54 Biggest Parenting Mistakes, As Shared By Both Parents And Children In This Online Thread
The self-help book genre is one of the fastest-growing non-fiction categories, with an estimated 15,000 self-help books published annually in the United States. The majority of those books, more or less, analyze the effects one's childhood experiences had on their future life. Recent statistics show that a total of two-thirds of children experienced at least one traumatic event in their childhood, so demand for such literature remains high. Although not in all cases, common parenting mistakes, such as neglecting and failing to lead by example, often turn out to be why children grow up to be insecure adults.
And although some of the biggest parenting mistakes, such as physical and mental abuse, are very extreme (yet real) examples, parenting issues go beyond the understanding of "I never hurt them, so I must be a good parent." It takes much more to be a good parent; however, making parenting mistakes doesn't stop you from becoming one. A while back, someone on AskReddit asked fellow parents, "Parents of Reddit, what was your worst parenting mistake??" Both parents and children joined the thread to share parenting mistakes they or their parents made, ranging from negligence that led to hurtful consequences to things they wish they had known earlier.
Below, we've compiled some of the responses, revealing parenting problems and the biggest mistakes parents make from Redditors' personal experiences, whether from their own childhood or from bringing up kids themselves. Know of any more common mistakes parents make that haven't been mentioned? Share them in the comments.
"I was bullied in school so I have made sure my kids can defend themselves and are in fact rather capable of it.
Well, when my daughter was in the 6th grade the gym teacher had a brilliant idea of having kids learn how to dance. And I mean pair dancing.
Boys being idiots my daughter's dance partner thought it a good idea to squeeze my daughter's bum. And I had trained her that if someone touches them inappropriately she can do what she can to defend herself.
So there she is in the gym class giving beating up this idiot boy in front of everyone. Good thing Finns are more forgiving about the use of force than people in the US. But the discussions with school staff were not fun."
"(Not parent) But, when I was 7 my parents told me I killed my grandpa.
Here’s how the story goes: My mom and dad are super superstitious and they have this thing against white. In my culture white is used in funerals, so living people are not allowed to wear white on their heads (hats, bows, hair bands, etc). Anyway so one day I was playing with white thread and it got stuck in my hair. As soon as my mom saw she ripped it out and yelled at me. Within a week of this incident, my grandpa (who was on the OTHER SIDE OF THE EARTH) died by slipping on something and hitting his head. My parents said that because I was playing with white thread on my head, that’s what caused my grandpa to die.
AS A 7-YEAR-OLD I LIVED WITH THE GUILT OF MURDER FOR 10 YEARS."
"That’s horrible! To blame a kid for something both ridiculous and out of the kid’s control."
"Five months old:
"He'll be fine. He can't roll over yet." *places the baby in the middle of the king-sized bed and proceeds to finish getting ready for work*
He could, in fact, rollover.
I'm sure there are more, but that's the one that really, really stands out."
"Not me but not mom used to yell at people who didn't go when the light turned green "What are you, color blind?" Fast forward to my 2-year-old caucasian nephew yelling at people out the car window "WHAT ARE YOU, COLORED??""
"Not me, but when I was younger, like 6 or 7, I ate some watermelon seeds and then got super paranoid that they would rip up my insides. My dad sat me down and told me that my intestines were as strong as this trash bag here, then he proceeded to test the strength of the trash bag and ripped right through it. I cried for, reportedly, 2 hours."
"So, my immediate family celebrates Christmas, but in a completely secular way. We don't do baby Jesus or Santa Claus and have expressed to the kids that it's just a time to be generous with one another.
My youngest started kindergarten and started asking if Santa Claus was real since a number of their friends believed in Santa. I explained to her that no, Santa wasn't real, but was a myth based on a St. Nicholas who had been a real person. At this point, my kid asked me if we could visit St. Nick, and I explained that we couldn't because he died hundreds of years ago.
The next day I got a very upset call from their kindergarten teacher because my kid was running around telling their classmates that Santa Claus was dead."
