If this was a question directed to children, we are sure the list would be endless and somewhat hilarious, ranging from "they make me take a bath daily" to "they make me study and go to school, everyday!" Ask a parent for the flipside of this equation and you get a grim and stark picture, because the things parents make children do can light up their little hearts or scar them for life. Here are 15 of the worst things.
15 ‘Indulge’ (read: bombard) kids with TMI
As parents, we want to keep our children protected from things inappropriate for their age and sensibility, at the same time giving them enough information to understand their bodies, as well as the birds and the bees. However, in this day and age of social media networking, parents sometime unknowingly put too much information about their sex lives for the world, and more importantly, for their children, to see.
Risqué pictures and posts, inappropriate messages or ‘pokes,' or simply content that could be offensive to young, gullible minds are just the tip of the iceberg. Most parents insist on being FB friends and WhatsApp buddies with their children and inadvertently make children privy to stuff that’s simply TMI. Uncensored internet, storing porn in accessible computer folders, and just having your sexual stash lying about (toys, condoms, etc) is another point where some parents fail. If you want limited information to filter though to your kids, make sure you act like a sieve.
14 Make children fearful and distrusting of authority figures
Scaring children, trying to dominate them, and basically acting like a militant disciplinarian is not going to keep kids from harm, but rather push them towards going rogue. We have to realize that we do not ‘own’ our children—they are not our property. They are individuals with their own likes and dislikes. Forcing them to toe the line into blind obedience and ruling them with fear will make for very disturbed young minds.
While parents do need to be the guiding force in children’s lives by instilling in them a sense of right and wrong, force is the moot point here. Our children will fear us only when we make them fear us. Violence and manhandling will tell them that we are to be feared, not trusted; consequentially, they will obey us only until our scare tactics work.
13 Force kids into eating just because
We understand that in today’s stressful world, parenting is not easy. In trying to avoid making a mistake, we end up making multiple ones, especially when it comes to feeding our kids. While we understand they need food, ‘making them’ eat will only make them view food as a source of conflict.
In a world where body image rules king, getting children to eat a balanced meal often turns into a full battle with the frustrated parents finally laying down the law. They'll say things like, “You have to finish what’s on your plate!” In the long run, this may prove detrimental to a child’s relationship with food. It’s better to try and go the logical way by seeking the help of experts like dieticians, nutritionists, and even psychologists if the need arises.
12 Making children try to ‘fit in’ and act ‘normal’
Each child is an individual in his or her own right. Many parents try and change their child into their versions of normal, but this is wrong. We want our children to find their own place in the world. As parents, we do not want them to struggle to be accepted or be ostracized for their individuality. That said, we cannot force our wishes or our versions of normalcy down our children’s throats. Children have a right to just be whatever they are or whatever they want to be.
As parents, we need to accept them and their decisions wholeheartedly. If we display embarrassment and signs of discomfort at their behavior or choices, we ourselves have become the perpetrators of the ostracism we so fear for them.
11 Forcing kids to show affection via physical contact
"Go on, hug your aunt/uncle/xyz…” We hug people we know, like, and love. For your children, even a close friend or family member can be a relative stranger. Forcing them to be warm and making them reciprocate physical demonstrations of love such as kissing or hugging people that are strangers for them, or people they just not have taken a liking to, is wrong in so many ways.
In a way, we are taking away their right to choose who they would like to bestow their affections upon. We are telling our children that their personal space can be invaded by strangers and that we as parents have full right to their bodies as well as their affections. No can do parents, no can do at all…
10 Make children beg for forgiveness
Yes, children make mistakes. Yes, they do need to apologize and face consequences as part of enforcing discipline and good habits. Prolonging an issue by literally making children beg for forgiveness, however isn’t going to make the mistake go away. For grave offences, a child should be allowed to earn forgiveness with good behavior. As parents, we have to ensure that the child understands the wrong that he or she did, and does not repeat it again.
But making a child beg for forgiveness by writing elaborate apology letters or being punished for too long will not necessarily make the child realize his mistake and may make him resent the parents instead. Also, however angry we may be with our children, giving them the silent treatment is not a positive step.
9 Coaxing little ones into divulging their secrets (but not keeping them)
As parents, we want to be privy to everything going on in our children’s life, stemming from a desire to keep them safe and away from harm. So, we coax and cajole, poke and prod, and basically nag our kids with parental finesse into divulging their innermost secrets to us.
