20 Mistakes New Parents Tend to Make | SoundVision.com

20 Mistakes New Parents Tend to Make

Before I had children, I thought I had parenting all figured out. I was positive about what I would do, and about what my child or children would never do. My critical young eyes spied struggling mothers with screeching toddlers in shopping centers, grocery stores, and community gatherings. I would shake my head and think to myself, “That will not be me!” I was taught better than that; if I acted up as a kid, my parents set me straight right away. There was no doubt in my mind that, just like my family members who had children, I would have full control of the situation. Of course, my attitude changed the moment I became a parent! All that confidence in my non-existent parenting skills took a nosedive the second I found out I was pregnant with my first child. That is when reality sets in, and all that certainty turns into panic. 

Nothing, let me repeat … absolutely nothing can prepare a person to be a parent. There are not enough parenting classes, books, or support groups in the world that can make you a good parent. No amount of babysitting or being a great older sibling or auntie will give you the same hands-on experience of parenthood. Nevertheless, we study, read, and join all the activities we can to train for the day we welcome our baby home. 

As Muslims, we also turn to the Quran and Sunnah for guidance, but even in our sacred texts, parenting advice is very broad. The rights and responsibilities are outlined beautifully, but the finer details of the day-to-day are still left up to each individual. Yet even in the flexibility offered in the scriptural and prophetic guidance, there is enduring wisdom. The universal set of standards are ideal for the endless variables that exist across cultures in the world of child-rearing. 

What I have learned after close to two decades of motherhood is that great parenting begins with intention, humility, and prayer. And even with all of that, there are no guarantees. As we navigate this unfamiliar terrain that is raising children, we will make mistakes, take wrong turns, trip, get lost, and later find ourselves. In this journey, it is important to also forgive ourselves for the missteps and learn to be a better parent along the way. 

While preparing for this article, I spoke with other parents and asked what some of their biggest blunders were. Based on their responses and my experiences, I came up with a list of 20 mistakes that new parents tend to make, and how we can learn from them.

1. Forgetting self-care.

For a Muslim parents, self-care is not merely a luxury but a spiritual duty. Islam places significant emphasis on maintaining one's physical and mental well-being. Neglecting self-care can lead to burnout and affect a father’s and mother’s ability to fulfill their role effectively. By prioritizing self-care, parents can ensure they are better equipped to nurture and guide their child. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is reported to have said:

“Verily, your own self has rights over you, so fast and break your fast, pray and sleep.” 

(Sunan Abi Dawud)

2. Judging other parents.

It is easy to judge another parent when we hear their baby crying in the masjid or we see their rowdy toddler throwing a tantrum in the mall – until it happens to us. There is a hilarious meme making its rounds on social media which says, “As soon as you say, ‘My child would never,’ here they come nevering like they never nevered before.” Clearly, it is better not to assume that our children will behave any differently or that we will discipline them any better than the next parent. Only Allah knows what is in store and, no matter how good your parenting is, rest assured that you will be in for some surprises.    

Passing judgment or speaking ill of other parents not only increases one’s arrogance, but also goes against the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam. Muslim women should cultivate an attitude of humility and recognize that only Allah knows the intricacies of a person’s parenting experience. Allah says in the Quran, 

“O believers! Do not let some ˹men˺ ridicule others, they may be better than them, nor let ˹some˺ women ridicule other women, they may be better than them.” 

(Surah Al-Hujarat, 49:11)

3. Repeating the mistakes of our own parents.

Just like we are not perfect parents, neither were our own fathers and mothers. However, we do not have to repeat the mistakes of the past or use our parents’ methods when dealing with our children. What worked for them during the context of their youth may not necessarily work for us. Reflecting on the errors of one's parents is a crucial aspect of personal growth and effective parenting. Make note of their effective and ineffective techniques and use them as a tool to forge your own path.  

In Islam, the pursuit of wisdom and self-improvement is encouraged, and learning from past experiences is viewed as a means of avoiding repeated errors. By acknowledging the shortcomings of the past, parents can make intentional and informed choices for the well-being of their children. In addition, blaming our mistakes on our parents is not an acceptable excuse. Allah reminds us in the Quran, that:

“Everyone will bear the consequence of what he does, and no one shall bear the burden of another.”

(Surah Al-An’am, 6:164)

4. Setting unrealistic expectations.

As a former teacher, I based my parenting motto on my education philosophy which is “Expect more to get more.” Although, I still believe that we should have high hopes for our children, it is more important to offer gentle guidance and place our trust in Allah’s perfect plan. Islam advocates for moderation and balance in all aspects of life, including parenting. Setting unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment and frustration. By embracing the Islamic principle of moderation, parents can establish realistic goals for themselves and their children to foster a healthy and balanced family life. It is equally crucial to allow children to explore their own talents and interests. 

