Sure, we’ve heard lots of things we should do as a parent, but what about things we shouldn’t? Our parenting experts shared with us the top 4 parenting mistakes we should all try to avoid.


1. Having unrealistic expectations

There are many reasons why kids act out—from being too young to being too hungry or tired. Understanding your toddler’s temperament and modifying certain situations accordingly can be crucial. “If you take a toddler to a sit-down restaurant at 7:00 at night, you can’t reasonably expect him to sit still for the entire meal,” explains Ingram. “At 7:00, a toddler should be winding down to go to bed, not being tested on good manners.”

2. Taking things too seriously

Toddlers simply aren’t civilized yet, and it’s important to maintain that perspective. “These years go by so quickly, and dumping spaghetti on the head—which gets you so angry right now—is going to be a funny story one day,” says Karp.

3. Spanking

Corporal punishment is the least effective disciplinary measure for reducing undesired behavior, says the AAP. “It makes children feel ashamed, resentful and helpless, and it doesn’t teach them how to resolve conflict,” says Kate Kelly, author of The Baffled Parent’s Guide to Stopping Bad Behavior (McGraw- Hill, 2003). And since it becomes less and less effective each time it’s used, it can quickly escalate into abuse. Research also suggests that children who are spanked are more aggressive. “It demonstrates physical violence without teaching an alternative approach,” says Kelly.

4. Ridiculing or embarrassing

When reprimanding, refer to the undesirable behavior and don’t slander the child’s character, notes the AAP. Tell them what they said or did was hurtful—not that they are mean, rude or disrespectful. At around age 3, reprimand toddlers privately as much as possible, says Karp, since they care more about what others think of them. “Avoid shouting or namecalling, which is humiliating,” notes Karp. “Why would you do something destructive to your child’s self-esteem?”

Common parenting mistakes you should avoid.

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