10 Rookie parenting mistakes

There is no such thing as perfect parenting – we all get it wrong sometimes. Here are some rookie mistakes that have longer-term consequences. By Kate Sidley

When you are presented with your first brand new baby, everyone from your mom-in-law to the current top-selling baby book seems to be giving you advice. But however much we know, we all land up making parenting choices we wish we hadn’t!

Here’s a heads-up from the experts and from moms who’ve been there, done that.

1. Tiptoeing around the house when baby naps
This is absolutely the best way of ensuring that your baby wakes up at the slightest noise! Far better to let her get used to the ordinary sounds of your household – the radio, the vacuum cleaner, the rest of the family going about their daily lives. Then she will sleep through them.

2. Rocking your baby to sleep
Once your baby has become accustomed to falling asleep to a warm body and a gentle swaying movement, she’ll need it every time. Then there’s the added challenge of putting her down in her cot without waking her. Sleep experts recommend that you get your baby into the cot before she’s totally asleep. That way, she learns to put herself to sleep. This is not to say that rocking and snuggling don’t have their place – they’re important for bonding and security.

3. Expecting life to get ‘back to normal’ in a jiffy
You must have heard soon-to-be parents saying things like, “We’re not going to change our lives just because we have a baby. He’ll have to fit in with our lives. Next year, we’re planning a pony-trekking adventure in Nepal. He’ll be nine months by then, so that should all work out.” Honey, there’s a new normal now, and for 99.9% of us, it doesn’t include pony-trekking.

4. Ignoring your instincts
Elizabeth Beavon, who runs a well baby clinic at the Colony Centre in Craighall says, “Parents often expect other people to have the correct answer to their baby’s needs, but when you and your baby have established the relationship, you will know your baby best. You know what she needs and you know when something is wrong. For instance, if you have a strong instinct that there is really something wrong with your baby, get her to a doctor without delay. Early intervention sometimes prevents long-term repercussions.”

5. Neglecting your relationship
If one parent has moved out of the bedroom onto a mattress on the floor of the toddler’s room, that’s a problem. The primary relationship needs to be strong and resilient.

6. Failing to read over-stimulation signals
The book Baby Sense, by Ann Richardson and Megan Faure, has made lots of parents more aware of a baby’s sensory world. Nonetheless, it’s still quite common for parents who are trying desperately to cheer up a crying baby in a busy shopping centre to wave a rattle or otherwise interact with the little one. When a baby’s sensory system is overloaded, the baby actually needs to be removed from the stimulating environment that they’re in.

7. Being inconsistent
“You’re the parent in the relationship. Have the confidence to be in charge,” says Beavon. “Children need to know where their boundaries are; they need routine and structure and discipline in their lives. If you’re always changing the rules, the child never knows what they are. So if you say no to sweets in the checkout queue and then give in because you’re embarrassed about a tantrum in public, your child doesn’t know what the rule is.”

8. Expecting too much
“I often see parents with unreasonable expectations of age-appropriate behavior, which sometimes leads them to be overly strict, controlling and critical to toddlers, in particular, to misdemeanors that they are not old enough to understand or control. It’s important for parents to understand the child’s development at every age and have appropriate expectations,” says Beavon.

9. Employing the electronic babysitter
There are times when you would do anything for 10 minutes of peace and quiet. But remember that TV isn’t recommended for kids under two, according to the American Association of Pediatrics, and this is one bad habit that is easy to get into.

10. Letting baby fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth
When milk (or juice) pools in baby’s mouth at night, bacteria flourish and this leads to tooth decay. Pain and infection may result and badly decayed teeth might have to be removed. Oh well, they are just temporary teeth, you might be thinking, but baby teeth are important for speech and chewing and they are the placeholders for big teeth. And trying to wean her off the bottle before it does any harm mind end up being a bigger challenge than you might think.

*Originally published in February 2014


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