The Atlantic surveyed a host of child development experts to figure out the best ways to screw up a child. It’s easier than you’d think! A few of their ultimate no-nos below:
- Don’t threaten to leave your kids behind at the park when they refuse to get off the slide. Even as a joke. “For a child, the thought that you could leave them alone in a strange place is both terribly frightening and can begin to erode their attachment to you as the secure base from which they can encounter the world,” authors note. So don’t freak your kid out.
- Don’t lie about sending Barkley to “a beautiful dog farm in Florida” (ahem, mom) when you actually put him down. Or bend the truth in other ways. Even if your intentions are good, you’re distorting reality for your kid. And that can make the world a difficult and potentially damaging place.
- When your kid yells and throws things, don’t yell at her. “Expressing his or her anger by hitting or throwing things is a perfectly natural behavior for a child. It’s a way for kids with their limited language and immature cognitive (mental) abilities to express emotion,” authors note. You don’t want to teach your kid that emotions are a bad thing, do you?! What, are you repressed or something?
- Don’t freak out when your kid breaks a rule. According to parenting experts, context is what really matters. In other words, if your home is loving and supportive, it doesn’t really matter if your kid isn’t doing what he’s supposed to. “Parents letting kids play video games with violent content and parents spanking provide examples [of this],” says child development doc George Scarlett. “If you just look at the correlations, you might conclude these two are bad ideas, but look closer, and it seems these two are fine for most when embedded in good contexts and caring parenting.”
There are eight more ways you can mess things up here. But maybe parents should take that last point to heart for themselves, too — if it’s not the end of the world when your kid breaks a rule, you should probably be a little more lenient with yourself as well.