People Share How Their Parents Unintentionally Messed Them Up
Children are gullible creatures. Before growing to adulthood (or at least becoming angsty teenagers), children rely on their parents to teach them about the world. Children also tend to think a little differently than adults, taking words more literally or misunderstanding the meaning of some word or phrase. These things make it very easy for parents to unintentionally misinform their children in harmful or simple hilarious ways.
The stories below are from children who have grown to adulthood and, looking back, realized their parents unintentionally messed them up when they were kids or young teenagers (maybe even when they were young adults, in some cases). Hopefully, we can all learn from them to not screw up our in children in the same ways.
#1 How To Raise A Liar
My mom was very controlling. She meant well, but her overbearing nature only made me a better liar than a productive member of society.
#2 Parental Pressures
“If only you were nicer, they wouldn’t bully you.” “Your sister can make friends, so you can too.” “Why do you have these weird hobbies, no wonder you have no friends.” “What is it, are you too lazy or too shy to make friends?” I endured 40 years of this and beat myself senseless over my inability to fit in.
#3 People Are Bad
She kept telling me that the neighborhood kids were bad and I should never play with them. This led me to become very introverted and shy. I felt super awkward walking past all the kids who were playing. Then, when I was about 15, my parents started asking me why I had no friends… It made me feel like I had a problem and was different. Due to the lack of interaction with kids my age, I now avoid conflict and have weak social skills. It took me years of practice to be comfortable with people. I ended up having very good friends in high school and university, but even after all these years, I still feel awkward meeting and befriending new people.
#4 Such A Thing As Too Nice
This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but my parents strongly instilled in me the need to care about other people’s feelings and kindness; to the point of being overly kind and accommodating. I started apologizing too much, bending over backward for people who didn’t deserve it and letting people take advantage of me. I am proud of being a person that cares for others, but it’s taken a while for me to learn how to set boundaries and maintain them in relationships.
#5 Just A Burden
They never took any problems I had seriously. They’d get angry at me when I was having a bad mental health day, and deny that I had depression “You’re just doing this for attention,” they’d say, even though I was clinically diagnosed. It has led me to never speak about my problems. I’d have breakdowns in my bedroom and then pretend I’m fine. Not even my friends want to deal with me.
#6 It’s Not For Me
My mom was a helicopter parent to me during all of my middle school AND high school years. As a result, I was never able to develop good study habits because I never got the feeling that I was doing it for me. I felt like I was doing it for her.
#7 Criticize The Kid
My parents would constantly criticize me. As an adult, I now sit in meetings at work and wait for someone to tell me how stupid, wrong or inappropriate something I said or did was. It’s awesome.
#8 Children Should Be Seen, Not Heard
They would constantly interrupt me when I’d try to say something. They’d talk over me, or try very hard not to pay attention to what I’d say. I’ve grown up to be a very quiet person who very rarely makes any effort to say anything to anyone.
#9 Not Interested Or Interesting
When I was a kid, maybe five or six, I was riding in the car with my mom. I was playing with a Transformers toy and telling her about it. At some point, she stopped me and said something to the effect of, “Son, do I talk to you about makeup or clothes or anything I’m interested in?” I answered no. She then said, “Then I don’t want to hear about Transformers or whatever you’re playing with.” In that moment, she just wanted me to shut up because she didn’t care, but over my life, I’ve realized it destroyed my ability to talk about things I care about with people unless it’s someone I’m very close to. I come off as very boring until people get to know me.
#10 The Subtle Helicopter
My parents semi-helicopter parented me for far too long. They subtlety controlled my life to the point where I wasn’t able to do a lot of things that were important to me, but it wasn’t enough that I felt overly controlled. It took me a LONG time to start making decisions without prioritizing their approval. I’m a little behind in a lot of things that are important to me because I never felt truly supported and free to develop myself the way I wanted to.
#11 Natural Marks, Unnatural Disorder
My younger sister and I both hit puberty pretty early. We were at healthy weights but we still had stretch marks from our rapid growth spurts and hormonal changes. Our parents had the genius idea of calling us in one night and telling us we needed to lose weight because we had stretch marks. This was on top of years of ridiculous diets and fad routines that were forced on us. I ended up developing an eating disorder that I’m still trying to beat 16 years after that conversation.
