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Ellen Seidman

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Ellen Seidman is a magazine editor, web content developer and award-winning writer. She blogs at 1000 Perplexing Things About Parenthood for Babble, as well as at Love That Max. Ellen lives in the New York area with her husband, two kids and assorted dustballs.

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11 Mistakes Parents Make (Even The Perfect Ones)

By Ellen Seidman |

My 7-year-old sat in the back seat of the car, screaming her head off. We’d just visited the ice-cream store and as I handed over the cone I’d bought her, I took a lick. Just one little, innocent lick. “YOU TOOK A LICK!” Sabrina wailed. For the next few minutes, she whined about my crime. By the time we got back to the car, she was in tears. I told her that I was going to toss her ice-cream if she didn’t clam up. She didn’t. And so I plucked it out of her hand, walked over to a trash and tossed it in.

Sabrina sobbed even harder. Me, I was distressed but proud: I am not always good on following through with consequences. True to form, that evening we ended up at the frozen yogurt store because my son wanted some. And I let Sabrina have fro-yo, too — with chocolate sprinkles (forgive me parenting gods). You know, because it wasn’t ice-cream.

Bad, bad Mommy.

This is imperfect parenting, the only kind I know. As much as I try to enforce rules, limits and structure, at times I give in when I shouldn’t. I make mistakes, I learn from them. I’m guilty of repeat offenses. I’m pretty sure they’re not the kind of slip-ups that will necessitate years of psychoanalysis. I hope. All I can say is, I’m human. (Well, most days.)

These are the mistakes I’ve made in my ten years on this parenting gig. Can I get a raise for good effort, please?

Photo credit: Flickr/CCK_Mom

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11 Mistakes Parents Make. Or Is It Just Me?

Parenting Bad #1: Not following through on consequences

I sometimes suck at this (see: fro-yo), but I’m newly inspired by my friends Bari Nan and Jeff, who live in Utah. This summer, they took their two kids on a trip in their motor home. Within the first hour of being on the campsite, their youngest was jumping around inside their RV and causing general mayhem. He didn't heed his parents' warnings. And so, Jeff packed up their bags and they went home. As he told Bari Nan, "If we do this, I can almost guarantee it won't happen again." Ever since, their child has been amazingly behaved. And Jeff and Bari Nan are my new parenting heroes.

Photo credit: Flickr/slightly everything

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More to read from 1000 Perplexing Things About Parenthood:

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• 20 Not-obvious Photos Every Parent Should Take



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About Ellen Seidman


Ellen Seidman

Ellen Seidman is a magazine editor, web content developer and award-winning writer. She blogs at 1000 Perplexing Things About Parenthood for Babble, as well as at Love That Max. Ellen lives in the New York area with her husband, two kids and assorted dustballs. Read bio and latest posts → Read Ellen's latest posts →

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22 thoughts on “11 Mistakes Parents Make (Even The Perfect Ones)

  1. CC says:

    I dont think lying to the kids is a mistake, parents sometimes have to sugarcoat the truth for the best interest of the children.

  2. Anonymous says:

    My kids sleep with me on purpose until they are a year or so, then transfer peacefully into their own bed. Unless they’re REALLY sick (which has happened, maybe, twice with my 4-year-old), they don’t come in my bed. Ever. (Even if they’re sick it’s more likely someone will sit downstairs or in their rooms with them.)

    I don’t lie to my kids. I might say “Because I said so,” or “I don’t know,” but I’d never lie that Chuck E. Cheese was closed. I say, “We’re not going there today.”

    I don’t ever swear, so have never done so in front of the kids.

    But the rest, well….

  3. Meg says:

    Arguing in front of the kids is not preferable and indeed shouldn’t be done exessively but you are your kids’ teachers. If you do get into an argument, model how to work it out in a responsible and respectful way. The song idea is clever, but takes away from the learning opportunity.

  4. Ronnie says:

    I am the mother of 4 grown children and 8 grandchildren. Knock down, drag out, fights are completely inappropriate in front of children, but, arguments are a part of life and have their places in a relationship. Children need to see that their parents can disagree and become upset with each other and still love each other. We have been married for 33 years and I never hesitated to have my say just because the children were present. My children are all in healthy, happy marriages. We tend to keep too much unpleasent information from kids today, I agree with Meg that it is a learning opportunity and simply part of life.

  5. Michelle says:

    This was a fun read. My first time on babble. I must say though, I don’t don’t get people’s negative views of co-sleeping. If your child is super old and you don’t want them in the bed it is no longer co-sleeping. It’s ‘bad’ parenting as you call it, transitions are hard and require boundary setting. Just like bed times, food restrictions, TV limitations, etc, shifts in sleeping situations are the same. My three year old still co-sleeps. We tried to move him into his own bed in our room, but we caved…not because we are bad parents, but because we weren’t ready for the work it takes to transition…every transition is hard. Besides, 3, 8, 11, none is too old. I’m sure once puberty hits kids will want their own bed…or perhaps the parents just need to move into a new room =)

    But thanks for sharing. Enjoy the read. funny, uplifting, and oh so true!

    1. JT says:

      thanks for posting this, I still have my kids sleeping with me; they are 4 and 9. I know my elder one will leave when puberty hits. As a single mom with a king size bed, why not?? Have you ever been to Africa? the whole family sleeps on one bed in their one room house.

  6. [...] Related: 11 mistakes all parents make (even the perfect ones) [...]

  7. Mary says:

    If I licked a friend’s ice cream cone before serving it to her, how would you expect him/her to react? I don’t think a seven year old was out of line for expecting a simple act of respect. Ignoring a person’s boundaries because of their age or size is rude. The child deserved an apology and a fresh cone.