"Listening to my kid's teachers/principals who told me he had no developmental disorder when I knew something was up. He was 16 before he was diagnosed with dyslexia, autistic, and ADHD. I want to cry and scream over the amount of time his life could have been made easier if I had only listened to my gut instinct and not everyone else."
"The other day some lady cut me off and then stopped in the middle of the lane to turn left despite there being a turn lane. I yelled YOU FU*KING AS*HOLE! Then I hear this tiny voice come from the back of my car "What's a fu*king as*hole?" And that was the day I taught my 2.5 y/o the word fu*king and the word as*hole."
"The first time we took our son out we went to a place called Mothercare which is a store for baby clothes and toys, and this particular place had a large display area filled with various prams and pushchairs. We parked our newborn in his sh*tty hand-me-down pram nearby because he couldn't fit among the sea of display models and gleefully found the Pushmaster 5000 or whatever it was that we had our eye on and then went through the process of buying it and organizing when would be a good time to pick up our purchase at a later date.
We then left the shop and we were 10 minutes up the road before we remembered we had a baby and that we'd left him behind."
"Not a parent, but my mom tells me the biggest mistake she ever made was letting my grandmother babysit me during the summer and non-school days. She didn't know that a live-in resident had been raping and torturing me for years. She didn't know that my grandmother knew it was going on and beat me over it. She didn't know that my grandmother assaulted me on a regular basis and blamed me for everything that went wrong.
I am a handbasket of anxiety disorders and I don't want kids now. My mom will call me out of the blue and just start apologizing for leaving me with my grandmother and that if she had known what was going on, she would've quit her job and just been a stay-at-home mom."
"So this is an experience coming from me that my parents did. When I was about 10, my parents took me to Sam's club, and this was when they had demo video game systems to play on. I was playing on one, and my parents kept telling me that it was time to go, and I ignored them.
So my dad thinks he will scare me, and he and my mom leave me there and actually drive out of the parking lot. After a few minutes, I noticed I couldn't see my parents anymore, and stop playing and look for them. After I realized that they had left me, and not being able to call them, as this was before they had cell phones, I decided to walk to my grandpa's house, using the only route that I knew, which ended up being a 4-5 mile walk along busy streets in late winter. After I got to my grandpa's house, he was really surprised to see me and called my parents. Scared the cr*p out of my mom, and taught my dad never to leave me anywhere again."
"I was a kid about 14 and I was riding my bike in the front yard. Anyway, I end up falling over onto the ground on my bike while standing up and not moving. Long story short it feels like I've just been drop-kicked in my balls. So I head inside and lay on the couch in pain for a while. Ask my parents to take me to the hospital and they refused. Told me I was just being a baby and that the pain would go away. About an hour and a half later and after many tears they finally agree to take me in. Turns out I had given myself a testicular torsion and the lack of blood to that area of my body meant I was going into emergency surgery. I lost a testicle the same day less than ten minutes later. Never forgave them for it."
"Not a parent but I have a story on behalf of my parents involving me. When I was about 6 I went to a birthday party of one of the girls I went to school with. Anyways during this party, we were jumping on the trampoline they had in her backyard. Someone got the great idea to jump off of the trampoline and see who could land on their feet, so cue about 15 6-year-olds repeatedly jumping from the trampoline to the ground. Surprisingly nothing happened that day and we all went home happy.
The next day I couldn't walk, every time I tried an intense pain shot through my ankles. Being 6 I solved this by crawling around instead of walking. As a part of my family was visiting from far away my parents dismissed my complaints thinking I just wanted attention and told me to smarten up. I couldn't stand so I couldn't listen to them so I continued to crawl around. Eventually, my mom got so frustrated with me that she tried to scare me into behaving myself by saying "if you don't stop that you'll have to go to the doctor". When I said that I wanted to go to see the doctor my mom still thought I wanted attention but took me to see the doctor.
When I got in to see the doctor he determined that I sprained both of my ankles... I like to bring this story up whenever my parents accuse me of lying and rub it in their faces a little."
"Letting him try chocolate. Now he asks for chocolate at least a hundred times a day."