And then, in a complete betrayal of the trust they place in us, we use these secrets as gossip over family dinners and get-togethers. What we are telling our children is that we, as parents, cannot be trusted to keep their secrets safe and also that we do not consider their ‘childlike’ secrets to be important enough to be kept just that: a secret. By making them trust us and then by betraying the trust, we are landing them a double whammy, proving that we are untrustworthy (so who can they trust?) and that their stuff is just unimportant (parent 1, child 0).
8 Creating gender-specific labels
Sometimes, boys will like to dress up in pretty girl clothes and strut around in their mama’s high heels. And little girls too might want to stand next to their daddies and do the entire shave sequence. Instead of trying to turn them into little men and misses, we should let them just be kids. There is plenty of time for children to grow up into their god-given gender, so let the little ones be little ones.
Forcing children to conform to gender-governed behavior at too early an age can actually be detrimental to their health, both physical and mental, in the long run. While gender is biological, the so-called masculine and feminine traits that we want our children to display early on basically leads to gender-skewed personalities.
7 Force children to grow up, too much, too fast
This Halloween costume is the perfect example of letting kids be kids. A fart costume like this is freaking adorable and much better than all of the other typical princess and prince costumes that parents' stick their little bundles of joy in.
Dressing them up as little adults, trying to instill in them adult-like manners, and asking them to behave with grace unnatural for their age will make them grow up too soon, too fast… And then we the parents would regret their lost childhood.
6 Making kids feel grateful for what we do
It is wrong for a child to feel entitled, that’s for sure and it’s good for children to feel gratitude for all they have been blessed with. But, expecting children to be grateful for what is our parental duty is not the basis for a good relationship. We should raise appreciative children well-versed in the magic words of please, thank you, and sorry. If they show their appreciation for the parents freely, great, but if we start expecting them to be grateful to us, we are setting ourselves up for a big fail. Bringing them into this world was our choice because procreation is just one strong human instinct. The child didn’t ask to be born or created.
5 Force our likes on children
From food to TV, clothes to room décor, as parents we have to remember that our likes may not always resonate with our children. We have to understand and accept the fact that they are separate individuals. Trying to make them see things your way is okay when it comes to the morality of right and wrong, but for all smaller things, it is okay for them to go off on another tangent. Forcing your likes and dislikes on them is a rather dictatorial style of parenting and may not produce positive results.
4 Make kids feel rejected
Making kids feel rejected, unloved, abandoned, and simply not worth it is probably one of the worst things that we parents can make our children do. Children are not our personal marionettes that we can make them move and dance as we please. Like us, they are people, with their individual choices, preferences, likes, and dislikes. We may not always agree with them and as parents, it’s only right for us to try and guide them into choosing better, but we cannot make them feel bad about themselves over not being more like us. Our children can thrive, or literally wilt, depending on the environment we create for them.
3 Make kids carry out punishments disproportional to the mistake
Disciplining children is necessary, for sure, but the discipline we enforce has to take into account one simple thing: fairness. Making children carry out punishments which are grossly unfair, too stern, and physically or mentally abusive belongs at the top of the bad parenting list. Punishing them in public so as to purposely humiliate them is likely to leave children with fear and feelings of shame and despair.
Children will be children. However tired, frustrated, and utterly in the dumps we may be feeling as parents, it’s not our children’s fault.
2 Giving children too much freedom
An extreme opposite of the point above would be to not make children responsible for their actions and letting them go scot-free even when their offences move from mischief into the serious and the hurtful. Making children own up to their mistakes, inadvertent or deliberate, teaches them to be responsible and careful adults when they grow up. If they are not made to see the error of their ways, then they will only feel entitled to everything and be the least appreciative of anything.
Simple disciplining tactics like rewarding honesty, being regular with the rules and regulations, and making sure that a child understands that mistakes can happen, is perhaps how we turn children into law-abiding citizens later on.
1 Make kids privy to any kind of abuse
Seriously, this is the worst thing ever done to children. Even if an abusive parent is not abusive towards a child and even if the abuse is not violent or physical in nature, exposing children to an environment that’s unhealthy for their body and mind stands first in line in our list of the worst things parents make children do. Doing so can lead a child to be left with feelings of betrayal, mistrust, and a skewed perception of what love and affection is about. And if a child is made to be part of the abuse of another, then the child learns that it is okay to mistreat people at will.
No one said parenting was a cakewalk, so let's fess up to our mistakes, prevent new ones, and live to provide our children with safe, happy homes.
Sources: ThinkProgress.org, RaiseHealthyEaters.com, Understood.org, Parenting.org