As the cliche has it, babies don’t come with an instruction manual. That means most of us muddle through parenthood in a mix of confusion, fear and blind panic. Here are some common traps to avoid.
1. Covering yourself in glue, running through Mothercare and buying anything that sticks
Previous generations stuck their babies in drawers and managed fine without designer changing stations and specially designed nappy bins. Most parenting hardware is worthless, so ask your fellow parents what things they actually use before you go on a spending spree.
2. Buying everything new
Cot mattresses? Yes. Almost everything else? Gumtree. Why pay hundreds for prams, buggies and other bits and bobs when you can get perfectly good stuff for a fraction of the cost?
3. Expecting children to be reasonable
Kids are kids, and even big kids are still working out how to handle their emotions and their place in the world. They’re going to play up from time to time.
4. Comparing your kids’ behaviour to your peers’ kids
Yes, the other kids are being good now. That doesn’t mean they’ll be good later.
5. Wrapping the kids in bubble wrap
The moment you become a parent you realise that the world is FULL OF MURDERERS and you must keep the children indoors until they’re thirty. By all means take sensible precautions, but the world isn’t quite as scary as you might think.
6. Expecting young children to behave on important occasions
They almost certainly won’t.
7. Not presenting a united front
If you’re part of a couple, it’s important to have a consistent message: you don’t want the child sussing out that if they ask you and you say no, your better half will probably say yes.
8. Wanting to be your child’s best friend
Unfortunately what’s right isn’t always what’s popular with your child, but caving in just stores up problems for the future. Better the odd tantrum now than a spoilt child later.
9. Giving a monkeys what other parents do
Competitive parenting is the worst kind of competition, because nobody wins. It really doesn’t matter where they holiday, what brands of stuff they have or how well their kids are doing at school. A few years from now and you’ll barely remember who they were.
10. Over-praising or being too critical
Both are toxic. Keep things in perspective.
11. Being inconsistent
From toddlers’ bedtimes to teenagers’ internet use, having rules that change according to your mood or how tough a day you’ve had doesn’t do anybody any favours.
12. Do as I say, not as I do
One child hits another. Is a slap on the wrist really going to teach them that ‘we don’t hit’?
13. Fighting about food
You’re in charge of what your kids eat, so if they’re filling their faces with junk it’s up to you to stop buying it. But beware your own food issues, too: if you’re constantly talking about diets or your weight, you could influence your kids’ relationship with food too.
14. Putting kids into boxes
Not literally, no matter how tempting it might be sometimes. But saying your child is X – where X could be ‘shy’, ‘messy’, ‘grumpy’, ‘clever’, ‘bookish’, ‘clumsy’ and so on – can set expectations and box them in just as effectively, especially if the box is a negative one.
15. Feeling like a failure
We’ve all had moments when we’ve felt like the world’s worst parents, and unless you’ve accidentally dropped your kid into the lion enclosure at the zoo those feelings are usually unjustified.
Being a parent is tough. You’re doing great.