"Yeahhhhh I gave him some of my bitter, 80% dark chocolate. Jokes on me, the kid likes the stuff and now I always have to share."
User No 1 said:
"Not telling my 12y old clearly that you get your period every month. She had her first period in the same week as me, we ended up stopping by Walmart for some pads/tampons. And she asks me “I thought you had your period when you were 12?”... “yes honey, and every single month since then.”... Well the looks on her face I will never forget and it took her days to process the fact that you don’t just get your period once in your life."
"Oh, the incredible disappointment. When I was in 2nd grade, we did a project where you wrote down the directions for how to make a PB&J sandwich for an alien. You had to be as specific as possible, knowing that the alien had never encountered sliced bread, peanut butter, jelly, or a butterknife. We then made the sandwiches per our directions, which all turned out terrible, globby, ripped bread grossness. That’s what I think of when we describe periods to girls that have initially zero information. My mom gave me so little info that I had a rough few years before I got the hang of it (no internet at the time)."
"My worst parenting mistake involved a trip to the ER. It was about 8 years ago in December. It was my wife's birthday, but we weren't going anywhere because a huge snowstorm had hit our area. No problem, though, I would do all the shoveling. Can't have her shoveling on her birthday. My son (then about 7 or 8) came out with me to help shovel. We were doing a good job and clearing off the snow when IT happened.
As I was bringing my shovel up, my son bent down to pick up more snow. I hit his head with the corner of my shovel. The very sharp corner. He shrieked and held his eye. I suddenly worried that I put my son's eye out. Well, I didn't, but I did get him right above his eyebrow and he was bleeding a lot. His coat was getting covered in blood.
We went in and couldn't stop the bleeding well so I put my son in the car, and stopped by my in-laws' house (less than a mile away) to pick up my mother-in-law (my wife stayed home with our younger son who was a toddler then), and drove to the ER in the blizzard.
They were great and "glued" my son's wound shut. (A special glue that they can use instead of stitches.) He was fine, but I felt like the worst dad in the world. His coat was a loss and I ruined my wife's birthday. Plus, to this day, you can see an indentation where I hit my son in the head with a shovel."
"My 1 yr old just tried to feed me broccoli and I bit her finger pretty hard thinking “wow this broccoli is pretty undercooked.” She cried. A lot."
"Teaching her how to blow a raspberry before teaching her how to eat food was not a smart move."
"Yeah... having discovered raspberries early, my baby has devised a cunning strategy to avoid any nearby spoons by deploying them."
"Not a parent but my mother has told me her biggest parenting mistake and I think it’s worth sharing. She drilled into my mind from a very young age the difference between wanting and needing something. So much so that now, at the age of 20, I have the hardest time spending money on things that are a necessity because I convince myself it’s a want, not a need. An example is last winter I didn’t have any boots. I had been contemplating buying some as my feet always ended up frozen and wet on days that it snowed and I had to walk to class. My first thought was “I don’t need the boots because I have shoes and I can just bring an extra pair of socks to put on.” I do understand the importance of teaching the differences between wanting and needing something to your children but PLEASE make sure you’re also teaching them that it’s okay to buy things you want simply because you can. I did end up buying the boots but my mom had to call and convince me I absolutely needed them."
"The first time I suspected my son was autistic he wasn't even a year old. Everyone around me disagreed, including his pediatrician. He was just a little delayed. Finally, after being kicked out of mainstream pre-k at 5 years old he was diagnosed. He's made so much progress just in the one year since I can't imagine how much easier things could've been for him if he had been receiving therapy all these years. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. Always go with your gut."
"3 year old woke up in the middle of the night and came to tell me she had a bad dream. I walked her back to her room and talked to her about her dream. She said she was dreaming there were bugs crawling on the walls and in her bed. I told her that it was just a dream and the bugs only existed in her head.
She didn't get back to sleep for a LONG time after being told she had bugs in her head.
She's going to be six in a few weeks, and she was not mentally scarred by this incident!"
"Trying to give my kids what I didn’t have growing up what I did was make a spoiled brat but he’s 6 so we are working on it."
