“The 10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make” – Seriously? Seriously?!!

If I had to make a list of the things that I’m most intolerant of, I’d put fear mongering up there near the top. I’m not a fan of advertisements, public service announcements, campaigns, TV shows, articles or blog posts that use fear to push their agenda. Which is why when I read the Lifescript post Top 10 Mistakes Even Smart Moms Make, I was more than a little upset. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things on this list I definitely agree with, but when it starts out with number one saying it’s a mistake to share a bed with your baby, you can bet that I’m going to take the whole list with a grain of salt.

Here are what Lifescript calls the “10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make:”

  1. Sharing a bed with baby.
  2. Putting your child to bed with milk or juice.
  3. Buying second-hand toys or baby furniture.
  4. Showing your child “smart baby” DVDs.
  5. Putting kids in the basket of a shopping cart.
  6. Sharing utensils with your child.
  7. Delaying or avoiding vaccines.
  8. Leaving your child alone in the car “just for a minute.”
  9. Skipping helmets on tricycle rides.
  10. Leaving your child alone in the bath or shower.

These are the “10 biggest mistakes parents make?” The biggest? Really?

If I had to grade myself as a parent based on this list I think I would get a big, fat “F” as I’ve done 9 out of 10 of these things at least once and about half of them on a regular basis. How about you? How would you rate?

It feels as though the author of this article assumes that none of us have any common sense whatsoever, yet it’s directed at “smart” moms. It’s also a slap in the face to any mother who’s made educated and thoughtful decisions about things like co-sleeping and vaccinations.

I co-slept with both of my children as babies. It is a practice that is as old as time and can be beneficial to both mother and baby if it is done safely. Annie at PhDinParenting has put together a great list of the dos and don’ts of co-sleeping safety. I don’t believe a blanket statement telling people not to co-sleep is the answer. I think giving them guidelines to follow to make it a safe environment is much more productive which I wrote about in this post about a surprising Fox News report regarding co-sleeping.

Julia wrote about why she co-slept with her children and Lactating Girl wrote her reasons for co-sleeping as well.

In the Lifescript article they say, “In 2008, when the U.S. experienced its largest measles outbreak in a decade, nearly half the 131 sickened kids were unvaccinated.” Does that not translate into more than half of the sickened kids WERE vaccinated? That doesn’t seem like the best argument in favor of vaccinations to me and I’m pretty sure that the “smart” moms will see through the data presented. I’m not saying vaccinations are good or bad, but I think parents should be allowed to make the choices that are best for their children.

After her oldest son began having terrible seizures, Steph of Adventures in Babywearing did a lot of research before she decided vaccinations were not right for her family. She feels, “This is an area that is not ‘one size fits all.’”

On Raising My Boychick’s Naked Pictures of Faceless People – a series of guest posts from diverse anonymous bloggers – one blogger shared about her decision not to vaccinate her children. She believes:

People need to step back, take a deep breath and do what is right for them without expecting everyone to come to the same conclusion. Alarmist propaganda is never ok and neither is demonizing an entire group of people for a personal decision. We trust parents to drive their children around in cars, to make other healthcare decisions, to guide their children’s dietary choices. This is no different.

Colleen wrote about why she chooses to delay vaccinations and said:

I know that doctors believe in supporting the AAP and the status quo. I know they believe that administering vaccines is in the best interest of our children and of all children. But I hope our doctor also understands that by educating myself about vaccines, by researching them and, yes, even by questioning the schedule and the ingredients in them that I am doing what is in the best interest of my child. No parent should be faulted for that.

Moving right along. I totally understand the “leaving your child alone” in either a car or the bath tub business. Those, rightfully, should be on the list. However, don’t put your child in the basket of a shopping cart because they will tip it over? Um, what about that handy little strap-like thing in there called a seat belt? I’m pretty sure that if the child is seat-belted in, they will not tip the cart. I’ve been pushing kids around in shopping carts for nearly 6 years and nobody has fallen out yet, although my son did drop a large container of yogurt out of the cart basket which exploded all over the floor. Turns out giving him the yogurt to hold was a big parenting mistake.

I could pick apart the rest of the list, but I’ll leave that for you to do. I think the bottom line is take everything you read with a grain of salt, do your own research, trust your instincts, and make the choices that work best for your child and your family.

Photo used with permission from Adventures in Babywearing

Cross-posted on BlogHer where a great discussion is already underway.

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49 thoughts on ““The 10 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make” – Seriously? Seriously?!!