#12 Mixing Messages
My parents sent me crazy mixed messages. One day, they would be telling me to not give a heck about what people think of me. Then, the next day, they would be like, “Don’t wear that shirt with those pants! They don’t match! People will think you don’t have a sense of style!” It really messed with my nerves, man.
#13 Teach The Important, Small Things
They didn’t teach me much at all. I had to learn a lot from my friends, outside of proper manners. When I was a teenager, my dad would ask me to get him a Phillips head screwdriver and when I said I had no idea what that was, he scolded me.
#14 More Harm Than Good
My parents didn’t divorce each other when their relationship was clearly broken. They yelled at each other every day until I graduated and stopped sleeping in the same bed. It made me not able to understand what a healthy relationship was. With all the screaming, it was hard to focus on school.
#15 There Are No Stupid Questions
My parents would tell me I needed to communicate more. Then, when I did communicate more, they would question everything I’d say. One time, I was open to my mother about my depression and she asked me, “What do you have to be depressed about?” She didn’t believe depression could result from a chemical reaction.
#16 Immigrant Identity
I’m an immigrant living in the United States. My parents tease me all the time about not knowing our culture, but they didn’t teach me much it in the first place. Most of what I know about our culture comes from American news outlets. I learned to speak the day-to-day language from them but also learned how to read, write and expand my vocabulary all on my own. Growing up in the United States without a foundation for my identity really set me up for difficulty. I latched onto anything and anyone who I thought accepted me. It turned out that people were just taking advantage of me.
#17 You Can’t Be Too Humble
Whenever I did anything well, they would squash it or put me down. This was to “humble” me and make my older brothers feel better about themselves since they had ADHD. Nowadays, I’m not as good as self-promotion as I should be which definitely hurts me in the workplace.
#18 Losing The Genetic Lottery
My birth father has a whole host of physical health problems that run on his side of the family and my birth mother has a laundry list of mental health issues that run on her side. They were two of the worst people to get together and have kids.
#19 Contracts For Playdates
My parents were emotionally distant. That’s all my father knew growing up in his family. My mother was a successful daycare operator who burned out after raising other people’s children, so she was never really there for me. Every promise for something had to be written down with a date and signed or else it would be fervently denied as if it never happened.
#20 Discipline, And The Lack Thereof
Lack of discipline. Not punishing me, but straight up discipline. I really struggle to commit to things, follow through and apply myself, because I always just give up or find myself thinking, “What’s the point?”
#21 Only Taught To Fake It
I didn’t realize until I was an adult myself, but my parents are the reason I’m socially awkward. I thought it was just me. Then, I took a closer look at how my parents interacted with other people in daily life. Yes, all the social skills of a bent spoon between the two of them. I had no one at home to learn from and while I’ve largely learned how to fake it, it’ll never come naturally.
#24 Teaching Exhaustion
My dad basically never interacted with me except to make dad jokes. My mom used me to vent about her problems because my dad didn’t know how to discuss emotional topics. She also engaged me in long, boring, one-sided conversations that I couldn’t get out of without making her upset. She’d often ask me to go out and do things with her, which again, I couldn’t refuse without making her upset. I dealt with all this when I was already exhausted from school and depression. Now, I associate relationships of any kind with an exhausting obligation.
#23 Unprepared Beaver
They kept me too sheltered. My parents put on a front that we were kind of a perfect family. When I went out into the world, I wasn’t prepared for the reality of life. I’d learned that everyone was basically good and decent, so I wasn’t equipped to deal with bad people.
#24 One Terrible Joke
I was about to go to a dance with my boyfriend and I had on a very pretty dress that I felt very beautiful in. I showed my dad and his response was, “Doesn’t that make you look fat though?” It was apparently a joke, but he knew I was self-conscious about my weight, and I’d never felt more ashamed in my life. I don’t see him the same way since then. Life is fun.
