It's your first child. Naturally, you're going to be highly motivated to pull out all the stops, learn all the tricks and be the "perfect" parent. Since your child doesn't come with an owner's manual, you'll more than likely rely on friends, family, the internet and your own ideas about what's appropriate and what to expect from your child.
Dr. Kevin Leman, author of First-Time Mom, says many first-timers who are trying to be great parents push their firstborn a little too hard. There's a tendency to approach parenting from the perspective of raising the perfect child. Unfortunately, the child often gets buried underneath those high expectations and can feel as if they never measure up.
“Your firstborn child is already going to be highly motivated,” says Leman. “Instead of using conditional love and asking them to continually jump through new hoops, choose to be a nurturing, encouraging presence.”
Leman identifies 10 traps first-time parents often fall into:
A critical eye. Be aware of your standard of behavior. When is the last time you had a perfect day? Children are the same way. Training takes time and the standard is not perfection. Accept your child as he is and recognize that he is not going to excel at everything.
Overcommitment. Children want to be a part of a family and they want to identify with their home. When you choose to live an overcommitted life, you are training your child to identify her heart with what is outside the home.
Not enough Vitamin N. First-time parents often fall into the trap of thinking that they can make their child happier and better adjusted by what they give to their child and the experiences they provide for their child. Vitamin N stands for No! Too often, giving our child things becomes a substitute for being their parents.
Lack of Vitamin E. One of the biggest myths today is the concern over self-esteem. Instead of telling your child how wonderful she is just for being a child, you want to teach your child to think in a constructive, positive manner. Esteem comes from accomplishing something and from giving something back. If a child learns how to do something and her parents comment about what a great job she did, she recognizes that the most significant people in my life – my mom and dad – notice what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished and recognize that I have a role to play.
Playing the competition game. Human development is not a race. Early development does not guarantee that a child will be above average her entire life. Instead of comparing your child, enjoy him.
Overexcitement. As a first-time parent, you will go through many trials and anxieties for the first time. Babies do best with calm, confident parents. It gives them a sense of security, serenity and peace. Your baby will take his cues from you. Don’t treat minor instances like they are life and death occurrences.
Over-discipline. As a first-time parent you may not be as familiar with age-appropriate behavior. As a result, you’re more likely to over-discipline your child. Your goal is not to control your child, but to be in authority in a healthy way. One mother told how her 9-month-old walked up to the couch and grabbed some decorative pillows. The mom said she told her daughter not to throw them on the floor. The child looked her straight in the eyes and threw them on the floor. Instead of recognizing this as age-appropriate behavior, the mother viewed it as intentionally defiant behavior on the part of her child.
Under-discipline. The flip side of over-discipline is letting your child do whatever they want without any consequences. With firstborns in particular, you need to lay out exactly what the age-appropriate rules are and follow up. Since firstborns don’t have an older sibling to model behavior, you must be specific about what you want them to do.
Letting other people raise your child. It is too easy to give into your parents' or in-laws' advice. As a first time parent, it may take you awhile to assume your role as a full-fledged adult. You are the parent. No one knows your child better than you. Be responsible for the decisions you make in raising your child.
Allowing your child to be the center of the universe. Up until age two a child’s favorite word is “mine,” which is totally appropriate. Past this age, teach children how to share and interact with a variety of other children. Teach your child to be aware of other people and not just selfishly barge ahead.