  1. I love the response about your article on Twitter this morning! I definitely agree with your last line and also posted at the BlogHer post:

    I think that one of the biggest mistakes of all in parenting is not following your instincts and instead following the “rules” made up by society. Books are great, websites are helpful, friends are well-meaning, but you have to take in all that advice and apply what is best for you, spit out the sticks, and parent in the way that is best for YOU.

    Also, I think more parents should be given an emphasis on loving their kids, respecting them, and holding them more. :)

    Steph

  2. That article is truly dreadful. I am not even sure what to say. Sharing utensils a BIGGEST parenting mistake? You’ve got to be kidding. No mention of abusing your kids or giving them Coke.

  3. I agree with the list except the whole utensil thing and possibly the basket. I take the “basket” to mean the back part of the shopping cart and my daughter didn’t tip it, she flipped out of it. Was it a big parenting mistake to put her in that part of the cart? Yes, but because I had my 1yr old strapped into the seat part of the cart, I had no choice for my 2yo daughter. The carts designed for more than one child were shoved to the front of the of the line of carts, completely impossible for me to get to. I do regret that decision every day, even though my daughter is 10 now and completely fine, I know it could have been much worse. To this day, if I see your child in the back (the basket as I call it) of the cart and you have NOTHING in the seat where the seat belt is, I’m going to stop you and tell you my daughter’s story. Learn from those of us who have been there instead of spending a day in the ER watching your daughter scream and cry in pain and fear and strapped to a body board.

    This is just my very passionate opinion about 1 item on the author’s list. Other than that, I’m completely where you are on it. Seriously. :) From one co-sleeping mom to another!

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  5. “Buying second hand toys or baby furniture?!”

    Yeah! Because don’t you know, the WORST thing you can do to your child is to help him grow up to be a smarter/more conscientious consumer.

    This list is ridiculous. Except a few, like the bathtub one. I can see why you shouldn’t leave your kids with a bottle of ANYTHING-doesn’t research show that increases chances of SIDS? (I’m assuming that’s in bed ALONE-not cosleeping). The shopping cart thing, I read as in the big part where you put your groceries-not balanced for a kid. I flipped out of one once. And the “sharing utensils” one-it’s because dental cavities are actually caused by a bacteria that is transmittable to other people. So you can give your kid your dental decay.

  6. Buying second hand baby gear is a BAD thing? That’s flat out absurd. Also the utensil sharing thing? Yeah I’m gonna go ahead and roll my eyes so badly they fall out of my head. *Sigh* the article seems like more of an attack on attachment parenting then an objective parenting article.

  7. What proportion of children in the US are vaccinated against measles? I’m guessing it’s much higher than 50%, which means that it’s quite misleading to talk about how the *numbers* of vaccinated and non-vaccinated children catching measles in an outbreak are roughly equal. The *proportion* of unvaccinated children catching measles is much higher than the proportion of vaccinated children, so, yes, the figures you gave *are* an argument in favour of vaccination, if they’re read properly.

  8. Fear mongering is very high on my list as well. Even when I can see through it for what it is, it sometimes gets to me and my anxious personality, and that makes me the most angry.

    This list is stupid. Does it specify ages for these things? Even the ones that I consider not so great parenting (putting kids to bed with a bottle, letting them in the back of the cart) would not make my list of “biggest mistakes”.

    This sounds like something straight out of the Baby Talk and Parenting mags I get in the mail for free. (I flip through those for the cute baby pics and stories but ignore the advice.)

  9. Much about this list irks me, but I think the worst part is the assumption of financial privilege. Clearly I need to purchase a new crib for my baby to sleep in, along with all new toys. And of course don’t forget the nanny to attend to all the kids who won’t fit in the shopping cart. Please.

  10. Really? Wow. I’ve done at least 7/10, 8 if you count the time I went around the corner to go to the bathroom while the Poptart was in the tub (the toilet is hidden around the side of the shower stall). We don’t share a bed regularly, but I have done it because sometimes it’s the only way she’ll sleep, especially when she’s teething.

    And I think the “basket of the shopping cart” is the back part where the groceries are supposed to go – not the front part where the child can actually sit up and be strapped in with their legs hanging out.

  11. I’d like to take the author of the “10 Biggest Mistakes” article on a tour of some of the real mistake making parents I know of…

    1. The parents who allow their young children to drink soda daily, in unlimited quantities, instead of as an occasional treat.

    2. The mother whose son would ONLY (and I am not exaggerating) eat McDonald’s or hot dogs. He would NOT eat fruit or vegetables, except for green beans, at all (when I knew him at age 1 – 4 – he’s older now. I hope his diet has improved).

