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The Exhausted Woman
with Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC

#1 Worst Parenting Mistake

ParentingWhether the child is 2 or 17 years old, the worst parenting mistake a parent can make is not listening. This presents in a variety of formats.

  1. Not listening to their boundaries. When the child has said they don’t want to talk anymore, listen and give them a break. They might need time to process what has already been said before they can respond any further. Explain that the issue might need to be readdressed and then agree when the next discussion will happen. This gives the child time to catch up and rethink their logic.
  2. Not listening to their body language. One of the best indicators of what is going on with a child is their body language. In many ways, a child has not mastered control of their bodies so they frequently send subtle messages by how they hold themselves. This can reveal insecurities, uncertainties, or stresses. Don’t ask them to change their posture, help them to change the underlying issue.
  3. Not listening to the whole story. Do not cut off a child or interrupt them. Just as a parent doesn’t like to be cut off or interrupted by a child, nor should the parent do the same behavior. Children learn more by what a parent does rather then what a parent says. Actions do speak louder than words.
  4. Not listening to the words they use. Repeated words or phrases are signals that a child is struggling in an area. Listen for phrases that have nothing to do with the topic and ask the child about it. If the topic is diverted for a bit, make sure to return to it or the child will learn that they can distract a parent by making random statements.
  5. Not listening to the emotion expressed. For a child, anger is a go-to emotion. It is easier for them to react in anger then to express loneliness, anxiety, guilt, shame, sadness, frustration, disappointment, jealousy, hurt, worry, fear, and shame. Look behind the anger to see what else might be going on inside of the child. Often, they are unable to express the right emotion for what they are feeling because they are still learning how to do this. Proper modeling from a parent is essential.
  6. Not listening to their point of view. Children formulate their point of view based on their experiences. They do not have the experience of adults and should not be expected to see things as an adult. This is a teaching moment where a parent can share how their experience has shaped their opinion. A child loves a story especially one that is about their parent.
  7. Not listening to their logic. However erroneous a child’s logic might be, a parent can’t correct inaccuracies they don’t hear. Proper correction requires parental understanding of the child’s point of view without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. It can be time consuming to fully listen and counterbalance their logic in a loving manner but it is worth it. The end result will be an adult who is able to articulate a point in a clear and concise manner.
  8. Not listening to their recollection of events. Arguing with a child about what did or did not happen is a waste of time and energy. Yes, a child can misinterpret a situation but they will not change their point of view though bullying. Listen and ask questions about their recollection of the event before offering another perspective. They will be much more willing to see things differently if the approach is done gently and respectfully.
  9. Not listening to their stressors. What stresses out the child may not stress out the parent. A child’s stress should not be minimized or turned into a joke. Their stress can reveal feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, fear, guilt or shame. Acknowledge the child’s anxieties and help them to conquer it.
  10. Not listening to their requests. Ask a child what they want most from their parents and it is rarely some possession. More often it is a desire for the parent to stop yelling or fighting, to give the child some individual attention or to spend more time with them. Don’t disregard a child’s request; it is a treasure and often a blueprint as to how best to reach them.
  11. Not listening to their defiance. Defiance can be a child’s way of testing a boundary to see if the parent will be consistent. Repeated defiance in the same area could be a “breadcrumb” of a much larger issue. Abuse and trauma are two main reasons kids tend to act out inappropriately. Abuse for a child can be physical, sexual, emotional, mental, or verbal. This should be fully explored with a professional.
  12. Not listening to their silence. Sometimes a child stops talking because they don’t feel heard. Frequently, they have attempted an explaination only to be cut off or minimized by a parent. After a period of time, a child will just stop talking all together. This is dangerous because their logic is not mature so the conclusions they draw can be destructive. If a child won’t talk to a parent, they need to speak with a counselor.
  13. Not listening to their moodiness. Not all mood changes are hormonal; sometimes it is an indication of depression, suppressed anger, or anxiety. Look for patterns in the moodiness such as frequency, time of day, level of activity, diet, friends, or school. A regular pattern could signify an underlying issue. Don’t ignore this or be dismissive, things could worsen if not handled immediately.
  14. Not listening to their hormones. Depending on the age of the child, hormones can be a huge factor in radial mood variances and anger outbursts. It is hard to remember just how crazy a person can feel when hormones are out of whack. For some kids, this could be an everyday issue. Don’t overreact to their emotional outburst, come alongside them instead.
  15. Not listening to their apology. Once a child has apologized for an offense, the issue should be put aside and not rehashed over again. Believe them when they apologize. The best person to have faith in a child is the parent. After the issue has been addressed, move on and don’t bring it up again.
  16. Not listening to their art/music. Art and music are reflections of how a person views the world. It is not always about the lyrics, although sometimes it can be. Rather, pay attention to the beat, the overall rhythm, and the feeling the music inspires. The same is true for art, focus on the colors, the composition style, and the overall impression. These are windows into a child’s soul.
  17. Not listening to their failures. Childhood is the perfect time to make mistakes. The consequences are far less severe than making the same mistake as an adult. A child’s failure is not an indication that they will have a lifelong struggle. If handled with properly, the incident can be a learning experience instead of a source of inadequacy.
  18. Not listening to their insecurities. Insecurities can originate from trauma, self-depreciating remarks, bullying, or intimidation from a parent. When insecurity is spoken, ask the child where they got that idea. Then counteract the negative with truth. Have the courage to confront someone who might be feeding the child’s insecurity even if it is unintentional.
  19. Not listening to their fears. Being afraid is normal and healthy but being fearful might be an indication of anxiety or stress. Unrecognized, these fears could manifest in obsessive compulsive behaviors that could be very difficult to overcome as an adult. Don’t dismiss or underestimate the fear. Come alongside them with a story of someone who overcame a similar issue.
  20. Not listening to their dreams. Kids have crazy and unrealistic dreams sometimes like wanting to become their favorite Marvel character. But these dreams are insights into their desire to help others, to be competitive or even to be recognized. Don’t squash their dreams. Help them to realize it in a more practical manner.


#1 Worst Parenting Mistake


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APA Reference
Hammond, C. (2017). #1 Worst Parenting Mistake. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 19, 2019, from