- Parenthood has its ups and downs, especially the first time around.
- My husband and I bribed my son with chocolates and messed up his bedtime routine every now and then, but having a happy and healthy five-year-old outweighs our missteps.
- Though every parent strives to be the best they can, there are times when we look back and think, “I should’ve done that differently.”
- Here are the four biggest mistakes that I made before my kid turned five.
When my son turned five early this year, my husband and I clinked our glasses and toasted to each other. We may have bribed him with desserts to take one bite of broccoli, messed up his bedtime routine every now and then, and overindulged him with toys on his birthday. But having a happy, healthy, and warm five-year-old outweighs our missteps.
Though every parent strives to be the best they can, there are times when we look back and think, “I should’ve done that differently.” Here are the 4 biggest mistakes that I made before my kid turned five.
1. I believed that breast milk was irreplaceable
- Barbara Sauder/Shutterstock
The nutritional benefit of breast milk is well established, according to theAmerican Pregnancy Association. I thought that I made an educated choice about exclusively breastfeeding in the delivery room by requesting on every possible form tonot give my newborn formula or water.
But the reality was that I didn’t lactate until one week after labor. My child was starved the first two days, and we made regular hospital visits for two weeks to check hisjaundice. As a first-time mom, I was ignorant about the fact that certain natural processes were beyond my control.
“He’s too hungry,” the pediatrician said when he offered us bottles of prepared formula, and I realized that giving my child formula was the best choice.
There is evidence to suggest that the observed benefits of breastfeeding are confounded by other parenting factors,such as socioeconomic status. In this instance, perhaps my desire to be “good enough” was counterproductive, as it prevented me from seeing the forest for the trees.
2. I assumed that potty training would be a breeze
- By Yaoinlove/Shutterstock
My mother always raved about thetraditional Chinese toilet training method, where parents use a whistling sound to teach babies to relieve themselves into the toilet on command.
Instead, I opted for the American Academy of Pediatrics’child-readiness method, where you wait for cues from the child that they’re ready to start using the toilet. The natural approach appealed to me. However, I was not mentally prepared for how slow the process would be.
I encouraged with hugs and stickers, paused if my son showed no interest, read numerous potty-training books, and praised his successes with treats. There was not much progress a year into his toilet training. It was more painful than giving birth!
I was anxious that he would still be in training pants when he started school. Finally, a few days after he turned three and a half, he instantly grasped the whole thing!
In retrospect, I could have given the aggressive 3-day methoda shot. There has yet to be a scientific answerabout which is the most effective way of potty training, according to a review of research on the topic. It’s all about trial and error.
3. I thought that I could purge my kid’s artwork at will
Don’t get me wrong – I care about my son’s creativity. We talk about his ideas and presentation whenever he brings home projects.
At the same time, I’m a neat freak. We were flooded with arts and crafts when he entered preschool. I barely felt a twinge of guilt when I tossed out stickers with lousy adhesive, glitter art that got everywhere, and half-baked coloring pages.
One day, my son spotted his drawing of a (hardly decipherable) ice cream in the trash, and he had a total meltdown. He screamed at me for throwing away a project he liked and still wanted to work on. I was glad that he let his true emotions out, and I apologized profusely for my carelessness.
I’ve learned the hard way to always, always talk to my child, respond to his feelings, and involve him in the decision-making process – even if it’s over a picture of ice cream.
4. I didn’t teach him that losing was fine
- By Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock
My son was born and lived his first 20 months in the heart of Silicon Valley, where entrepreneurs wear failure as a badge of honor. Yet I failed to instill in him an embrace of failure early on.
I let him indulge his “tricks” in board games: sifting through cards in Candy Land or changing the number of the dice in Chutes and Ladders. But when he lost, he stopped playing.
Later, I stumbled on “Raising Lifelong Learners“, which had helped me change my behaviors. “Cheating in a board game is not about a lack of morals, but about a child having too much at stake in a game and feeling threatened. If we accost such a child for cheating, he may never play the game again. And so we need, instead, to help children lose with their self-confidence intact,” the author writes.
Now I stop games immediately if he tries to play “tricks.” We also play until everyone completes the game so that he doesn’t give up easily.
Navigating the choppy waters from raising an infant to a preschooler gave me waves of opportunity to learn and grow. At the end of the day, setting our children up for happiness and success in the long run isn’t as simple as breastfeeding them.
It’s about the time and efforts we expend to connect with them physically and emotionally in early years that is more likely to predict their competence in adulthood.