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parenting mistakes to avoid

Gettyimages.com/Teenage girl ignores her mom. The mom gestures while through to get through to her daughter.

I pull away from my parents a lot. When I do it, I find myself thinking, “It would hurt me so much if my child did this to me.” But here’s the thing—I’m not trying to hurt my parents when I pull away. I’m trying to prevent them from hurting me. To give you an example, I am a spoken word performer sometimes. In the past, I invited my mom to some of my shows but she sat in the front looking disappointed. After the show, she asked me a lot of questions as to why I perform—questions of which the subtext was I don’t like that you perform. The look on her face while I was on stage distracted me and threw me off my game. Her questions after the show hurt my feelings. So now, I don’t invite my mom to my shows. Perhaps she’d hoped her behavior would cause me to stop performing, but that’s not what happened—it simply caused me to remove her from that part of my life. I think that’s a shame, and if it’s one you’d like to avoid with your own kids, know these are mistakes parents make that make your grown kids pull away.

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Telling them they never call

When your child calls, the first thing you tell them is that it’s been too long since the last time they called. Then you drill them as to why they’ve been too busy to call, and you analyze their schedule, deciding there was no excuse for them to wait this long.

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Zoning out when they’re excited

If your child is interested in something you know nothing about, then when she talks about it, you may feel overwhelmed, and unintentionally zone out. By the time she’s done talking, you realize you were mentally somewhere else the whole time. She realizes that too so she stops telling you about her interests and passions. Make an effort to learn about the things your child cares about, so you can engage in conversation about them.

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Your first comments are of concern

When your child is excited about a new development, like a new job, new apartment, or new boyfriend, you come in immediately with concern and doubt. Now, it’s your job as a parent to be concerned. But if that’s the tone of your very first comments, your child will shut down. Match her enthusiasm. Say some of the positive things you see in the situation. Show you’re on her team. And then, gently, ask your questions.

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Comparing them to others

You probably only tell your child that this other person you know her age is doing this or that, because you think that perhaps that individual could be a good contact for your kid—maybe that person would have some tips. But it just sounds to your child like you’re comparing her to that other person, and negatively at that. However you can, refrain from comparing your kid to someone else. Especially if she’s the middle child.

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Asking why they haven’t achieved more

“Why aren’t you the manager at that company yet?” or “How come you haven’t gotten department stores to buy your product yet?” are not productive comments. You just want to see your child thrive and believe she is capable of everything she dreams of. But your questions sound like you are implying her incompetence or lack of effort are the reasons she isn’t there yet.

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Giving uninformed advice

If your child works in a field about which you know nothing, she probably doesn’t want your advice on it. You can give general advice on how to navigate workplace social dynamics and ask for a raise. But attempting to give detailed advice about her profession will probably make her feel like you are just another boss, rather than a friend.

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Only wanting to do your things

I understand that after a certain age, a woman can get stuck in her ways. But if you’ll only do your things with your child, she just won’t want to see you as often. So go to that stupid movie she likes, and get a drink at that dingy place she enjoys. It’s about the company, not the activity, after all.

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Panicking when they’re panicking

When your child is panicking that she might lose her job or some other catastrophe might strike, you should not also panic (even if you see reason to). Insider’s tip: your child calls you so you can tell her everything will be alright. If you sound just as pessimistic about it as she does then, she’ll stop calling you in an emergency.

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Saying, “I told you so”

The words, “I told you so” have never improved any relationship. If you warned your child something would happen, and then it did happen, nothing is gained by you pointing out that you were right. She just needs your help at that point—not your sense of righteousness.

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Suggesting they should quit

You want to protect your baby. You want life to be easy for her. So when she complains that work is hard, exhausting, and even upsetting, your instinct is to tell her to just…quit that job. But to her, this doesn’t sound like you protecting her: it sounds like you not believing in her.

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Suggesting they should move home

After a breakup, or when life has just been hard on her, you may want to tell your child she should just move back home. This, again, is your way of protecting her but it makes her feel like you don’t think she can manage her own life.

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Critiquing rather than cheering

If your child is a writer, she doesn’t need your editorial notes on her book. If she’s a designer, she doesn’t need your feedback on her aesthetic. She gets enough feedback and criticism from the rest of the world—trust me. From her mom, she just needs a cheerleader.

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Nitpicking their appearance

Next time you want to tell your child that her top is slightly wrinkly, her boots don’t match her bag, or that dress doesn’t flatter her figure, ask yourself what is more important: making your child look perfect, or having your child like you that day? You only get to choose one.

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Dwelling on the past

If your child was shy/bossy/chubby in the past, leave it in the past. When she takes an extra cookie at lunch today, she doesn’t need you to remind her she was overweight when she was young. If she isn’t ready to ask a man out, she doesn’t need you announcing, “You’ve always been shy.” She wants to leave some of her embarrassing past behind. Doesn’t everyone?

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It’s alone time or no time

One on one time with your child is important. But if one-on-one is the only way you’ll see your child, then you’ll just see her less. If you tell her she can’t bring her friend to visit, or a boyfriend home with her, because you want one-on-one time, then she just might not visit a tall. Besides, it’s important to befriend your child’s friends—it’s part of repairing your relationship with her.

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