Things
One of the hardest parts of parenthood is that you sometimes have to be the bad guy and punish your child when they misbehave. While it might seem easier to let things slide rather than go through the hassle of disciplining them, it’s very important that you do, even from a young age.
When children are allowed to get away with negative behaviors, the continue to believe that they can get away with things in the future.
Do: Hold Them Accountable For Their Actions
From a young age, help your child develop a sense of accountability by addressing instances in which they misbehave. When addressing a bad behavior, make sure you are clear about what exact behavior was wrong and explain why what they did was wrong.
You’re more likely to inhibit future incidents with the same negative behavior and you help your child understand the impact of their own actions. This helps them grow into adults who understand the implications of their behavior.
Don’t: Spoon Feed Excessively
It’s understandable to want to spoon-feed your infant. It’s a lot faster for you to scoop up food and direct it to their mouths, and it’s definitely much less messy. However, according to doctors and their research on the subject, it’s much better for children to feed themselves.
In a series of studies, it was found that spoon-fed children were more like to be fussy eaters as they age and have a higher chance of being overweight as they get older.
Do: Allow Them To Feed Themselves
Young children who are allowed to eat independently at their own pace are more likely to be healthy later on in life. Additionally, learning to do the motions of feeding themselves is very important to a baby’s motor control function and physical development.
As your child ages, try not to be controlling with what or how much they eat. Young children tend to be good at intuitively moderating food intake to match energy needs, and being too controlling can lead to eating problems later on in life.
Don’t: Cover Bundle Them Up When They Have A Fever
Just about all of us have heard that the way to manage a fever is to “sweat it out” by getting as warm as possible to force the fever to break. However, this is just a very popular myth that has no scientific backing to support it.
Covering up your baby with socks, warm clothing, and blankets when they’re running a fever will only overheat them and make them more uncomfortable than they already are.
Do: Try To Help Them Cool Down
Instead of bundling your baby up further, instead, try to help them cool down by changing them into comfortable, light clothing. If you’re putting them to lie down, keep a fan on nearby so they’re getting cool airflow and make sure the room isn’t too warm.
Not only will your child be much more comfortable, but they’re more likely to return to a healthy temperature this way. Check on them regularly, and keep a close eye on the thermostat.
Don’t: Spend A Lot Of Money On Them
Babies grow very quickly and also have the tendency to vomit on everything they wear. While social media parents make dressing their children in nice outfits or expensive clothing items an easy ordeal, those clothes will likely only fit your child for a short period of time and will get messy quickly.
In addition, always having your children dressed lavishly can set their standards for clothing high at a young age and lead to poor spending habits in their future.
Do: Spend Appropriately For Your Kids, Focusing On Functionality
During the early years of their lives, focus on clothing’s functionality for your child. Is the item comfortable? Can they easily crawl and move? As they get older and more aware, continue to dress them in clothes that are easy for them to play and explore in. This subtly reminds them that their actions are more important than their appearance, which increases self-confidence.
As your kids get older, reinforce functionality for clothing, such as reminding them that they need winter boots that will keep their feet warm. This helps them become conscientious consumers in their teen and adult years.
Don’t: Take Away Their Pacifier Too Early
Many parents fear that their baby will be more susceptible to ear infections and dental problems if they use their pacifiers for too long, as well as worrying that their child will become too dependent on the item. This leads to parents taking pacifiers away from their babies at too young of an age.
Pacifiers are immensely soothing for children, and removing it from them too early or too drastically can be very distressing for an infant.
Do: Start Weaning Them Off It At Around 6-7 Months
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended time to start limiting or stopping pacifier use is around six to seven months to avoid an increased risk of ear infection.
In order to successfully wean them off, you can reduce use from many times a day to only a few times. If you incrementally reduce your baby’s pacifier use each day, you can have your child not using the device anymore within about a week.
Don’t: Spank, Scream at, Or Use Threats Against Them
As frustrated as you may be with your child, raising your voice at them or using violence as a punishment is never a solution. According to Dr. Joseph Shrand, Ph.D. who teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, kids actually listen less when you yell at them. When you begin to raise your voice at your child, it enacts their fight-or-flight response.
Similar to spanking, yelling acts as a way of disciplining through fear, which leads to more distrust in your parent-child relationship as they grow.
Do: Try To Communicate With Them At A Regular Tone
Dr. Shrand recommends that, in order to properly communicate with your child, you should make eye contact with them. Listen to what they’re saying and talk with, not at them.
By turning “disciplining” moments into a discussion rather than a lecture, your children learn that their opinion is valuable and that they deserve the same respect as their authority figures. This helps children grow into adults who can communicate their feelings in a healthy way and manage relationships with authority figures, like a boss, much better.