The 10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make

Parenting is the toughest job in the world – and also the most important. Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t send any of us home with a manual when we left the hospital with our infant.

Most moms rely on friends and family for their best parenting advice – although none of those people are usually trained, educated experts on child development.

You expect your doctors, teachers, pastors and accountants to be educated and professionally trained, right? Well, expect the same for yourself when it comes to your role as a parent.

As a child development researcher, I have read hundreds of books and medical reports on child development. I put together a list of the most common mistakes parents make based on this research so you don’t have to go back to school and study it yourself. You’re welcome.

10 Common Mistakes Parents Make

Not Enough Quality Time and Attention

77% of American families have both parents working outside of the home. As a result, most children spend the vast majority of their day with a caregiver, daycare center, grandparent or at school.

When you get home after a long day at work, how much energy and patience do you have left for your kids? Not much, right?

Kids get on their video games. Mom relieves her stress cruising Pinterest or Facebook. The entire evening blows by and the parents and kids have not spent any quality time together.

It’s critical that kids have their emotional tank filled by you every day (even teenagers!). Small efforts by you will fill your child’s emotional tank after a long day.

  • Let your child sit on your lap
  • Have your child cook with you
  • Play a card game
  • Sing and dance
  • Go on a walk or bike ride
  • Read a book to them

Simple, free family fun is limitless. Make time for your kids every day.

Not Enough Sleep

According to The National Sleep Foundation (, research suggests that most healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Children and adolescents need even more. The following is a breakdown of the recommended number of hours of sleep people need by age (* including naps):


(0 to 2 months): …………….10.5 to 18 hours*

(2-12 months): ………………………14 to 15 hours*


(12-18 months): ……………………13 to 15 hours*

(18 months-3 years): ……………12 to 14 hours*

(3-5 years): …………………………….11 to 13 hours*

(5-12 years): ………………………………9 to 11 hours

ADOLESCENTS      8.5 to 9.5 hours

ADULTS        7 to 9 hours

What time do your children go to sleep?                           

What time do they wake up?                                  

How many hours of sleep do they receive each day? ______________

According to the chart above, do your children get an adequate amount of sleep? ______________

Sleep deprivation creates a laundry list of mental and physical health problems: ADHD, aggressive behavior, depression, obesity and many more.

Poor Nutrition

According to The American Obesity Association, 127 million adults in the U.S. are overweight; 60 million are obese and nine million are severely obese. So basically 200 million of the 300 million people in America are overweight! Well, that’s no surprise, considering what we eat and feed our kids.

Not long ago, a mother told me, “I never give my kids sodas. I give them Sprite.” Since when was Sprite not a soda? Just because it’s clear and “caffeine free,” it’s still a soda and it’s not healthy.

It’s not the caffeine in drinks that make them so terrible for children—it’s the chemicals and sugar. Same goes for fruit juice and sports drinks. Read the labels. You’ll be astounded by the amount of sugar in these drinks.

If you see a child who’s unruly, emotional or disrespectful, look at what the child had to eat or drink that day. I can guarantee he or she consumed something with sugar.

Proper health and nutrition starts in the home. Your children model what you eat. Do you want your children to grow up and have to face heart disease, cancer or diabetes? Just because other parents hand their children sodas, Gatorade, candy, ice cream, fries and chicken nuggets, does not mean it is acceptable.

What do your children eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? What do they eat for snacks? What do they drink? Do any of these foods and drinks contain sugar? If you want to see drastic changes in your child’s behavior and foster a lifetime of good health, it is extremely important to eliminate all sugar and fatty foods from your child’s diet.

Lack of Positive Affirmations

How often do you tell your children, “I love you,” “I’m proud of you,” or “You are so smart”? Many parents make the mistake of thinking, “My kids know I love them. I don’t have to tell them that.” Folks, your children absolutely need to hear you say, “I love you.”

When I was a child, my parents never told me they loved me, and I cannot describe the pain that brought me. Your children need to feel loved by your actions and your words. Even if your child has behavior problems, find a reason to praise him—daily. His lack of positive reinforcement just might be the reason for his misbehavior.

Lack of Positive Discipline

Decades of research shows that children who are spanked more than twice per month have tremendous emotional long term side effects.

When I was conducting research for my book, I asked my pediatrician her thoughts on spanking. She said several decades-long research studies had just been published. She actually made copies of them and let me take the studies home.

One was titled Kids Who Are Spanked Have Lower IQs. The other was titled Spanking Is Detrimental For Kids. In both studies, children who were spanked were followed for thirty years! Every aspect of their lives was tracked: grades in school, mental health, behavior, job status, marital status, health, income, etc…

The results were grim. Kids who were spanked has countless struggles with mental health, addiction, marriage problem, job security compared to kids who were not spanked.

