November 7, 2023 | Andie Wood

People Share The Seemingly Harmless Parenting Mistakes That Can Mess Up A Child

Parents only want what's best for their kids, but sometimes they get so wound up in doing what they think is right that they end up taking things a little too far. Everyone has their own views on parenting, but there are some dos-and-donts that are already tried and true. Some strategies that may seem harmless can actually have a significantly negative impact on a child later on in his or her life. People from around the world took to the internet to share what parents should avoid doing to their kids based on their own personal experiences. Their opinions may make you realize that sometimes good parenting is about learning when to pull in the reins and when to let go. Do you agree with what they had to say? Read on to find out for yourself:

#1 The Less They Know

I found that when my parents teased me about stuff I was clearly uncomfortable with, it made me tell them less later in life. I have a good relationship with my parents but I don't tell them lots about my life because it's easier if they don't know or tease about it.

Upset parents and sad child split image

#2 Pressing The Wound

They continued teasing me after I found out he only "went out with me" so I would work on a group project with him. He then dumped me after it was done. I was 14 and freaking devastated. All my parents did was ask me repeatedly, in front of other family members, "Why did Nick dump you? You're so smart!"


#3 A Typical Worried Mother

My mom was always so worried about everything I did. I know it was because she loves and cares about me, but dang, can I go out one night without you thinking I might not make it back alive? She still worries about everything that could go wrong. There was a car accident in her neighborhood like a year ago in the middle of the night and she called me at 2 a.m. to make sure it wasn't me. I live like 30 minutes away, and there's nothing in her town for me to be over there unless I am visiting her.

These Parents Way OverreactedShutterstock

#4 Never Saying Sorry

Never saying sorry to your kids. My mom only just recently started telling me sorry when she gets worked up. I've built up such resentment for her over the years, and I also have trouble saying sorry myself because of it. Tell your kids sorry, especially if you overreact to something they did.


#5 Promises, Promises

Not following through with your promises. If you tell your child you are buying ice cream in the hopes that they'd forget, and the next day when they ask you about it, you tell them no, they'll see you as unreliable. (Ice cream is just the first thing that came to my mind).


#6 They Remember

The belief that their kids won’t remember because they’re young. They will remember. I mean,  I don't quite remember all the words my mom said to me or all the specific things she did to me when I was younger, but I remember how she made me feel. That doesn't go away. It remains burned into your memory, kind of like a haunting scar.

Teacher disturbing studentPexels

#7 When Being Right Is Wrong

Once, my brother was sent to his room by my dad after they got into an argument about something stupid. I used Google to prove my brother right and we both were grounded for being disrespectful (until he found out we were actually right). He never ungrounded us until the week was over and only told me he was wrong, without apologizing.


#8 The Overjustification Effect

A seemingly harmless mistake is rewarding your child with something when they do something they already enjoy. Take, for example, reading. If a child just enjoys reading, let the child read without giving any reward. Once you start rewarding the child for that act, their intrinsic motivation gets replaced. It's called the overjustification effect.


#9 Don't Smother Your Kids

Don't smother your kids. My mom quit having her own life the moment my brother and I were born. She was an incredibly devoted and loving mother was very kind to us, but when we were born she stopped having friends, stopped working, and was home every single day from when I was born to when I moved out in my early 20s.

She was very easy to upset because she had no other source of self-esteem, and any time I screwed up, and I screwed up a lot, it was as if I had levied a very personal attack against her. In the last five years or so before I left, I don't think we had a single conversation that didn't drive her to tears. I promise I wasn't that bad.

I constantly felt cornered and stressed and fell into depression as a defense mechanism. She took my resulting lack of performance very personally creating a very treacherous cycle that was only broken when I enlisted and finally got away. To this day, I often feel like I'm a bad person who failed to live up to her love.

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#10 Be Proud

Not congratulating your child when they achieve something. A friend of mine never got any praise from his parents growing up. He always felt that he wasn’t good enough. Show the child that their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed!


