Your child is screaming their lungs out when they should be taking their morning nap. You're up against a wall with a project deadline and any ounce of focus you may have had is decimated. We've all been there, right? In an act of desperation for peace and quiet, you resort to what you feel is your only option: quit fighting him and plop him down in front of the television.
As parents, these situations seem to creep in on a daily basis. Some are situations we're aware of, but others are a bit sneakier and we are unknowingly hurting our children. To help expose you to the truth (sorry about that), here are seven ways you may be ruining your children.
1. Background television
Maybe you're not the plop-down-the-kid type of parent. More power to you. However, you may be guilty of what the American Academy of Pediatrics calls "background television." Maybe you have your favorite sitcom on while you're cooking dinner or cleaning the family room. Unbeknownst to you, your crawling infant is taking in more than you thought.
In a study conducted by the AAP, they found "the average child aged 8 months to 8 years is exposed to nearly 4 hours of background television over a 24-hour period." Eliminating overexposure will increase your child's cognitive abilities and prevent problems that occur with overstimulation. Instead, try background music or even sing to your little ones.
The Baby Gap clearance rack has been calling your name since yesterday, but you won't be able to make it before they close because you spent your afternoon at Target. With how cute your toddler is, it must be really difficult not to dress him up in the latest fashion trends - especially since social media begs to show off your model baby to all 3,052 of your friends.
We all know spoiling does nothing but hurt your child - and society - in the long run. Giving them more than they need creates a sense of entitlement and ingratitude. In the business world and in their future family setting, your children will still expect to get everything they want, and that's not reality. Help them discover now that the world does not revolve around them.
3. Excessive juice
Bummer, we know. But truth be told, juice fills your child up quickly and with empty calories, eliminating an appetite for a nutritious meal. The AAP suggests small amounts of 100 percent juice and not introduced until 6-9 months of age. Most kids love water, and it turns out it's pretty good for them, too.
4. Lack of discipline
Similar to spoiling, a lack of discipline affects more than the children involved. It's OK - and important - to say "no" sometimes. A lack of discipline teaches children that they can get away with anything, and that will not bode well in a school or social setting. Tantrums will become a close companion of yours at the grocery store, at church and at home. Do yourself a favor and put your foot down. Dig deep and find the patience to have good discipline in your home. Commit with your spouse to find rewards and consequences that work for your family. Your child - and their schoolteachers - will thank you later.
5. Lack of service opportunities
Children are a lot more perceptive than we sometimes give them credit for. Take the opportunity to teach your child the importance of service. Seek out a family in need and deliver a goodie basket or contact the local food bank and see if they need extra helping hands. Your children (especially the entitled ones) will quickly see there are other people in the world besides them, and even some with a lot less. Service teaches humility, gratitude and patience - who wouldn't want that?
6. Screen time
It's impossible to avoid this one and we've all been guilty of it - sure most Americans are "ruining" their children with screens. Next time you go out to dinner, look at how many children have a tablet or smartphone in a death grip two inches from their face. While it seems like a quick (albeit lazy) fix, screen time has more cons than pros: overstimulation, lack of interpersonal communication skills and exercise, just to name a few. Set boundaries, like a timer, for your child's screen time. Encourage outdoor activities and games that engage your child in face-to-face interactions.
7. Lack of work
Wouldn't it have been nice to have grown up on a farm? Morning chores that had to be done because animals' lives - and dinner - depended on it. While not all of us were blessed with a Midwestern upbringing, we can still teach the importance of work in the home. Yardwork, dishes, laundry and taking out the trash are all ways for your children to earn some money and feel the satisfaction of work. For extra motivation, let them pick out a toy they want and help them save toward it. Obviously the way you scrub the toilet will be better than your 6-year-old's attempt, but sometimes life lessons are more important than clean seats. But happiness, in the most important sense, comes from accomplishing something worthwhile.
Check out the Free To Choose Network YouTube channel for great videos on the importance of teaching kids responsibility in improving the world.