Every parent makes mistakes (we’re all human, right?), but some mistakes and behaviors have longer-term repercussions than others on your child. You are the most important person in your child’s life, so what you say and do has a huge impact on them—now and in the future. The good news, though, is it’s never too late to make changes to ensure you’re raising your child in a safe, healthy, and loving environment. To start, be sure to skip these parenting no-nos:
1. Spanking—Spanking can be subject of heated debate. Many parents firmly believe in spanking as a discipline tactic. One survey found that 57 percent of mothers and 40 percent of fathers engaged in spanking when children were age 3. But child-rearing and medical experts are almost unanimous in their opposition to spanking. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), spanking is linked to everything from an increase in aggressive behavior to possible mental illness.
2. Giving in to your child—Children thrive when consistent, firm boundaries are in place, so raising a child in a boundary-free environment where there are no consequences for bad behavior and every whim is indulged can actually create long-term problems at home and school. Timeouts, setting rules, and talking calmly to your child about expectations can help them stay on the right track.
3. Allowing too much TV time—The AAP recommends that children watch no more than two hours of television per day, while kids under two shouldn’t have any screen time at all. Excessive viewing can increase weight gain and aggression, as well as decrease vocabulary, math skills, and attention.
4. Feeding your child too much junk—A healthy diet is essential to your child’s health, both physically and mentally. Not only can a diet filled with processed foods cause weight gain, but studies show that children that eat a lot of junk food have slightly lower IQs and more difficulty focusing in school.
5. No set bed time—Not only do children need a good night’s sleep to stay healthy and be alert at school, but research shows that not having a set bed time can actually lead to behavioral problems.
6. Skimping on quality time—Being involved in your child’s life not only helps keep them out of trouble, but it also boosts their self-esteem. There is no “magic number” for how many hours a day you should spend with your child, but it’s important that when you are spending time with your child, you are focused on the child and engaged.
7. Engaging in substance abuse—Children with parents that abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to experience physical, intellectual, social, and emotional problems. They’re also more likely to have substance abuse issues when they get older.
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