5. Comparing your child to others.

Out of all the mistakes parents make, I think this one may be the most common and the most detrimental to the parental-child relationship. No two people are the same; no two children are the same. Islam recognizes and appreciates the diversity among individuals. Comparing one's child to others can lead to unnecessary stress and hinder the child's unique personality. It may also open the door to jealousy or envy on the part of the parents toward another family. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“Beware of envy, for it devours good deeds just as fire devours wood or grass.” 

(Sunan Abi Dawud)

When parents celebrate their child’s individual strengths and qualities, they create a loving and nurturing environment where they can thrive. It is equally helpful for parents to read what medical experts say about child development to better understand why children reach milestones differently. 

6. Not asking for help.

Undoubtedly, mothers and fathers can be real-life superheroes, but that does not mean they do not need some help every now and then. Contrary to what new parents seeking to prove themselves may think, asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a demonstration of strength and humility. The first aid we can always seek is that of Allah through constant supplication, remembrance, and prayer. Allah says in the Quran:

“And seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, it is a burden except for the humble…” 

(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:45)

Next on the list should be trusted family and friends. Islam encourages a sense of community and mutual support, so asking for assistance can be a virtuous act and an opportunity for others to rack up good deeds. Muslim mothers should especially feel empowered to seek support when needed and never be judged as being weak or lacking faith.  

7. Neglecting the needs of your spouse.

Motherhood and fatherhood are so overwhelming at times that we may lose ourselves in the process of feeding, diapering, clothing, bathing, laundering, and all the other endless tasks. However, a strong marital bond is essential for a harmonious and healthy family life. Prophetic traditions place great emphasis on spousal cooperation and support in raising children. Muslim moms and dads should strive to maintain a healthy relationship with their partners, recognizing the shared responsibility of nurturing their children. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, used to advise his followers to be balanced when it came to their obligations to their spouses. Abdullah ibn Amr reported: 

The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “I am told you fast and never break your fast and you never stop praying at night? Fast and break your fast, pray at night and sleep. Verily, your eyes deserve a share of your time, and your own self and your family deserve a share of your time.”

(Sahih Bukhari)

8. Not setting boundaries with other relatives.

An article on Sound Vision listed in-law involvement as the number one reason for divorce among Muslim couples.1 Tensions regarding cultural and religious expectations, privacy, and control of the household are all problems that experts have noted contribute to the breakdown of the family unit. When a new baby arrives, it can further strain the delicate relationship between newlyweds and their in-laws. If no boundaries are in place, couples already grappling with the intricacies of novice parenting may have a rough time dealing patiently with overbearing relatives.  

Setting clear limitations with extended family members is essential to ensure a peaceful family life. To make this matter easier on everyone, able Muslim parents should endeavor to have their own private living space or family home where they can learn to raise their children together without the interference of others. 

9. Spoiling your firstborn.

The first child is often the most pampered and isolated due to the inexperience and angst of new parents. Personal anecdotes attest to the heightened sensitivity and concern that accompany the arrival of the first child, a sentiment I vividly recall from my own experience. The tendency to fuss over even the slightest concerns gradually wanes with subsequent children, as parents gain confidence and perspective. It is crucial for parents to resist the temptation to give in to every whim of their firstborn, because it may only create a self-centered attitude. Learning to establish healthy boundaries and instill values of responsibility early not only benefits the child's character development but also spares parents potential challenges later. 

10. Not educating yourself before becoming a parent.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” 

(Sunan Ibn Majah)

The pursuit of knowledge in all its forms is not only encouraged but considered a fundamental duty in Islam. Among these, the knowledge pertaining to parenting, encompassing the rights and responsibilities of both parents and children, holds particular significance. By acquiring insights into the best practices of parenting, mothers and fathers can navigate their roles more effectively to raise righteous children. 

In preparation for parenthood, Muslim couples must actively seek education and understanding of the responsibilities that come with raising children. This extends beyond the teachings found in Islamic tradition to encompass the wealth of knowledge provided by modern sources on child development. I have made many mistakes as a parent and more than likely will continue to make them, but one thing I credit for anything I have done right is reading as much as I could about motherhood before having my first child. I learned everything I could find about pregnancy, labor and delivery, breastfeeding, child development, pediatric medicine, childhood diseases, vaccines, and more. Familiarizing ourselves with these things can help us get a step ahead of the parenting game, inshaAllah, God willing.

