Parents want what is best for their children. So it might shock you if your children are not turning out as you hoped. Many times the problems can be traced back to a few simple things. Here are some common parenting mistakes that may be setting your child up for future problems:

Let them miss school

Some parents think it's OK for children to miss school for things like a family vacation or a bad hair day. A recent National Center for Children in Poverty report found that when children missed just a few days of school in early grades it had a significant impact on their learning in later years.

Allow them to stay inside

Do you remember the days before satellite and cable television, computers and video games? No matter what the weather was like, moms sent their children outdoors to entertain themselves. According to environmental psychologist Nancy Wells, playing outside is not only healthy it will also improve your child's cognitive abilities and reduce symptoms of ADHD.

Be their friend

When children approach the rebellious teen years, many parents fear losing a close relationship with a child. They forget their role as parent and try to be a cool buddy instead. Teens need structure, stability and guidance. Under a barrage of peer pressure, it can be hard for teens to say no; they need a parent who is willing to say it for them.

Organize every moment of their day

Yes, piano lessons, dance, soccer and chess club can all benefit your child, but unstructured play (read: free time) is something adults and children need. Unstructured play encourages creativity and improves their problem-solving skills.

Protect them

Let's be perfectly clear: it's your job to protect them from danger. But children learn and grow by overcoming challenges and conquering fears. It is good for them to go down the really long slide at the playground even when they are afraid. Encourage them to touch a goat or a snake at a petting zoo. Help them learn to swim in the deep end of the pool.


This trend, also known as helicopter parenting, involves parents don't let their kids out of their sight and is growing problem for children of all ages, including college students. (Yes, some parents have contacted the university president when their adult children experience roommate problems.) Children of helicopter parents often struggle to cope with the challenges of school or the workplace. Not surprisingly, college students with over-involved parents have a harder time succeeding.

Do their laundry

If you want your child to still be living at home at age 30 while you cook his meals and do his laundry, don't teach him how to do it himself. A list of daily chores with a few incentives will help him become independent and learn the value of hard work and rewards (you know, like, how to earn a paycheck for rent each month).

Build their self-esteem

Everyone needs love and healthy does of self-esteem. But some researchers suggest too much encouragement could have a dark side. Dr. Steven Stosny, who specializes in treating people with anger and abuse issues suggests that high levels of self-esteem could lead to entitlement. "When the world does not meet their entitlement needs, many with high self-esteem feel wronged and retaliate with manipulation, abuse or violence," he says. His advice: focus instead on teaching children to value others as well as themselves.

Sometimes the key to being a great parent is stepping back and letting children figure out how to resolve challenges by themselves. If they don't, parents might find themselves turning out to be the problem instead of a solution.

Check out the Free To Choose Network for great resources on the importance of teaching kids responsibility in improving the world.

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