#25 Unintentional Unpreparedness
My mom did most everything around the house. So when I finally moved out, I didn’t know how to clean anything, wash, dry, fold or iron clothes, cook food, or even use the oven. I got an apartment and had to teach myself everything.
#26 Mother’s Problems Become Child’s Problems
My mom projected her insecurities onto me, and I developed body image issues as a result. She always was called ungrateful, and now I have a complex about accepting gifts, favors, or help; even from my closest friends.
#27 Phonetic Lies
My mom unintentionally pronounces a lot of things incorrectly. It’s kind of embarrassing whenever I attempt to say something in conversation, only to get baffled looks indicating to me that I have been told phonetic lies up until that point.
#28 Mistaken Manifestations
I think I learned to be anxious from my mother. Do I think it’s my genetics? No, not really. I think my nature is to be chill. But every time I start to relax and enjoy life, there’s a little voice in the back of my head—my mother’s voice—telling me I need to get back up and be on guard because I might not be doing things the way she’d want. I love my mom, but she was a very scared parent, and her fears for me manifested as disapproval in many of my activities.
#29 No Sneezing Allowed
Whenever I was about to sneeze, my dad would say, “Don’t sneeze!” I would probably laugh at first which would stop the whole process dead in its tracks. To this day, however, I can’t sneeze if anyone is making eye contact with me. If someone is aware that I’m about to sneeze, or even if the TV is too loud, I have to either walk away from people or pause whatever I’m watching to get the deed done. Thanks, dad.
#30 No Opposing Opinions Allowed
They screwed me over by not letting me express my own opinions about certain topics. I would bring my own opinion to the conversation, then they would belittle me and completely shut it down. They would mostly force a lot of their belief systems on me when I would have an opposing opinion about certain subjects.
#31 Don’t Want To Be Creepy
My dad was a womanizer who used to hit on women in front of me when I was a teenager. He was still married to my mom whenever he did. I had a problem with flirting when I reached adulthood, as it brought back the creepy feeling I had when my dad would do it in front of me.
#32 Perils Of A Military Family
My family had to move frequently since my dad was in the military. As a result, I lost the ability to form genuine friendships because I was so conditioned to have to say goodbye just as soon as I got close to people. After a couple of years in college, I started to break through it a bit, but attachment never comes naturally to me.
#33 You’re Not As Good As Them
My parents would constantly compare me to other people. Now, I can’t help but compare myself to other people and I always feel like I need to be better than everyone. It’s gotten to the point where I get secretly happy when people fail. I’m trying to work on it.
#34 Punishment For A Good Deed
My parents kindly and graciously fostered a troubled teen. She was about six or seven years older than me. She was self-harming, somewhat odd and, as we eventually learned, had DID (or MPD as it was called then). Without going into too long of a story, I’ll just say that there were many moments of stress that I, as a 10-year-old, didn’t have a way to process. The DID had some tough points, though they were mostly positive. It was properly weird but genuinely fun interacting with a childlike personality in an almost-adult body. The whole experience forced early adulthood on myself (and to a lesser extent, my sister) which has left a mark on me for the rest of my life. There are many positives, but I think it prematurely pushed us into adulthood, which had some lasting effects.
#35 Hidden Affection
They never showed affection toward each other. We were never really a family that said, “I love you” or anything like that to each other while I was growing up. So with that, showing affection can be hard for me. I can be in love with someone, but I’m not good at showing it. It just feels weird to me.
#36 Neglected Teeth And Life
We were poor and my mother was never around to actually parent me. She was always working. I basically had to teach myself to be an adult. It’s still a struggle for me and I’m 26. My teeth are already messed up because she didn’t want to get me braces when I was younger and “I never took care of my teeth.” Well, mother dear, you never TAUGHT ME HOW. I taught myself when I moved out at 15!
#37 All In Fun
My dad subjected me to some psychological torture. He meant it all in good fun, but now I’m afraid of walking down hallways sometimes because I’m always afraid someone will jump out and scare me. I also flinch if someone moves their arm too close to me because my instincts tell me they’re about to give me a Charlie horse. My dad also used to lag behind me while walking in the store and then momentarily disappear. I’d freak out for a brief moment until he reappeared. I think this is how my anxiety of being alone in public started. Again, my dad meant it all in good fun, but he really messed me up. “Well, at least this way,” he’d say, “When you see a therapist when you’re older, you’ll get your money’s worth.”
