Problematic Advice: Breaking down a concerning parenting article

If you’ve ever spent time online, you know that parenting tips are a dime a dozen. They pop up in our feeds, land in our inboxes, and sometimes even find their way into casual conversations. But not all advice is created equal.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at a recent parenting article that managed to catch my attention for all the wrong reasons. I received it in my inbox, just like many of you probably have at some point. After reading through it, I couldn’t help but feel that it missed the mark – by a long shot.

From misguided perspectives to questionable strategies, we’ll explore where it falls short and why it’s crucial to approach parenting advice with a discerning eye. So, buckle up as we embark on a journey to dissect what makes certain parenting advice not just unhelpful, but potentially harmful.

Which parts are concerning?

The original titled “How to Avoid Spoiling Your Child,” aimed to offer guidance on striking the right balance between being too permissive or too strict with our little ones. With promises of proven ways to help children behave appropriately for their age while building trust, the article appeared to hold valuable insights for parents seeking effective strategies.

However, as I read through the piece, I noticed several aspects that raised concerns. I’ll now highlight these concerns, and offer an alternative gentle and respectful approach and mindset instead.

  1. Parent-Centered Language: The original article often employs language that places parents in a power-centric role, mentioning how parents might “feel better” or emphasizing the parent’s perspective. This phrasing inadvertently diminishes the child’s voice and autonomy, conflicting with the principles of gentle and respectful parenting that prioritize open communication, collaboration, and considering the child’s perspective. Due to this parent-centered language, it creates a missed opportunity for empowering children in decision-making.
  1. Missed Opportunity for Empowerment: The article doesn’t consistently encourage children’s involvement in decision-making or problem-solving. This approach misses a valuable chance to empower children, helping them develop critical thinking skills, independence, and a sense of ownership over their choices. In gentle and respectful parenting, children are included in discussions about rules, routines, and decisions, fostering their sense of responsibility and contributing to a harmonious family dynamic.
  1. Materialistic Approach: The article suggests using gifts and material rewards to motivate and control children’s behavior. However, this approach may inadvertently teach children to value material possessions over intrinsic values like kindness, empathy, and responsibility. Gentle and respectful parenting encourages parents to focus on cultivating intrinsic motivation, helping children develop a sense of responsibility, empathy, and appreciation for experiences and relationships rather than material goods.
  1. Behaviorism Focus: The original article places significant emphasis on using rewards, treats, and sticker charts as tools for shaping children’s behavior. This behaviorist approach centers on external control mechanisms, potentially neglecting the underlying emotional and developmental needs of the child. Gentle and respectful parenting encourages understanding the reasons behind behavior, fostering a deeper connection, and promoting intrinsic motivation rather than relying solely on rewards and punishments.
  1. Conditional Love: One concerning result that could come from following the advice in this article is that it might lead your child to feel loved only when they meet certain conditions. So let me put this plainly. The article suggests that children’s good behavior is connected to getting love, attention, and rewards. As a result, kids might start linking their actions to whether their parents are happy with them or not. On the other hand, when they misbehave, they might think their parents are upset and don’t care about them. Even though we want to love our children unconditionally, focusing too much on what we want as parents, using rewards or punishments, or not addressing their emotions directly could unintentionally give the message that our love depends on how they behave. This happens when we prioritize certain behaviors over their emotional well-being, making them think our affection is only there if they do what we want.


Let's get specific on what to do, instead.

Now, let’s shift our focus towards a more intentional and mindful approach that aligns with the principles of gentle and respectful parenting. Moving beyond the conventional approach, we can foster a deeper understanding of teamwork while building a foundation for emotional well-being and character growth.

For this segment, I’ll post the original text and then give you a rewrite that’s not only more aligned, but yield greater benefits to your connection with your child and their own personal understanding of self-worth.

Original: “Try to limit gifts to special occasions… If your child expects treats all the time, they may not appreciate them as much.”
Rewritten: Instead of focusing on material gifts, prioritize spending quality time together and offering experiences that foster connection. Give gifts if you wish, without attaching motives or expecting gratitude. Encourage appreciation by modeling it and helping your child recognize thoughtful gestures.

Original: “If your child asks for a second cookie after you’ve told them they can only have one, it’s tempting to give in just to make them happy… But giving in can make your child think that they’ll always be able to win you over.”
Rewritten: Instead of focusing on “winning,” acknowledge your child’s desires and feelings. Engage in empathetic conversations about their wants while explaining limits and discussing alternatives together.

Original: “When your child does have a tantrum, try to remain calm, speak slowly and stay consistent… It’s often best to wait the tantrum out. Stay close so they know you’re there and to ensure they are safe.
Rewritten: Instead of waiting out tantrums, remain present and available to comfort your child. Use soothing words and gentle touches to help them regulate their emotions, showing them that their feelings are understood and accepted.

Original: “Read more about helping your child to think about other people’s feelings, and when you can start teaching your child manners.”
Rewritten: Instead of imposing manners, model empathy and considerate behavior. Engage in discussions about feelings and perspectives, encouraging your child to naturally develop empathy and manners through understanding.

Original: “If there’s a toy your child wants, you could set up a sticker or star chart so that they can earn it through good behaviour. It will mean more to them to know that they worked hard to achieve it, and they may take better care of the toy if they know that they had to put effort into getting it.”
Rewritten: Instead of tying toys to behavior through rewards, guide your child in the valuable skill of resource management. Help them learn the concept of saving up for something they desire or brainstorm creative ways to exchange services or find unique solutions. Encourage resourcefulness over consumerism, teaching them to appreciate ingenuity and thoughtful decision-making.

Original: “If they really want screen time and have explained that they tidied all their toys, you may feel better about it… This also helps them to learn to think independently and understand that good behaviour pays off.”
Rewritten: Instead of using screen time as a reward, focus on communicating the value of tidiness and organization, respecting belongings and shared spaces. Prioritize collaboration by encouraging your child to put away toys after playing, fostering teamwork and responsibility, rather than positioning screen time as a reward for compliance. It’s about working together and understanding the value of organization, rather than exerting authority over the child.

Original: “When they cry over not getting a toy when you’re out shopping, offer your sympathy, and let them know that this feeling won’t last. Then try to distract them, for example, by chatting about what you can do when you get home.”
Rewritten: When they cry over not getting a toy while out shopping, offer your sympathy and assure them that their feelings are understood. Instead of distraction, engage in a conversation about their emotions. Ask them about what they liked about the toy and why they wanted it, showing that their feelings are valued and fostering emotional awareness.

Bottom Line

Readers beware – Exercise caution when considering advice that appears aligned with an assertive style of parenting but in the end lacks a deeper consideration. Sadly, the conventional media has lots of these types of advices. Let’s try to look more intentionally and find ways to parent that emphasize collaboration, empathy, and the cultivation of mutual respect.

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