As parents, we lead by example. But it is all too easy to lead kids astray with our own inadvertent flaws. What kinds of behaviors should you avoid if you want your child to grow up to be a healthy and effective leader? Here are five parenting habits to avoid.

Helicopter Parenting

Nobody wants to see their child get hurt, but if you shield your child from all pain, he’ll miss some important learning experiences. The adage, “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” comes into play here. If you want your child to grow strong, let him taste some of life’s bitterness along with the sweet.

It’s okay to be a safety net, but if you hover too much, your child won’t know how to cope when you’re not there. Researchers have found that over-protected children are less open to new ideas and more vulnerable to anxiety and self-consciousness.

Overpraising

Dr. Paul Donahue warns that overpraising children can hinder growth. Too many compliments can prompt a child to believe he must always be perfect, that outside validation is a necessary part of life, and that trying new things is risky.

Donahue recommends that parents praise effort rather than achievement. He also suggests that you word your accolades as specifically as possible. Instead of making blanket statements like “Great job,” say things like, “You really put a lot of effort into that!”

Mistaking Physical Growth for Mental Maturity

Children pass through a number of developmental stages as they grow. These stages can be classified as Infancy (zero to two years), Early Childhood (three to five), Childhood (six to nine), Preadolescence (ten to twelve), Early Adolescence (thirteen to fifteen), and Late Adolescence (sixteen to eighteen.)

A child who is nine may look like he’s twelve. That doesn’t mean he’s equipped to watch his baby sister when you’re not home. A child who is twelve may look like she’s sixteen. That doesn’t mean she’s ready to date or handle a romantic relationship.

Don’t make assumptions about what your child is mature enough to handle based on looks, behavior, grades, or intelligence. Know what to expect during each developmental stage, and don’t let outward appearances fool you.

Giving In

Children test limits; it’s part of being a kid. If you give in to your child’s demands when they are throwing a tantrum and you know you shouldn’t, you’re doing him a disservice.

Battling a persistent kid can be uncomfortable. Set your limits, and stick to them. If you don’t, you teach your child that adults are soft-willed and kids can always get what they want. Model good leadership by taking your parental role seriously. Your child, in turn, will become a good leader by watching you.

Acting without Integrity

Do you ever swear in traffic? Tell lies to avoid a confrontation? Make a promise that you fail to keep? Act differently when no one else is around besides your child?

What you do and say influences your child’s perception of himself. If you act without integrity, your child will internalize this behavior as his own. A leader without character is a poor leader, indeed.

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