1. Telling their personal business to your friends or family.  This is the number one complaint I hear from teenagers.  “I don’t tell her things because then she tells people and I don’t want them to know”.  It’s almost always the case they don’t want you to tell their dad, their grandmother or your best friend about their personal struggles.
  2. Reading their private things like their journal or texts.  The only time this might be okay is if there are safety issues that you are legitimately worried about like self-harm or substance use.  I have so many kids though that feel they have a parent or a step-parent who reads their personal journals/texts and they find this incredibly violating.  I have had more than one client talk to me about a parent reading their journal even when it happened 20 years earlier.
  3. Not standing up for them when someone is treating them poorly.  It may be your spouse, your ex-husband, someone else in your family, their sibling, a teacher or some other person.  The idea that you need to always let them figure things out themselves is misguided because they are kids.  When you stand up for them, you are teaching them how to do it for themselves.  They need that modeling.  (This is within reason, of course.  You don’t need to rush into the school every week.) 
  4. Checking their grades so often that you freak out when all of the assignments aren’t entered and bring it up constantly.  I have heard of parents literally sitting at work and pressing “refresh” to their child’s online grade book.  This is a cousin to number two in your child’s eyes.  It’s violating their privacy.  Check grades occasionally and do it with a supportive intent.
  5. Invalidating their feelings or trying to immediately fix them.  Listen and reflect back exactly what you are hearing.  “It sounds like you feel disrespected when people at school mock you… is that it?” rather than, “Well, you are going to have to get a thicker skin.”  The second sentence shuts down any additional sharing that needs to come out and it also is a backhanded criticism that says, “Why haven’t you tried this already?”
  6. Buying them things when they would rather have quality time with you.  Trips to Disney or new technology aren’t the same as someone enjoying your laugh, delighting in what makes you happy and being genuinely supportive in your daily life.
  7. Making fun of your child’s friends, their hobbies, their ideas for a possible career, etc.  Even if you don’t think this friend is the best choice, notice what is good about the person and reflect that back.  Again, safety issues mean you should intervene but otherwise, let your children make their own decisions (and mistakes) about their friends and who they date.
  8. Being so focused on their achievement in sports, grades, extracurricular activities that you don’t appreciate them for who they are without them having to “win” or “prove something”.  This is one of the most common mistakes parents make – probably because it was also done to them – they focus on achievement and not on who the child really is.  Relax a little bit.  Enjoy the small things.  Just be together without having to be involved in so many activities.