Parents like to say that they know what’s best for their child. And who are we to argue? But in some cases, common parenting tactics, even if meant for the best interest of a child, can do more harm than good.

So recently, a thread on r/AskReddit got people weighing in on “normal” parenting tactics that shouldn't be considered normal. Even though discussing parenting with others always verges on the thin line of getting into an argument, some of the responses are truly thoughtful. Think of being protective and overprotective, or comparing a child to their siblings; how much of it is actually toxic?

#1

Refusing to apologize when you’re wrong.
Apologize to your children when you're wrong. Admit you don't know something when asked. Change your mind when your child gives you a valid reason. I grew up in an authoritarian household. ... It only teaches kids they have no voice.

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Hans
Community Member
11 months ago

Respect is not learned by being told to "behave" but by being given respect. From day one on.

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#2

Saying that a kid has a boyfriend/girlfriend any time they are close friends with a child who isn't the same gender. On top of reinforcing the idea that boys and girls can't ever be strictly platonic friends, it's so creepy to project adult ideas of romantic relationships onto kids who are practically still toddlers.

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No_idea
Community Member
11 months ago

Yes! This!

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#3

Telling your kids your personal problems. Like, 'Your dad is horrible; he didn’t even do the dishes. I hate my marriage.' Your kids are not your therapist. Also, they can’t do anything to solve your problem. Instead, address your issues with your spouse and a therapist.

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Vermillion Ace #443
Community Member
11 months ago

This is my uncle in a nutshell.

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#4

'You can tell me, and I won't be mad' followed by punishing them for whatever they admit. Then they wonder why their kids never talk to them.

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Roxy Eastland
Community Member
11 months ago

I am sure I have as many parental failings as anyone else (possibly more) but I've never understood this one, even if a parent does stick to not being angry. I've always said to my kids that if they've wronged someone, by accident or on purpose, then that person has a right to be angry. Of course they also have a responsibility about how they behave, just because you let someone down or scratched their car or whatever doesn't mean they can now hit you or pour personal insults on you. But yes, they have a right to express how they feel and you have to accept that. It doesn't mean you're less of a person, it means you're taking it on the chin as you should. I then talk about how these things will come out somehow and that person will always end up angry at some point, and it's a million times better to be upfront and in control and deal with it as soon as possible, than for them to find out you've lied and hidden it from then. Boy, then they're really going to be furious.

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#5

Being overly protective. If you don't let your kids fail or protect them too much, they'll be less capable of doing so once they've left home. Failure is good; just provide a safety net.

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LeighAnne Brown-Pedersen
Community Member
11 months ago

Failure is a great teacher. Frankly so is pain. To a point, if you don’t let them fail, they will freak out when they do, and they will.

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#6

Getting mad for 'disrespect' or 'talking back' when their kids win an argument.

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JDH
Community Member
11 months ago

OH MY GOD THANK YOU

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#7

Using humiliation and embarrassment as a punishment.

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Leigh C.
Community Member
11 months ago

It's one thing to put a kid in someone else's shoes to show them shaming someone for being different isn't cool. But what this one means is it's toxic to actually cause traumatic humiliation and embarrassment for something like soiling the bed at night, or publicly shaming them just because they did something wrong at home.

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#8

Taking away their privacy. Unless your kid has a serious drug or self-harm problem, violating their privacy will almost certainly do more harm than good to their mental health, trust, and their relationship to you. It doesn't matter if it's installing spyware on their phones, tracking their movements, or taking away their bedroom door.

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Eslamala
Community Member
11 months ago (edited)

It will also lead to children learning very quick how to hide stuff and lie.

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#9

Telling little boys that they cant defend themselves against a girl who is hitting them just because theyre a girl. Thats bs, i was taught to fight back no matter who attacks you. Theres no gender in mutual combat.

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enby from hell
Community Member
11 months ago

EXACTLY. I remember being hit by a boy in kindergarten, and the teacher told him he couldn't hit me because I was a girl. I was FURIOUS. 'I've got a right to be hit! I WANT TO BE HIT!' Long story short, my parents got called in along with the parents of the boy and there was a whole thing about it.

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#10

Invalidating their kids' emotions, be it ignoring or shutting them down.

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I Liquored On
Community Member
11 months ago

"Stop f*****g crying or I will slap you" one or my dads greatest hits

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#11

Making a child eat everything on their plate if they say they aren't hungry anymore. Do you want you kid to have an eating disorder? No, then don't because that's how you can cause one.

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Roxy Eastland
Community Member
11 months ago

That said, you have to allow that parents do know their children and they do know when a child 'isn't hungry' because they have a standard main course and can't be bothered, but half an hour later are going to be whining in the kitchen because they're hungry and can they just have some biscuits or crisps. There's a balancing act, this is why parenting is harding than it looks on the surface.