11. Trying to live vicariously through your child.

As much as little Aisha may take up after her mom or little Abdullah looks like his dad, they are unique individuals. Allowing a child to develop their own identity is crucial to their confidence. Children will likely not share the same interests, abilities, or goals as their parents and it is unfair to expect them to pick up where we left off. One of our duties as parents is to recognize and nurture our child’s unique talents and strengths. Trying to live vicariously through a child can impose unrealistic expectations, hinder their individual growth, and cause resentment later down the line. Parents can still support their children while fostering a sense of self-awareness and authenticity.

12. Being impatient and lacking emotional regulation.

Islam places a high value on patience and emotional intelligence. Developing these qualities is essential for effective parenting. If a parent cannot control their own emotions, how can they expect their children to do the same? Patience is a virtue, and emotional control is a sign of strength in Islam. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

"The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger." 

(Sahih Bukhari)  

13. Not enjoying the moment.

There is a famous parenting saying that reminds us, “The days go slow, but the years go fast.” It might sound clichéd, but parents are encouraged to enjoy the little time they have with their offspring. Prioritizing quality time with a child is crucial for building a strong parent-child bond. If a parent remains excessively busy and clings to an old lifestyle without embracing the changes that come with parenting, they may miss out on the precious moments of growth and connection with their child. Embracing the responsibilities of parenthood and finding fulfillment in these new experiences can instead bring immense joy and peace in life. 

15. Not listening to your child or recognizing cues.

A vital aspect of effective parenting involves attentively listening and understanding the cues your child provides. Often, children communicate in subtle ways, and by being attuned to their expressions, words, and behaviors, parents can build a stronger connection and respond to their needs successfully. Identifying and accepting your child’s feelings can help you avoid putting them in uncomfortable situations or close to people with whom they feel unsafe. 

16. Not trusting your own instincts.

Sometimes well-meaning adults will give you advice or tell you that you are parenting wrong. Consequently, rather than trusting your gut, you may default to the advice and approaches of others. While seeking advice can be beneficial, an overreliance on external guidance without considering one's own intuition can lead to confusion and insecurity. Parents should trust their own abilities and combine them with informed decision-making. Thankfully, Allah has blessed us with foresight, so we are not completely blindsided by the hurdles we face. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“Beware of the intuition of the believer. Verily, he sees with the light of Allah.” 

(Sunan al-Tirmidhi)

17. Not healing one’s own childhood traumas.

Parenting provides an opportunity for self-reflection and healing, especially regarding past traumas. Failure to address and heal one's own childhood wounds can inadvertently impact a parent’s relationship with their child or spouse. It is essential to recognize that healing is an ongoing process, and parents should actively engage in self-care, exercise, therapy, or other support mechanisms to ensure emotional well-being.

18. Excluding non-Muslim relatives from your child’s life.

Convert Muslims can especially attest to this important point, but non-Muslim or non-practicing relatives exist in nearly every family. There are many reasons we may opt for keeping a distance from non-practicing family, especially those who openly oppose Islam, but parents who have chosen this route may experience regret down the road. Preserving religious values is a priority, but it is also important to maintain the ties of kinship. Excluding grandparents, uncles, aunts, or cousins solely based on religious differences can deprive a child of valuable familial connections. It also sets a precedent for them to do the same to others. Keeping a good relationship with our relatives, regardless of their faith traditions and religious choices, opens opportunities for dialogue and dawah.  

19. Isolating your child from the real world.

Similarly, keeping our children in a bubble, completely isolated from the world around them is an amateur mistake parents make. Shielding a child excessively from the realities of the world may hinder their social and emotional development. While offering shelter and protection is part of our job as parents, going to extremes can limit a child's ability to navigate challenges and interact with others. Parents can instill core values while allowing children to engage responsibly with the real world, preparing them for a well-rounded and resilient adulthood.

20. Expecting that each new child will be easy.

You already have one child, so you know the ropes … right? Not necessarily! Every child is different, and their circumstances are different, including their relationship with their parents. I recently heard something very profound – you are not the same parent to all your children. Each child experiences a new you. In addition (literally), raising more than one child means double, triple, or more responsibilities. Prepare accordingly and be ready to make mistakes, learn new lessons, and forgive yourself again.

Regardless of these newbie mistakes, it is important to cut ourselves slack and know that making mistakes is part of parenting. We learn from those errors and become better day by day. Parenting is a learning process, and mistakes are a natural part of the journey. We can either wallow in self-pity or embrace our failures as opportunities for growth. Seeking support, staying flexible, and learning from experiences contribute to becoming a more confident and effective parent over time. Allah chose us to be the parents to our children for good reason. Alhamdulillah, all thanks and praise are for Allah alone.

End Notes

1 Divorce among American Muslims: Statistics, challenges & solutions | SoundVision.com

Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.

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