#11 Breaking Trust

Not creating a safe space for your kids to tell their secrets and make mistakes. When I was younger, I excitedly confided in my mom about my first boyfriend. But instead of calmly talking me through this, she immediately brought my dad in the conversation and they both yelled at me and forced me to break up with him.


#12 Lots Of Hugs

Not hugging your kid or telling them you love them. You can feed them dinner and send them to bed on time every night and they're still going to end up with a personality disorder because you never freaking hugged them. Hugs are literally the easiest way to show them some love. So do it more often. It's really not that difficult.


#13 Words Hurt

Mocking them. Laughing at them. Adults do it to each other all the time, but kids who haven't been immersed in the background brutality of our culture for years don't understand that it's just the language of the land, and not that they themselves are particularly unworthy of respect.


#14 Helicopter Parents

Well realistically, it'd be a helicopter parent. You always want to look out for your kid, making sure they're not doing things they're supposed to do. But should you walk into their rooms without knocking? It ruins a relationship with a kid because even though YOU have a sense of privacy, the kid doesn't and they will always paranoid of anyone entering their room without warning. It ruins a kid. "Would my mom let me do this? Is she okay with it?"


#15 The Right Lesson

I taught my children at very young ages that outside of extreme circumstances failing to keep a promise made is the same as telling a lie. Therefore, I won't make promises to them that I am not absolutely certain I can keep. They learned early in life that I take my promises very seriously and will go to great lengths to honor them. We have hit very hard times recently and I have had to delay delivery on some promises which breaks my heart. But they know that I will fulfill those promises eventually and are much more empathetic and understanding than their peers have been in similar situations.


#16 Not Their Burdens

Getting them involved in problems they have no control over. My parents felt the need to keep me in the loop regarding our pending foreclosure and argue in front of me over which one was to blame when I was ten. What possible reason is there to share that with a kid? I barely slept for months. I was convinced the authorities were gonna bust in at midnight and throw us all outside.


#17 Being Babied

My father gave up telling me to clean my room so he did it for me more than once. My mom saw how much I was struggling with math so she did my math homework for me. Now as an adult, I struggle with organization and keeping my home clean. I also avoid math as much as I possibly can—my mind just shuts down when I see simple math problems.


#18 Impactful Discouragement

Pretty much telling you that whatever activity that you enjoy doing is annoying or dumb. I used to love to sing. I was in the choir and would play my favorite songs over and over to learn the words. Not only did my sisters tease me for it, but my parents told me to shut up constantly. So I stopped singing. I must have been terrible, right? I sing when I'm alone, or jokingly with some friends.

What really broke me was when I went to visit everyone for the holidays and my sister said that she was surprised I never pursued singing since I seemed to love it so much when I was younger. I nearly started crying and had to bite my tongue so I wouldn't scream at her for being one of the reasons I stopped. It's always funny for the ones doing the teasing. But it actually hurts the ones being teased. Especially when it's coming from people who are supposed to love you.

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#19 A Disturbing Lie

When I was four, my parents adopted a kitten. Of course, I had never seen anything quite so delightful before and I could barely keep my hands off the little furball. So about two or three days passed—I got up in the morning, walked out and asked, “Where is the kitten?” My parents told me that he was gone, implying that my roughhousing had ended it. I was terrified to touch an animal for several years thereafter. In fact, they had simply given the kitten back to the people they got it from.


#20 A Strict Household Policy

I grew up in a very strict Asian household. My parents were very strict on the "never wake us up" policy. To this day, I get very anxious and refuse to wake people up in fear of being yelled at and being locked in a closet. I'm 22 years old.


#21 A Set Up For Failure

Telling your kid they are always a winner. We love our kids and want them to feel special, but it's setting them up to be disappointed later in life when they find out not everyone can win. Let them feel the disappointments early on, and teach them it's okay. They'll grow up better able to handle the stresses of life.


#22 Forcing Physical Affection

Making them give physical affection when they don’t want to. If Uncle Bob makes them uncomfortable, don’t make them give him a hug. If Auntie freaks them out, don’t make them give her a kiss. Of course, it’s important that they be kind, but don’t teach them that the feelings of others are more important than their bodily autonomy.


