11 Things a Child Psychologist Is Begging Parents and Grandparents To Stop Doing

Upset child after a parent or grandparent's habit negatively impacted him

We can likely all agree: when thinking about our parents or when reflecting on our own parenting skills, everyone is doing the best they can, right? Babies don’t come with owner’s manuals, and parenting, for many, is a “learn as you go” process. As a parent or grandparent, you love that child with all your heart, but even the best of us make mistakes from time to time, and probably unknowingly.

We all need reminders every so often of how our behaviors and habits can impact our kids so that we can adjust accordingly if needed. So, if you would like to level up your abilities as a parent or grandparent, look to these things that child psychologists are begging you to stop doing, according to the experts themselves.

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Integrative and children's mental health expert, Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, says that overreliance on digital devices can impede a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development.

The child psychologist goes on to say, “It's important for children to engage in a variety of play-based activities that promote growth in different areas, including in visual-motor, physical exercise and socialization. When well-meaning grandparents plop a grandchild in front of a device to keep them entertained, both the child and grandparent miss out on important connection time.”

Licensed child psychologist Dr. Caroline Danda says that not everything has to be a life lesson. Instead, she advises not talking so much. “Lean in, get curious and listen instead,” she suggests.

“When providing feedback, get curious about the child’s perspective, particularly with adolescents,” she says. “Feeling seen and heard goes a long way towards fostering healthy discussion and maintaining a positive relationship, even when there are consequences involved.”

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“Children learn how to interact with others by watching the adults around them, and sometimes, unresolved conflicts can play out in front of the children or grandchildren,” Dr. Capanna-Hodge says. “It is important to demonstrate healthy, respectful relationships, including how to deal with conflicts constructively, which sets a positive example for children.”

Maybe you tend to think that children are nothing but feelings, which means that their feelings, when expressed, aren’t all that unique or special. But Dr. Danda says, “Stop assuming children’s feelings aren’t a big deal, trying to dismiss them or fix them too quickly. Instead, validate feelings and listen first. Even if parents think their child is overreacting to a situation, remember that their child does not possess the same self-regulation skills, perspective or wisdom as you have. Dismissing their feelings can make them feel invalidated, undermine their confidence and hinder their ability to express themselves effectively.

“Past generations may have been parented with a focus on negative behaviors and [a] tendency to yell in order to get a child’s attention," Dr. Capanna-Hodge shares. "[However,] regularly raising your voice can create an environment of fear and anxiety, leading to issues with stress management, self-esteem and communication.”

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Instead of micromanaging, Dr. Danda recommends allowing kids to experiment and fail.

“It’s easy to jump in and rescue our kids so they don’t make mistakes,” she says. “This level of intervention can rob children of valuable learning opportunities and stifle creativity. Allowing children to experiment, make mistakes and learn from failures fosters resilience, problem-solving skills and self-confidence.”

Guilt is never the way to get a child to behave better.

As Dr. Capanna-Hodge says, “Trying to control behavior through guilt can lead to feelings of worthlessness and an unhealthy desire to please others at the expense of one's own needs that can affect a child for a lifetime. ‘Look how much I do for you!’ or ‘Grandma needs you, or I'll be upset’ isn’t going to help a child develop into a self-confident adult who knows how to set boundaries.”

Here's your reminder to put your phone down and be present with your children. Dr. Danda points out that adults often lament the impact of technology and social media on children and teens. “Yet, how often are adults immersed in the same technology?” she says. “Are you modeling the healthy technology habits you want your kids to adopt?”

This can be remedied by establishing phone-free zones around the house, and instead, these areas can be devoted to connecting with one another and doing technology-free activities.

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“I think more than any other complaint I hear from parents is that grandparents don't follow the discipline rules,” Dr. Capanna-Hodge observes. “Inconsistent rules can create confusion and insecurity, which can lead to [a] worsening of behaviors, especially for neurodivergent children. The best learning occurs when children have clear, consistent boundaries that make them feel loved and safe, while also teaching them responsibility and self-control.”

Dr. Danda says that people often respond to positive outcomes with the word “perfect,” without realizing that it reinforces the idea that perfection is achievable and expected. With kids, she says to instead “normalize imperfection” with phrases like: “This will work.” “This is good enough.” “Thanks, that’s a job well-done.”

“When grandparents openly compare grandchildren, this can diminish a child's sense of self-worth and foster unhealthy competition or resentment,” Dr. Capanna-Hodge says. “Each child is unique and should be encouraged to grow at their own pace.”

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Our experts share that children can experience several benefits after these behaviors are reduced or eliminated. They include:

  • Increased self-esteem

  • Built-up resilience

  • Better communication skills

  • Emotional intelligence

  • A better sense of independence

  • Greater empathy and compassion

  • Healthy coping and problem-solving skills

  • Better relationships

  • More balanced well-being

  • More meaningful conversations

Next up, learn more about “gentle parenting.”