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#12

Forced affection.

This is controversial (especially here in America) but I feel like we say “I love you” way too much to the point it loses its meaning. My dad (who was extremely emotionally abusive) used to force me to say the words “I love you daddy” to him, in private and in front of other people. By nature I have never been an affectionate person, especially in front of others. I don’t like to hug and kiss a lot.

I also don’t believe in making children hug people. If the child wants to hug them, they will. It shouldn’t be forced.

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Jo Johannsen
Community Member
11 months ago

I have an acquaintance whose son's answer to being told "no" is "I love you", like that should change the answer to yes.

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#13

Comparing them to their siblings. The good old, 'Why can't you be more like your brother/sister?' does nothing for their self-esteem and really can keep them from becoming their own person. That's all they should be anyway — themselves, not their siblings.

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Shantelle Stratford
Community Member
11 months ago

I refused to be like my brother in school simply for that reason. My parents always used that line on me and I HATED it. Not just because my brother was a huge d**k head and a bully.

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#14

The old “as long as I’m feeding you, clothing you, you’ll do what i say!” Or the “just be grateful i put a roof over your head”.

Specially If your parents constantly use that sentence to boss you around, disregard your opinions and wants, and belittle you. You didn’t asked to be born. And it’s their obligation to take care of you, not something they should loom over your head as leverage.

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Vasana Phong
Community Member
11 months ago

Isn’t it crazy how some parents have this mentality? It never even crossed my mind when I had my kids, did everything I was supposed to do, especially the essentials.

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#15

I’m not sure if this is “normal” or just something I see online.. but mums pulling the “just wait till dad gets home” card. Why would you want your kids to be afraid of their dad? And why should the dad have to play bad cop all the time? The last thing I want is my partner coming home from work and yelling at the kids for me.

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enby from hell
Community Member
11 months ago

Yes! My parents always yell at me together. It's a team job. But it does have the effect of alienating neither of them. And I get my own back when it's my turn to lay the table--I give them sporks instead of forks.

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#16

Overly accommodating and praising children.
My sister always excelled in academics and was also an accomplished pianist in high school. My parents didn’t make her do any of the chores I had to in order to 'preserve her hands for piano.' Her excellence at school, in clubs, and with piano also kind of led to her being constantly praised by people around her. Now, in her mid-twenties, she lacks basic life skills (cooking, cleaning, and even self-cleaning) and is unable to take any criticism, no matter how small.

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Susan Widomski
Community Member
11 months ago

I was chastised because I was teaching my younger brother how to wash clothes and prepare meals after our mom died. He was only twelve, but I was ten years older. I felt like he deserved a boost to be able to fend for himself and clean up after himself.

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#17

Not explaining their decisions. Like, 'You have to do this because I'm your mom/dad, and I say so. End of discussion!' Instead, you can bring your kids on board with sooo many of the decisions you make for them if you take the time to explain your reasoning to them. Kids understand more than a lot of parents think — just give them a chance.

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N G
Community Member
11 months ago

There is a small step before explaining EVERYTHING about your decisions - sometimes you have to make a decision because otherwise your electricity will be cut off, and telling the truth will unnecessarily cause your child to worry about the household finances when they are much too young to grasp every nuance or be able to do a damn thing about it and becomes one of those people who watches every single penny well into adulthood even though they have a good job and a comfortable life. Sometimes "because" is the right answer to protect a child.

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#18

Making your female children change clothes when male family members come over.

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enby from hell
Community Member
11 months ago

wait what do people even do this??? I was only told to change if I was in PJ's!

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#19

Taking away things that the child has earned for themselves. If your kid is old enough to work and use that money to purchase something for themselves than it's thiers and you have no right to take it. I don't care if it's a car or a playstation 5.

Same thing with the money itself. Just because your kid is old enough to work and bring home a paycheck doesn't mean you're entitled to that money. I personally had to open up a brand new bank account the day I turned 18 because my mother helped herself to over $700 of my money. When I confronted her she basically told me "[screw] you I'm the adult on the account so it's my money too!"

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Agamemnon Padar
Community Member
11 months ago

Happened in another way to my brother and me too. We inherited from an aunt each 2000 €. Parents never gave even a cent and spent all on debts them had run up. My brother was 15, I was 18.

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#20

Forcing your children to give family members that make them uncomfortable, hugs and kisses. Additionally inviting family who actively distress your kid to your house to stay for an extended period and forcing the kid to be nice and interact.

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Deborah B
Community Member
11 months ago

If a kid doesn't want to hugged by someone they should be able to say "No thank you, I don't want to hug." And the adults can deal with their own offence/embarassment/ discomfort/ rejection. The burden of managing the feelings and reactions of adults should not be placed on the shoulders of a socially anxious ten year old.