#23 Where's Mama?

My mom left me when I was around 3 and started a new family shortly after. My entire childhood was filled with "I'll do x-y-z" and she never would. She was most famous for "I'll pick you up tomorrow" or "I'll be there in a few minutes" and just never show. She did this on my fifth birthday. I remember it SO vividly.

My dad got me up before dark. He got me all dressed, did my hair and took cute pictures with a Little Mermaid doll she had brought by a few days earlier. I was SO excited. Then, I went and sat on the front steps as the sun was coming up. I sat there all day long. I didn't want to move because I didn't want to miss her coming down the long driveway.

Finally, my dad's girlfriend told me it was nap time... 2 p.m. I said I couldn't take a nap because mom might come while I'm sleeping. The way she told me "Honey, I'm sorry but I don't think she's coming today," just broke me. I still went and sat back on those steps. She never came.


#24 Lasting Effects

Severe punishments, like shaving the kids head or destroying his toys or hobbies. My neighbor (who is also one of my closest friends) went through this. He is doing fine, but it's messed up.


#25 Force Feeding

Telling your child that they have to finish all of their food. If your child says they're full, respect that. When you insist your child eat their food even when they're full, you're teaching your child to ignore the body's cue to finish eating and, instead, not stop eating until everything is gone. This can cause problematic food behaviors that they may carry on through life in a number of ways.

Firstly, it can cause the child to not be able to recognize when they're full or not anymore (a problem many people face, hence the rise of the intuitive eating movement to help people be able to recognize when they're full again), which can lead to overeating. Secondly, it can encourage an all-or-nothing mindset, which can also lead to overeating. As an example, someone who this lesson was emphasized to may not be able to stop after just taking a couple of Doritos from a family-sized bag like others; once they've started, they'll feel like they'll have to finish the whole bag because that's the thinking they were trained to have as a child.

man feeding babyVanessa Loring, Pexels

#26 Cruel Intentions

Using them as props for jokes in public. Glad you got a kick out of it, dad. Often times, our parents are our first tormentors. I knew someone who used his son as a comedic prop and it broke my heart. He would tease him and it felt like it was just a show for other people. I haven’t seen the kid in a long time and I hope he’s okay.


#27 Just Call It Quits

Sticking through an unhealthy relationship "for the kids." It doesn't help. Part ways, be good parents, spend quality time together with the kids, but don't stay together and freaking hate your lives under the guise of it being for the kids. Kids pick up on your nonsense and it's a terrible example to set.

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#28 Teaching Discipline

Not having them do chores. My parents pushed me to be academic, so they doted on me as a kid to make more room for study. When you’re too young and stupid to know any better, you think it’s a blessing. When I moved out,  I didn’t really know how to clean, when to clean, what to clean with, how to wash clothes, how to get them dry, etc. The only thing I could do was cook food.

That’s no way to bring up a kid, and its a steep learning curve doing all that stuff for the first time in your early 20s. It sounds like a super lame answer, but make sure every kid does their fair share of chores.


#29 Keep Them Humble

Telling them they are smart. I'm not saying to not praise them for a job well done, but reinforcing that a child is smart will teach them that they don't need to try as hard to learn. Education should be a constant challenge in the same way exercise should always be a challenge. If it's not difficult, you're not learning.


#30 Financial Illiteracy

In a different vein of thought: making finances a taboo subject. Financial illiteracy can be devastating once entering adulthood. Want to keep your children from making your own money mistakes? Don’t be too proud to teach them what those mistakes were.


#31 Feed Their Curiosity

Discouraging them from asking questions. Yes, it can be annoying to keep hearing "but why," but I've met far too many adults who admit they stopped asking questions because as a kid, their parents would shut them up or be like: "There he goes, asking questions again." Inquisitive minds need that fostered.


#32 iPad Parenting

Raising them on an iPad and YouTube whenever you want them to be quiet and behave. My kid is not allowed to use any electronics at a table while eating or in the car—the exception being long road trips. It’s important to me that she understands what appropriate is versus “normal” just because other kids are doing it. And human socialization and interaction too—kind of a big deal.


