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How to stop bad parenting habits

What can you do to stop bad parenting? Although negative parenting behaviours can put children at risk, it’s not the only factor that determines outcomes. Even parents with a positive style of discipline and interaction can have children who struggle with behavioural or emotional issues. Just like a single bad day doesn’t make you a bad parent, doing the best you can doesn’t mean that your child will never struggle or have problems. And that’s OK.

Parenting is an ongoing process, and it’s often challenging. If you’ve struggled thanks to less-than-ideal examples from your own parents, it might feel even harder. But you can work to overcome the negative messages you’ve been taught and build a healthy relationship with your own children.

Your own parents may not have been good role models, but you can find support and positive encouragement in other parents to create your own parenting path. If you find yourself falling into bad parenting habits more often than you’d like, remember that you are capable of making changes.

Revamping your parenting style can require patience, honesty, and a lot of hard work. The good news is it’s never too late to start. Any positive change you make can result in a better outcome for your child. Here are some tips to help you focus on the positive.

Listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings

We all want to be heard. And although we do not always agree with what others say, Frederick says we all need someone to listen to us. When it comes to your kids, she says to hear their concerns and frustrations, validate their feelings, and explain that they have a right to be angry — but not to act out (like throwing their crayons across the room). Instead, provide alternatives for them for different emotions.

Provide appropriate consequences

When using discipline, Frederick says it’s critical to provide consequences that teach your child a positive lesson. “Hitting a child teaches them nothing about consequences, and can result in resentment and anger, together with that child going to school and hitting other children,” she says. Instead, use a rewards chart or have them earn time doing something they enjoy. When taking something away, do not take it away for a week, instead, take it away for the afternoon. Make sure that the consequence is suitable for the behavior you’re correcting.

Label the behavior, not the child

“If parents want to ‘label,’ they should make sure that they’re labeling behavior, not character,” says Dorfman. For example, when a child is acting out, remind them that it’s the behavior of a bully, rather than saying, “You ARE a bully.”

Don’t withhold attention

We all get angry with our children, but Frederick says ignoring them only confuses a child. “Explain that you are angry, and although you are angry with them, you still love them,” she explains. If you need a moment, try putting them in time out (1 minute for every age they are) and calm down, collecting your thoughts and feelings.

Show love and affection

Displaying love and affection means more than just telling your child that you love them. It also comes from supporting and accepting your child, being physically affectionate, and spending quality time together.

Let them make mistakes

Life is messy, so let your children explore being creative and making mistakes, without shaming or criticizing. When they make a mistake, ask your child, “What could you have done differently?” Use your own mistakes as an opportunity to show them that learning never stops, and that we can all have our bad days. Admitting when you’ve made a mistake, apologizing, and trying to improve is good for everyone.

Being a parent is emotionally challenging. It’s also a huge responsibility that requires patience, consistency, love, compassion, and understanding. We all have days when we worry about our parenting choices. We love our kiddos so much, it’s natural to only want the best for them. Remember that you’re learning as you go, and every day is a chance to start fresh. With the right tools and with patience for our children — and ourselves — we can all choose the parent we want to be. Also remember that

— some days more than others. If you’re feeling stretched or overly stressed, seek help, guidance, advice, and perspectives from friends, colleagues, family, or mental health professionals whom you trust and respect. Parenting is the hardest job in the world. Hang in there — you’ve got this!

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