The reason I have never spanked my kids is simple:

If it is illegal for an adult to hit, slap, grab or push another adult, then how in the world is it okay for an adult to hit a child?

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson, author of Parenting: A Field Guide says, “No matter who tells you it’s okay…it is never okay to hit a child.”

There are dozens of alternatives to spanking. I know they work because I use them. When my daughter is unruly, she either goes to time out, loses television privileges or loses time with playmates. And when my blood is boiling and I’m about to lose control of my emotions—I simply walk away.

But the biggest Ah-ha parenting moment was what I learned from Katie Malinski LCSW. Katie teaches the Arc of the Tantrum and encourages parents to take presentative measures to avoid the triggers that set off a tantrum in the first place.

I call this Preventative Parenting. When I give my child quality time, a healthy diet and quality sleep, I prevent 90% of behavioral problems from occurring in the first place. #gamechanger

Poor Money Management, No College Fund

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is not managing their money responsibly, living beyond their means, living in credit card debt and not planning for the future. One parent I met recently said she did not have a college fund set up for her children and said, “My daughter is very bright. I’m sure she will get scholarships so we won’t have to pay for her college tuition.”

First, her daughter is only five years old. How in the world can she assess at this young age how her daughter will do academically? Second, it isn’t fair to put the burden on your children to pay for school. It is your responsibility as a parent to pay for school.

A child should have the opportunity to attend college, regardless of scholarships. For parents who say, “I can’t afford a college fund”—well, my college fund each month costs me less than my cable bill! So, if you can afford cable, you can afford to have a college fund for your children!

It is also essential that parents show their children how to live responsibly with money by living below your means and living debt-free.

Lack of Follow-Through

I wish I had a dollar for every time I saw a parent say, “Johnny, if you hit your sister again, we are going home.” Then of course, Johnny hits his sister again, but the parent does not follow through with her words and take the child home.

Children are exceptionally smart. It takes you caving in only one time for Johnny to say to himself, “Ah ha, I won.” If you threaten your child with, “If you do that again, there will be no dessert after dinner” you must always follow through—or don’t make a threat you can’t (or won’t) follow through on.

Also, it is important that the punishment fits the crime. Is it really fair or practical to say, “If you don’t clean your room, then I’m going to cancel our trip to Disneyland”? Are you really going to cancel a trip to Disneyland? Of course not. Your threats must be practical; they must fit the crime, and you must always follow through.

Dr. Jennifer Helmcamp says, “Parents need to realize that they do not do their children any favors by being permissive. It is essential that children are raised with positive discipline, structure and boundaries.”


Who do your children associate with? Do you know them? Have you met their parents? What do their parents value? Do they correlate with your values? Up to a certain age, parents are the most influential people in a child’s life. Then come peers.

A day will come when your children’s peers have a greater influence on the decisions they make (and usually it’s the bad decisions) than you do. So know your children’s peers. Know them well. Know their parents. Know them well. If their morals and values do not mesh with yours, it’s time to find Bobby some new friends.

Not Making Marriage Your #1 Priority

Before I had children, I’d always heard the phrase, “children come first.” Then I started reading books about marriage and a common theme emerged: “Marriage comes first.” So which is it? The kids or you?

As selfish as this might sound, you and the well-being of your marriage must be a priority. Why? If Mom and Dad aren’t happy, the kids aren’t happy. If Mom and Dad don’t show love and affection toward each other, then neither will the kids. If Mom and Dad aren’t mentally and physically fit, then the kids won’t be either.

Success starts at the top. If you want to have a successful family, then Mom and Dad must be successful in love, marriage, respect and friendship.

Haven’t you heard a woman say, “My husband and I were madly in love when we got married. Then we had children, focused one-hundred percent on the kids, and then my husband and I drifted apart”?

When was the last time you had a “date night” with your spouse (translation: a night alone without the kids)? If you want to maintain a happy, healthy and well-connected marriage, it is critical for you to have a date night with your spouse at least once a month (twice a month is ideal).

When I get agitated with my husband, the first question I ask myself is, “When was the last time we had a date night?” The answer is always, “Far too long ago.”

Lack of Spiritual Foundation

A big mistake people in general (especially parents) make is trying to solve their problems alone. Have you ever been in a rut and couldn’t seem to find the right answers or positive support?

For the first 30 years of my life, I tried to solve my own problems and make decisions based on what I thought was right. Then I gave all my power to God. When I needed to make a decision as a parent and entrepreneur, I asked, “What would Jesus do?” instead of, “What would Kate do?” Soon I realized I was making much wiser decisions.

Parents who communicate daily with God and use Him as their lifeline, support and mentor walk through life with a warmer heart, a peaceful soul and a greater moral compass.


Are you overwhelmed by this list? If so, take one of them and start improving on that. Once you make improvements in one area, try to tackle a second one.

What are the toughest things for you as a parent? 

mistakes parents make






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