#38 Living In Constant Competition
They turned everything into a competition between my two brothers and I. If I did well in a test, they’d say: “But your brother got a higher grade on his test last week.” It was like no matter how well I did in something, they would always find something else my brother did that was better. Constantly fighting for your parents’ approval only to have it overshadowed by an often unrelated, better achievement by another sibling is soul destroying. The constant competition continued into adulthood. Now it’s things like, who has the better career, the more attractive significant other, the better neighborhood, etc.
#39 No Sharing, No Intimacy
My parents and I don’t hug or tell each other that we love each other. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I hugged or told either of them I loved them or vice-versa. I’m 24 now and it just seems weird and awkward to do. I can’t envision it ever changing, either. Like, I physically cringe at the thought of having to say it to my parents, even though I want them to know I love them. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
I even get awkward when people try and hug me. I used to try and avoid hugs, but I realized that made people notice me being weird more, so now when someone hugs me, I just hug them back like a normal person, despite hating it. It’s impacted all relationships in my life and caused me anxiety and depression because I can’t talk about anything. I always think that if I do, everyone will think I’m weird or just seeking attention.
#40 Weren’t Interested Then, Why Now?
My mom would laugh at me any time I expressed an interest in anything she didn’t consider worth having an interest in. She’d also tease me whenever I so much as hinted at liking a girl. Now I’m an adult living in a different part of the country and she complains about me being single and not talking to her about my life.
#41 Apology Is Weakness
My mom never apologized. Being a single parent, she thought she had to be hard and never be seen as infallible. Of course, when I saw her cry for the first time when her dad died, she came to me, her youngest, for emotional support and I freaked out internally. Never apologizing meant that I had no idea how to say sorry myself and mean it. I still really struggle with it, especially if I didn’t mean to hurt or offend someone. I can get very defensive which, of course, is not the right way to work through anything.
#42 Not Allowed, Never Learned
My mom never showed me how to be safe around things. She never let me do chores, but would whine that I never helped around the house. She waited on me like a personal servant then complained about it… to me! Now, I don’t do anything because she always says, “Get away from the stove!” or “I told you to stay away from the washing machine!”
#43 Fatherly Fear
My dad believes spanking is a good method for disciplining. On top of all that, he’s emotionally distant. Not because he wants to be, but because he seems to not know what to do. He’s just not good with feelings. I’m distant from my father and I grew up scared to go to him for help, which really made my life more difficult. I didn’t ask for help with homework, or when I was bullied, or when I wanted to learn to drive or to shave. I even learned more about puberty at school.
#44 Safety Over Living And Learning
I had a single mother who worked nights, so she was always gone all night and sleeping all day. I also wasn’t allowed to go outside by myself because we lived in a questionable neighborhood. As a result, I felt a bit like a prisoner in our tiny apartment. I would leave for school and nothing else. No extracurriculars, no church, no fun family outings, etc. Summers were the worst. With no school to use as a ticket out the door, it wasn’t uncommon for me to go two or more weeks without stepping foot outside the door. This lasted until the day I moved out at 18.
As a result, I feel like I’m reclusive and have a lot less life experience than my peers. Obviously, I don’t blame my mom—she had to do what she had to do to make ends meet—but the more I grow and experience the world, the more I realize how abnormal my childhood was and how it kind of messed me up.
#45 Overly Thankful
My parents drilled into my skull that I should be thankful for everything. That sounds good on the surface, but think about it: if you always hear you have to be thankful for everything because that is more than enough for you, you get the mindset that you don’t deserve more, that your desires are not important and that everything you get is still too much for you. I am 25, have a Master’s degree, a nice job, and an okay social life and I feel so freaking anxious all the time because I can never, ever shake the feeling of not being good enough for anything. It hurts my interactions with everybody and I hate it.