    3. The mother who allows her toddler son to hit her when he gets angry or frustrated, without severe consequences.

    4. The mother in my friend’s neighborhood whose 7 year old is completely unsupervised from 3:00 pm until 6:30 pm when the mother gets home from work, because she can’t/won’t pay for after school care.

    5. The mother across the street from me who stays in a physically abusive marriage – and whose 6 year old daughter sees and hears the fights.

    6. The parents in my community who duct taped their 2 year old daughter to the bed, after beating her severely. The girl died

    7. The parents north of here who murdered their mentally retarded daughter via a blow to the head, and got away with it (I know the detective who worked the case).

    8. The mother of one of my childhood friends who turned a blind eye to her new husband’s sexual abuse of her daughter. The abuse went on from the time the girl was 8 until she left home at age 16.

    …do I need to go on?

    There are MUCH worse mistakes in parenting. I’ve done 8 of the 10 “worst mistakes” above, and my kids are FINE.

    A little perspective would be nice.

  12. I think the problem is lumping all moms into the same pool. We’re all different and we all have different ways we parent. For some moms sleeping with their child would be a big mistake, for them but for others it is natural.

    We’re all different and I have problem with saying that moms cannot parent differently. Should we be embracing our differences and supporting one another?

  13. This list is ridiculous. I let my 3 year old ride in the basket of the cart all the time. She sits quietly and when it’s time to get out, I lift her out. It’s only a danger if the kids are standing up and jumping around.

    Helmets are a no budge rule for us, even with trikes. But the rest are ridiculous.

  14. What a ridiculous list. There are much worse mistakes to make, and not all of these are mistakes.

    Nicole, my youngest has to sleep with me when she’s teething too. Only thing that works for her. Everything else I’ve tried, she sleeps two hours at a stretch, max, often only one hour. Cosleeping is the only way to keep my sanity at those times. Besides, she’s really cuddly.

    I put my kids in the basket part of the cart regularly when they outgrow the seat. Like others, I just have a rule that they will not stand or kneel, just sit. It’s not so bad that way, and keeps me from having to chase the kids all around the store. No doubt I’d be called a bad parent for that too, even when none of the truck or other multi child carts are available.

  15. I rewrote the list according to my priorities, which I happen to think are pretty smart ;)
    10 Mistakes Parents of Babies/Toddlers Make:
    1.Buying cheap new cr@p made from BPA laced plastic, lead based paint, and or generally unsustainable one time use cr@p.
    2.Leaving your child alone in the bath or shower.
    3.Leaving your child alone in the car for more than “a minute.”
    4.Not buying gently used or vintage toys for an affordable price (save that $ for college)
    5.Avoiding vaccines all together (no tetanus, no polio = bad idea folks)
    6.Not starting a college savings plan.
    7.Feeding your child chocolate milk, because they don’t like regular milk.
    8.Feeding children processed foods, because “they just won’t eat otherwise.”
    9.Making your child clean his or her plate at every meal.
    10.Skipping helmets on tricycle rides or bike rides.

  16. I scored a 7/10. This list is ridiculous.

    I have 2 3yr olds. If it wasn’t for the shopping cart basket I would never make it around the store without losing my mind.

    I like Alison’s list. Let’s go with that shall we.

  17. Wow, I think I’ve made every single one of those “mistakes”. Bedsharing? Sure thing! Bed with milk, if you count the boob yep again! Second-hand stuff, every chance I get! Oy! (I guess I get a pass on #10, since I do it with the 6-year-old. I don’t know, didn’t see an age cut off.)

    Surely there are greater threats to children than sharing a spoon at the ice cream place.

  18. Hi there
    My first visit to your blog. Love this post. I’ve done at least 6 of the above ten and few on a regular basis.

    Parenting is all about making mistakes, it’s a journey, we learn and grow. Instead of listing them I’d much rather hear someone for once say it’s ok to make mistakes just take responsibility for them and fess up particularly to your kids. After all we’re they’re role models.
    Thanks for posting, must visit again.

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  21. I have been thinking about this list since you posted on BlogHer… I have decided that it isn’t the things on the list that are so troubling, since there are some on there that might not be the best choices and even a couple I would say are definitely unsafe.

    I hate that fact that the list is saying that these are the BIGGEST mistakes we can make, without exception. This is fully in the territory of judging mothers with absolutes.

    This is the kind of thing that makes it ok for people to stare, criticize, judge a mama with an out of control child at the grocery store without any knowledge of that mama and that child.

    This is the kind of thing for people to say or think that a mama is neglectful for letting her child be “free-range” or an over-protective, helicopter parent, if she doesn’t allow her child to go on a filed trip.