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#21

Giving in when your child is being difficult. It teaches them all they have to do to get what they want is throw a fit. You're encouraging more difficult behavior.

The correct way to handle it is sit in whatever storm they whip up. Stay calm and hold the boundary.

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Eslamala
Community Member
11 months ago (edited)

My son used to throw huge tantrums when he was little. I always did the same thing: looked into his eyes, told him I loved him very much, stand next to him and let him cry. I never caved. I never yelled at him. I just let him have his feelings and when he was done, we'd do whatever it was we were doing. Worked like a charm.

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#22

Invalidating their emotions just bc they're children, Cruel jokes ab their physical appareance or behaviour

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Vorknkx
Community Member
11 months ago

The worst thing of this type is probably mocking a kid for being forgetful. It's not like someone deliberately chooses to forget things, it's usually beyond our control. Mockery just makes it worse.

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#23

Saying anything along the lines of 'just be happy.' Like thanks, my depression is cured — especially since depression runs in my family on both sides.

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enby from hell
Community Member
11 months ago

THIS. Mental illnesses aren't just 'being sad' and 'being happy' isn't some kind of internal switch you can flick. See a therapist who knows what they're doing and take their advice. Also, eat chocolate. It encourages the production of endorphins. Also chocolate.

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#24

Gaslighting their children into believing things that are simply not true in order to defend themselves.

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WilvanderHeijden
Community Member
11 months ago

You mean like telling them that people working in the fastfood industry do not deserve to earn a livable wage and they are some sort of lower species that doesn't deserve any respect at all.

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#25

Being overly involved in your childs life. I'm talking about relationships. Your child should have their own relationships without the parent acting like the third wheel, and seeking validation from the friends or partner too. Being involved is a good thing, but when you are so invested in their relationships too it can be damaging to your kid and their future relationships.

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Martha Meyer
Community Member
11 months ago

This should be higher.

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#26

Letting one sibling bully another and turning a blind eye, with the philosophy that they should work everything out for themselves. Punishing both siblings equally when one is 3 years older, much larger, much stronger, much more verbally sophisticated and adept at manipulation, and when the younger one complains, shutting them up by saying, "Well, did he put a gun to your head?"

That's how you teach a kid to be a victim.

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Jo Johannsen
Community Member
11 months ago

Another side to it: the older sibling by 7 years gets her first record player. 5 year old sister gets exact same record player because "you have to be fair".

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#27

Not necessarily personal experience, but I do think it's absurd how often parents will speak of their own child as "spoiled" for having all kinds of nice possessions like video game systems, cell phones, cars, as if that wasn't entirely the parent's choice. If you don't think your kid should have those things for free, then don't buy them for the kid. Don't shower gifts on your child and then act like the child is a bad person for owning them.

People have this obnoxious reactionary/conservative tendency to speak automatically about kids as if they're brats who don't appreciate the nice things they have. People look at a place full of 13-year-olds with expensive phones in their pockets and act like it's the downfall of society. It's just assumed, based on nothing, that all those 13-year-olds must be ungrateful and entitled and believe they automatically deserve an expensive phone.

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enby from hell
Community Member
11 months ago

I feel this. One of my friends has severe depression and at one point she and I were travelling on a bus together. She was crying over her phone because her teacher had given her back an assignment she spent ages on and she'd got a terrible grade. I was comforting her, and this old guy yelled at us 'I don't believe your generation! No one here cares if you broke up with your boyfriend! Quit inflicting your noise on the rest of us!' So I yelled back at him, which only made my friend cry harder. We got off the bus a stop early and walked the rest of the way home.

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#28

Listening solely to other parents for advice. My mom listened to my grandmother instead of taking me to a psychiatrist. It wasn’t “a phase” it was autism and OCD. Now I’m in my 20s with trauma from the way my mental health was disregarded and autism leaving me more vulnerable to abuse. I’m left to navigate by myself.

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Vorknkx
Community Member
11 months ago

Downplaying issues and treating them as just a "phase" - oh, what could possibly go wrong?

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#29

Threatening to take away things and 50% of the time never actually doing it. Leads kids to live in a state of being unsure of what will happen. Take the thing away or don't.

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Aaleyah _ aesthetic
Community Member
11 months ago

ikr, like when i was a kid and my parents used to do this a lot, I just never thought of it as a punishment anymore because i knew it wouldnt happen.

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#30

Having kids before you've gone to therapy to address your own childhood trauma, as this just causes undue trauma on the kids

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Jazzy Mc. Jaz
Community Member
11 months ago

I have issues with my stepmother and I feel as though I would not pass that down if i had kids knowing this pain that it has caused.

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