By Lisa Witherspoon

We all have bad habits even if we don’t like to admit it. Do you bite your nails? Drink straight from the milk carton? Text while driving??

Well, we sometimes fall into bad parenting habits, too. And, the thing about habits is that, once you start them, it can be very hard to break them. We don’t mean to form these habits. Many times they “just happen” or it is something we do out of momentary necessity. If you are like me, they may be things you said you would do “Just this once,” but, then, it happened again and again.

Most of the time, we don’t like to admit we have these habits because we think it makes us bad parents (or, at least, we think that we will be judged by others as bad parents). However, this prevents us from getting potentially helpful advice from others and it makes us feel that we are the only ones experiencing these frustrations (which make it more frustrating!). The truth is, we all have a bad parenting habit or two and I think we need to be more open about it. It will make all of us feel better and, hopefully, lead to some useful advice. I say, let’s share.

To make it easier, I’ll go first.

Here are two bad habits that we have overcome:

1) The pacifier – All three of my daughters used a pacifier, so I’m not saying that using a pacifier is a bad habit. It is a bad habit, though, when your oldest daughter is approaching 4 years old and still uses it all the time. – as in won’t take it out when she wants to speak – all the time. This fact was pointed out to us in a very not-so-subtle way by the pediatrician we were seeing at the time (in another city). However, that pediatrician also gave me some very helpful information. She said that babies originally do use the pacifier to quench their sucking instinct. However, sometime between 12-15 months, it becomes more of a comfort attachment – just like a blanket or stuffed animal – and they no longer need it for the sucking. According to her, after that 15 month mark it becomes MUCH harder to get rid of it. So, with my second and third daughters, we simply cut the tip of the pacifier (which causes it to lose suction) when they were about 12 or 14 months old. Once they realized it was “broken,” they lost interest pretty quickly and it was an easy transition. Since my oldest was already past that point, we decided to go cold turkey. It was not pretty, but we just had to commit wholeheartedly and follow through.

2) Co-Sleeping – This one is NOT a bad habit if it works for you. For my family, however, it was not something we intended to do. It was one of those “just this once” moments that happened when our first child had her first ear infection and had been crying all night long. It quickly became a habit. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any easy way to break this habit. We did it through “sleep training” which involved letting her cry it out. It was awful – I won’t lie. And, to make it worse, we repeated the same mistake with our second daughter!! We didn’t let it continue as long, though, so it was a little easier to stop.

Now, here are two current bad habits with which we are struggling. Suggestions??? Please share~

1) Too much sugar – This is one that has been building slowly over time, but sort of smacked me in the face a few days ago when I realized I was giving my youngest this for breakfast:

(Yep – that’s a chocolate chip pancake with extra chocolate chips and sprinkles.)

I think it started by us letting them have soda ONLY at restaurants. Then, they started having them at home. We also “encouraged” them to eat a good dinner by letting them pick a dessert from the candy bowl. But, then they wanted the candy bowl for snack and after lunch, too. I know what you are saying – “Just say no!” But, we all know it is never that simple. Like most kids, mine are picky eaters. I think I got to the point where I just wanted them to eat something so I gave them what I knew they would eat. Now, though, I wonder if this crazy, sugared up breakfast is really better than nothing?!? So the real question is, how do you get picky kids to eat healthy food??

2) Lazy discipline – This is one that I am trying to overcome. I often find myself giving in too easily in order to avoid an argument. Don’t want to wear a coat in the mornings?? Fine. Just be cold. Don’t want to eat those vegetables? O.K. You’ll be hungry. Oh, you’re five years old and you still want your blankie?? Well, not at school (because what would the teachers think of me), but anywhere else it’s fine. I know I am being a lazy mom; not putting forth the effort to be firm. They always say to “pick your battles,”though. So, which battles are worth the effort and which ones can we really afford to be lazy about? Is it really worth the fight to make them wear the coat? eat the veggies? give up the blankie? (Of course, safety issues are non-negotiable.)

So there – I have admitted two of my bad parenting habits. Have any suggestions for me?? How about you – what are your bad parenting habits??? Please share and, maybe, someone will have some advice that can help you, too!