    This is the kind of thing that allows for a society that decides what women should do with their bodies and their babies.

    That is what upsets me most. Yes we all need to understand when something is not safe, and there are some parents that are making bad choices, but beyond that we need to give mamas some credit.

  22. I think the thing about parenting that we have to remember, is that everyone does it differently. Just because someone co-sleeps, doesn’t mean they’re making a mistake. No, instead, it means they’re making a choice. I was in Target this weekend and I heard this dad tell his daughter to stop having an attitude. This poor little girl (about 7) was upset, and standing there with her arms folded across her chest. Her dad kept saying things like, “Stop that. Get that look off your face. Don’t cross your arms. Don’t stand there. Don’t be mad.” The more he spoke, the more I felt bad for that girl. But then I had to remember, she’s not my daughter. If he’s going to be a jerk of a father, well, there’s not much I can do about it. I mean people judge me for co-sleeping and nursing a 19 month old. So, I had to leave my judgement behind. But still, poor little girl. This is what I’m getting at…Aside from abuse and drugs, I think parents should stop judging others. Wait, what I really mean is that ignorant parents should stop judging ME! So if I decide to share my fork with my son, co-sleep or buy something second hand, leave me alone, it’s my choice!

    Oh, and Nikki-My son fell out of the back of the cart a couple months back. So scary!!! Never again! :(

  23. I feel obliged to point out that, in addition to the other obviously silly items on the list, “skipping helmets on tricycle rides” is not so cut and dried. The evidence in favor of bicycle helmets in general is mainly anecdotal, and there have been cases of children being strangled by the straps (when the straps are adjusted properly, a bike helmet is usually uncomfortable, especially for a child). In addition, the added weight and size of a helmet can turn near misses into neck and brain injuries.

    I realize this is beyond the scope of typical toddler tricycle rides, but the “helmets, helmets, helmets” approach to bicycle safety has done a serious disservice to children in North America. Like the other items on that list, it is an oversimplification of a decision that deserves serious thought and consideration.

    [For an excellent primer on bicycle safety for kids, see: http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/traffic/children.htm

  24. They neglected to mention the most important rule.

    Read crappy lists like this and judge yourself by their ridiculous metrics. Seriously, does that list-maker just aspire to being a mediocre parent advisor like Dr. Spock?

  25. gees if the biggest mistakes I am making as a parent are sharing my bed and utensils with my kids then I reckon I am doing pretty good….

    Blanket statements like these always peeve me… life is not so black and white, especially when it comes to parenting!

  26. I would definitely FAIL as a parent if we are judged by this list.
    What about.. umm..
    Leaving your child with creepy relatives
    Feeding your child junk food.. sweetened fruit juice etc.
    Or how about ignoring your child so you can check your email.
    Man, I can think of so many worse things than sleeping next to my child.

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  28. It’s interesting that two people read that list and were outraged by completely different things. I nodded along with the vaccines, but “leaving your child alone in a car for just a minute”? If you’re driving your child around at all, you’ve already accepted a whole lot more risk than can possibly be posed by simply leaving Junior to his nap while you zip into the bank for a second.

  29. The title of the article is really a offensive. “Mistakes even Smart Moms Make” reads like “If you’ve done any of these things, then you aren’t as smart as you think you are.”

  30. I think if you’re secure in your parenting decisions, these lists are just merely fluff. If they get you riled up, then I don’t know.

    What is Lifescript anyway? Is it selling advertising to generate income? Then, it’s not a reliable source or anything more than a marketing machine. These lists are great attention grabbers, thus generating income.

  31. I find it amusing that so many people’s immediate response to a ridiculous, judgmental, over-simplified list like this is to point the finger at other people. “I’m ok because I co-sleep but you’re terrible because your kid drinks juice or chocolate milk.” Can we all just raise our own families and leave other parents alone, assuming no one is being abused or put in real danger? And no, chicken nuggets don’t count as abuse…

  32. So I read the article on Lifescript and found most the explanations to be okay. I wouldn’t called them the biggest mistakes, though, and some of the titles are very misleading, like saying that bed-sharing is a mistake, when really it is bed-sharing in an unsafe manner that could be a mistake. The one on vaccines? I did not agree with that one at all. And they really should clarify that breastmilk does not cause cavities. And…I just got my son a tricycle and never even thought to get a helmet. After reading this article…still not getting one! How can I be okay with him playing on a jungle gym but not okay with the possibility of him falling two feet from the ground off his trike? Maybe kids should just wear helmets all day long? Oh, and the sharing utensils. Yes, it’s true you can pass organisms from your mouth to theirs, which is why the parents should be getting good dental care. I wouldn’t let something like that interfere with eating, though. I mean seriously, never share utensils or cups or ANYTHING? May as well not kiss your child either.