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  10. Ginger says:

    Wow, congratulations, you taught your daughter to let you steal from her. What would you think if the cashier took on innocent little lick of your ice cream cone? You are teaching your daughter to let people walk on her. Even if in your mind it is only one innocent little lick, to your child you just stole the first and best bite of a snack that was supposed to be a special only for them treat. I bet you don’t let your daughter have the first lick of your ice cream.

    I’ve never had to punish my children because I respect them, so they respect me. They trust me when I say that jumping around like a maniac is dangerous. I guess if I showed so little respect to my kids, I might have to call off the family vacation too.

    My kids co-sleep until they are ready. Turns out that is usually around the time they stop breastfeeding (3 or 4) and start feeling like big kids. For others I know it was when they have a younger sibling or start going to school – when they feel like a big kid.I love the security it gives them and it is so worth it as a parent to know that you are creating truly independent people who know their parents will be there for them as much as they can. My brother was forced out of his parents’ bed and from that point until he was a teenager he suffered from horrible nightmares.

    Bickering in front of your children is GOOD. You are given an opportunity to demonstrate that even Mama and Daddy disagree and ARE ABLE TO WORK THINGS OUT. My kids have never gotten into an argument they couldn’t resolve without resorting to violence or becoming insecure. It also reassures them that it is okay to think independently even if someone disagrees with your thoughts. Even when Mama and Daddy don’t agree in the end, they still love each other and they find a way to compromise.

    I’ve never had to lie to my kids and I don’t make promises unless I intend to keep them. If something PREVENTS me from keeping the promise, I calmly explain to little disappointed faces and we try to come up with a substitute together. Sometimes it turns out to be even better than the initial promise.

    We only buy or make heirloom quality toys for our kids. Look up Waldorf toys. If you end up with too much, stop buying and put the toys in rotation. If you still have too much let your kids donate some of the stuff they don’t want to a family who needs it, or let them have a little yard sale.Sounds to me like you are buying toys to satisfy your own desires more than your kids’.

    My kids choose when to go to bed and they always go to bed on time – or at least when Mama and Daddy do. It has become a security thing. I respect them, so I rarely have to “battle” them and if I do I find an alternative that makes both of us happy. If we curse, we apologize and explain that this is rude and unacceptable behavior. We also don’t yell at our kids if they curse, we just say “Oops. Better not do that again, huh?”

    we do allow junk food in moderation and because we don’t make it seem scarce our kids only ask for it on movie night or special occasions (or when they are hungry or sick, in these cases we are always able to agree on something healthy without resorting to whining or arguing).

    Giving in to your kids for “kisses” is perfectly alright. It is fine to teach your children that occasionally we can do things out of the ordinary and our routines and our lives will not completely fall apart when we do. This also teaches them that when something goes WRONG (someone dies, is injured, loses a job, etc.) things will eventually get back on track – all is not lost.

    It seems to me like the real problem in any of these scenarios is that the parents of these children are failing to acknowledge that their children are individual human beings. They aren’t dolls or pets. THEY SHOULD BE SUPPORTED IN THEIR EFFORTS TO THINK INDEPENDENTLY AND SUPPORTED WHEN THEY FEEL AN INJUSTICE HAS BEEN DONE TO THEM. You seem to want them to be punished for this. What do you really think you are teaching your children? You are preparing them to be used and abused as adults. Hopefully they will outgrow it without your help.

    1. Nicole says:

      Jeez Ginger. Preach much? You are so perfect.

    2. kat says:

      Congrats! You seem to be the perfect example of what is wrong with the world. Keep your bratty, self absorbed kids away from mine.

  11. Ginger says:

    Wow, congratulations. You punished your child for crying when YOU STOLE her ice cream. Yup, sounds like great parenting to me. How would you have felt if you ordered an ice cream cone and the cashier took one innocent little lick out of it before handing it to you?

  12. [...] ON BABBLE: 11 mistakes all parents make (even the perfect ones!) The 10 biggest secrets parents hide from their kids 10 things I did as a child that kids today [...]

  13. LRH says:

    I agree with the author about co-sleeping. It is a mistake. Period.. Kids don’t belong in the parent’s bedroom, that is for the parents only. If you’re co-sleeping, you need to stop. It’s that simple.

    I don’t care what fruitcakes in what part of the uncivilized world do it–they’re fruitcakes. People who aren’t mentally insane know better than to allow kids in their bedroom.


  14. Cass says:

    Good lord ! YOU punish HER for getting upset because YOU took a lick of her ice cream. You actually threw her ice cream out ? Shame on you ! I’d be mighty pissed off too if i was her ! I don’t blame her in the slightest.
    You obviously don’t role model well. Next time i’d expect her to take a bite of something of yours and then when you yell at her, SHE should throw yours in the bin.

    Disgraceful !

  15. Jane says:

    This mother did not STEAL her child’s ice cream. The mother is the one who bought it for her in the first place, and as a mother of a young child, it is up to HER when/if her daughter gets ice cream and how much. Ever heard of sharing anyone? Her daughter was out of line, she should have thanked her mother for getting her ice cream in the first place

  16. quartney says:

    my husband and i coslept with our son we tried everything to get him in his crib even let him cry it out i dont recomend it he finally one day on his own fell asleep while i was rubbing his head and has slept in his own bed every night since then your child is your child dont ever let anyone else tell you how to raise them

  17. Nia says:

    You were wrong to lick your daughter’s ice cream and then she got in trouble for protesting! That belonged to her and you should have respected that. Also, adults have had time to be exposed to more germs and viruses than children. You may have germs in your mouth that you have become immune to, but could make a child ill.

  18. ssz says:

    Mommy licked your ice cream?! OMG!
    Ever heard of the Little Emperor Syndrome? A mommy with one little spoiled apple.

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