#33 Crushed Hopes

Never showing up for events. I remember my parents didn’t come to most of my chorus concerts. It really sucked to see my classmates’ families cheer them on while my parents were absent. I brought home one of my chorus program papers to show my parents and I found it in the trash the next day... I was sad because I wanted to keep it, but after seeing it in the trash, I didn’t want it anymore.


#34 Let Them Free

Not letting them have freedoms, such as going out with friends, making their own friends, etc. I'm 17 and I'm just now getting actual friends outside of school. I was never allowed to go do anything as a kid. I know it's because my parents cared about me, but it's hurt me more in the long run. It's caused some serious social anxiety.

group of children holding each others handsRDNE Stock project, Pexels

#35 Live A Little

Not having a life of your own beyond being a parent. Your child isn't responsible for your happiness—you are. If you build your entire sense of self-worth around your child, then 1) there's a good chance your child will grow up to resent the pressure, and 2) you're setting an example for them to be co-dependent in their own relationships.


#36 Big Boys Don't Cry

"Big boys don't cry." This "harmless" saying actually causes men to become shut off from their emotions as they age and are unable to form strong emotional bonds. They can get passed it, but it is a rough road.


#37 Too Late To Apologize

My parents refuse to apologize to me as apparently it’s bad for saving face. I never thought about how this affected my own personality until now. I hate apologizing, myself. It takes a lot of effort for me to admit I’m wrong and apologize but I do it and I feel angry while saying it. This really messes people up.


#38 No Means No

Continuing to tickle your children after they ask you to stop. My dad and older brother would tickle me as a child to the point that I went #1 in my pants, despite me begging them to stop. It started as young as I can remember and didn’t stop until I was 10. I was laughing because it tickled, not because I liked it. I meant it when I told them no but they would keep going anyways. I now hate being tickled and have serious issues saying no when I am uncomfortable and maintaining my own physical boundaries.


#39 The Wrong Way To Potty Train

Physical punishment and getting overly angry with your children. My brother is having issues with getting fully potty trained, and my dad's response is to hit him every time he doesn't use the bathroom. He tries to scare him into using the toilet by screaming at him while he's on it. My dad doesn't seem to realize all this is doing is distressing my brother, and making it even harder for him to use the restroom.


#40 Being Smart With Money

My wife's parents argued about money a lot when she was young. This led my wife to become agitated whenever budgeting was brought up. I have lots of bad memories attached to talk of finances. It took several years before I even knew why she got angry whenever I brought up financial planning and going over the household budget. So don't fight about money in front of your kids. You really shouldn't fight about anything in front of your kids. Instead, educate your kids on budgeting and being smart with money.

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#41 Excessive Religion

Excessive religion. I wasn't allowed to do SO MANY things as a child. No normal music, no evolution, no D&D or Yu-gi-oh, no movies that were the slightest bit scary or involved magic.... My social development was irreparably stunted because I had nothing in common with my peers, plus being constantly told that anyone outside my religion was "worldly" and would "lead me astray" left me with almost no friends until college. Not to mention the bizarre intimacy hang-ups that I'm only just managing to undo at 35.


#42 Just Friends

Anytime a child is playing with a child of the opposite gender, and the parents respond, “Oh who’s your boyfriend or girlfriend?” That type of stuff completely stopped me from even speaking to girls until I was in high school.

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#43 Constricting Emotions

Telling them not to cry or telling them to suck it up. That one messed me up for a good while.


#44 Let Down Your Pride

If you qualify for food stamps, take the freaking food stamps. Do not make your kid live on macaroni and cheese made with water because "we don't take handouts."


#45 No Room To Breathe

My parents were helicopter parents. I was not allowed to lock my bedroom door. My mom listened in on my phone calls (this was in landline phone days) and went through my personal belongings when I wasn’t home (including reading the notes that friends and I passed in school). I wasn’t allowed to talk to boys. Doing this only prevents your children from learning how to form healthy relationships; you should teach your children how to do things (such as date) in a safe and responsible manner, rather than ban it.




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