  33. Hah, BIGGEST mistakes my butt!
    We definitely do about 5 of these, and most on a regular basis — what in our house ISN’T second hand?
    Of course we share utensils… sheesh!
    Cosleeping — damn straight!

    :D

  34. “although my son did drop a large container of yogurt out of the cart basket which exploded all over the floor. Turns out giving him the yogurt to hold was a big parenting mistake.”

    Lol! Same thing happened to me – only it was a glass bottle of balsamic vinegar. Won’t make that mistake again!

    I can’t believe these are listed as mistakes – most of these are my how to of parenting!

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  36. Funny it doesn’t mention any of my personal worst parenting mistakes and mentions about five things I do on a daily basis and a few others that I do frequently. No where on this list is “Do not leave magic markers in an accessible place to a toddler” (big mistake!), or a friend’s mistake of thinking “boob” was a sweet term for the milkies…until it’s screamed out in the store by a toddler, “Mommy, I want boob! I want boob” The fond term was perhaps a mistake, but the nursing toddler–fantastic! Really, I would get awards for some of my other parenting “mistakes!” The author of this article would just hand me over to CPS right away. I imagine my daughter is all the more dysfunctional for her second-hand toys and clothes. Huzzah for fitting into American society!

  37. i love how they essentially list “not keeping up with the joneses” as a mortal sin!

    yeah, all good parents should buy loads of shiny new (and largely unnecessary) stuff only to dumpster it all when baby starts walking. fantastic idea.

  38. On that same site I came across:

    “Being a good mom means more than baking cookies and joining the PTA.” Find out if you’ve got the parenting thing down by taking the quiz.

    1. You take time out from cleaning or clubbing to teach your kids how to do things like tie their shoes:”

    Cleaning or clubbing? Clubbing baby seals? What? Knitting club? Cleaning and clubbing? I am definitely out of the parenting loop. Cleaning and cooking, maybe, cleaning and toddler chasing, perhaps, cleaning and whatever 100 things I do in a day, sure–but “clubbing?” Um yeah. PTA and baking?

  39. Interesting list for sure. I agree with most of the comments above, including the ones noting that we shouldn’t get too upset. People, parents in particular in my experience tend to judge other parents. BUT that said, I also agree that this list is hyper lame. I’m surprised feeding kids fast food isn’t on here – I’ve know at least a dozen+ families who eat fast food or the same sort of food but at home at least 4 days a week. What with obesity rates as they are I can’t believe something related didn’t make the list.

    Also of course being a co-sleeper the co-sleeping point irks me, but more because so many flipping cribs have been recalled yet almost no one calls out crib sleeping as a risk. At least not like co-sleeping is called out over and over.

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  41. I definitely disagree with these being the “biggest” mistakes but I would never do half of these things. I don’t judge the parents who do co-sleep or buy second hand cribs, etc. but I reserve the right to raise my children the way I see fit and extend the same courtesy to others as long as the kid isn’t being hurt. I hate the pressure from society to raise my children a certain way and I get equally irked by my friends who think I’m a bad parent because I won’t co-sleep. Why can’t people live and let live?

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  43. Why is everyone so quick to jump on the “never leave your child alone in the bathtub” bandwagon? What if your child is old enough to be left alone in the bathtub or shower? Doesn’t that occur at SOME point in the parenting process?

    I remember scouring the internet for “permission” to leave my 4-year-old in the tub alone (me in the other room); no one ever talks about when that starts to be OK. I finally went with my gut. So far she has survived to the ripe old age of 7, and I never supervise her bathing anymore.

    Thanks, Mike, about the info re: helmets.

  44. Biggest mistake that my parents made was not taking the abuse and sexual harassment I suffered in school seriously. While sympathetic at the time, years later, I still feel crippled and damaged from the experience, and they do not believe that ‘a little teasing’ could do long-term damage. I was never beaten or sexually harassed in a physical manner, and so they thought that I couldn’t be traumatized. I myself believed this for an embarrassingly long time!
    As one of the more obvious consequences of middle school, I identify as asexual (no libido, no physical attraction towards people, etc), and they often makes jokes and sarcastic comments about this. I understand they they’re waiting for me to ‘blossom,’ which is a reasonable thing to expect, but the amused and often mockin attitude is upsetting.

    TL;DR- Age is not a measure of how much suffering can be felt or how much pain can be inflicted onto a person. Parents should be supportive of children, even if they consider the child’s experience to be something that everyone goes through/part of growing up.

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