When students and young adults share their struggles with me, it becomes evident that many of these struggles have to do with their relationship with their parents.
Obviously, parents would never intentionally frustrate their children. But none of us are perfect, and parents are no exception.
In this article, I'll describe 15 things that parents often do inadvertently, which hurt their children.
I'll make it clear upfront that I'm not a parent myself; all of these observations are written from the child's perspective.
(To avoid writing "he or she" repeatedly, I'll assume that the child is female.)
1. Call her "stupid" or "useless"
It's shocking that, in a fit of anger, many parents call their child "stupid" or "useless". Cruel words like these can remain etched in her mind for a lifetime.
2. Decide everything for her
Doing this can make her feel like she's being restricted and that she's not wise or intelligent enough to make her own choices.
3. Overemphasize the importance of obedience
Some parents do everything they can to raise an obedient child, but this can come at the expense of the parent-child relationship.
4. Don't show affection
When parents rarely show affection, the child may begin to question whether she is loved.
5. Discipline her when they are angry
Discipline should be carried out when the parents are calm. Caning or spanking the child shouldn't just be an immediate reaction to something she has done.
6. Show conditional (or seemingly conditional) love
Parents wound a child psychologically when they appear to show love and concern only when she performs well in school or when she's well behaved. Children need to know that their parents' love is unconditional.
7. Compare her with her siblings or with other children her age
Every child is unique, so she shouldn't be made to feel as if she's living in the shadow of someone else.
8. Praise her for her ability, instead of her effort
Praising the child for her commendable effort will encourage her to develop new skills and try out new things, instead of doing only the tasks that she has already proven her aptitude in.
9. Set boundaries but don't enforce them
Parents often set boundaries with regard to behaviour, sleeping time, household chores, etc. When these boundaries are not enforced, it causes the child to become confused and, possibly, defiant.
10. Allow their emotions to get the better of them
Based on my observations, the majority of parenting mistakes occur when parents fail to control their emotions. When parents allow negative emotions to get the better of them, it indirectly gives the child the permission to do the same. This manifests itself in the form of temper tantrums and teenage angst.
11. Attempt to achieve their unfulfilled dreams through her
Many parents live vicariously through their children. This can, however, be unhealthy. Parents who force their child to study certain subjects or pursue certain careers—against her wishes—can cause her to become angry and resentful.
12. Continually bail her out of trouble
For example, if a child forgets to bring her mathematics textbook to school and is threatened with punishment, many parents would bail her out by bringing the textbook to school for her. This kind of parenting, however, doesn't teach her to take full responsibility for her choices and her life.
13. End arguments by saying "I know what's best for you"
Parents use this phrase as a kind of trump card, but it's hardly ever effective. Instead, parents should express how much they love and care for their child, all while stressing the fact that choices come with consequences that she will have to bear.
14. Shield her from challenges and discomfort
It's completely natural for parents to do this, but it usually isn't best for the child's long-term development. Challenges, discomfort and struggle are necessary for her to find enduring success.
15. Allow her to become the center of the family's universe
Many parents allow the child's wants and needs to determine the entire family's schedule, plans, etc. But when this is taken to an extreme, the home environment can become hectic and stressful. Instead, parents should make the child realize that she is an important member of the family, but that the world does not revolve around her.
Parenting isn't just about raising children. It's about empowering the next generation to be the best they can be, and to lay the foundation for a better future and a better world.
Such a noble and monumental task requires parents to continually reflect on their parenting style, so that they can improve as parents day by day.
To all of you parents reading this: I know you're up to the task.
Daniel Wong is the author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He is an Education & Personal Excellence coach and speaker. He offers a mentoring programme to help students to maximize their education and to find happiness and success. He writes regularly at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-book, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?", here. Download his other FREE e-book, "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision", here. Together with his team of experts, he conducts The Exam ExcellenceTM (TEE) Programme.