User No 1 said:
"My son is a freshman in college and I thought I covered all my bases but I realized during Thanksgiving that I never taught him how to shave. I probably forgot because I have a beard so I don’t really shave all that often, but he definitely is not ready to sport one as well. When he walked in the door, my wife asked me why our son looked like Ted Cruz."
"Don't feel bad, I'm a few years older than your son and my dad never taught me how to shave. It's pretty easy to figure out. Plus if he's really stumped he could just look it up on youtube."
"Choosing my first wife to be the mother of my oldest child. She was beautiful and interesting but she had severe mental health problems that she flat-out refused to treat in any way except for large amounts of alcohol and copious piles of Xanax. I tried for a few years to make things work but after coming home to find that she'd sent the nanny home, gotten trashed, and passed out on the kitchen floor while my two-year-old was totally unsupervised, we packed up and left. She hasn't even bothered staying in touch and is still exactly the same 16 years later. I wish I'd chosen a more stable, mentally sound person to marry and have a child with. It's caused my daughter a lot of anxiety and worry."
"You did the right thing. Hopefully, things will get better for your daughter when she gets older, but also I hope your life was much better in the years after leaving!"
"My mom says she really regrets making me finish my food when I was full. I would come home from school starving and would have a snack but then I’d be too full for a full supper. She says she wishes she’d just fed me supper then and I could read or have a snack at the table during supper. I guess there were a lot of battles. I don’t really remember but I’ve certainly always struggled with food."
"Well we’re only at age 1.5 so we haven’t had any major ones yet, but teaching my toddler how to throw out her own trash has proven disastrous for the things in our house that aren’t garbage but make their way into the trash anyway. Most recently, her favorite stuffed puppy who was missing for a good chunk of time."
User No 1 said:
"My mom never let me go out with my friends because she was afraid of me getting abducted, so when the time came that I didn’t have to ask her anymore I was too scared to go out."
"Same bro, even when I was a teenager she was scared sh*tless of everything. Half of the time I was scared to ask because I didn't want to watch her have a panic attack over the satanic reptilians that were supposedly around every corner."
"My biggest regret is telling my (now teenaged) toddler to sing real songs instead of letting her just sing nonsense."
"You haven't lived until you've heard a three-year-old singing along with "Poker Face": "Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun"."
"I was helping my then three-year-old balance on the public restroom toilet when the sensor went off and it flushed with the power of freakin Niagara Falls. We both jumped so badly that I basically shoved her into the toilet.
She was in diapers again until she was four because of that. She’s six now and still makes me go into public bathrooms with her to cover the sensor if it’s an automatic flush."
"I talked too much and asked "why" the child did something wrong. It took me forever to learn to just state "X is not allowed and you know better. Because of that, you will be doing extra chores (or whatever.)
Asking "why" made us both crazy and never made any difference to the situation. The same with lengthy lectures. Life is so much better now."
"Not standing up to my abusive husband when he refused to refill our daughter's seizure meds because “she wasn’t having seizures” so when she went into a seizure because of no meds I was the one the doctor chewed out. I still hate myself for not standing up to him. I had no car, no phone, and no money. He controlled everything and I was so intimidated by him.
With the doctors to back me up he realized he was wrong in his thinking. My kids never ever went without their meds again.
She outgrew the seizures.
I divorced his stupid ass 20 years ago best move ever."
"Not getting my son evaluated for his speech earlier. Now he's in disabled preschool getting speech twice a week and OT because he is kinda clumsy."
"If it helps, I work at an early childhood center and we have quite a few kiddos getting speech services. From 3-5, it seems like the brain is a wild west of rearranging neurons. Getting SLP and OT help now will be such a benefit before your little one goes to Kindergarten. You’re getting them prepared and that’s a good parent in my book.
We have other parents that don’t send glasses or hearing aids and wonder why their kid is so far behind despite many conferences.
I’ve got some kids who are near impossible to understand and others with the motor function of a wet noodle, yet they still learn and excel far better than the kids whose parents take no interest or helicopter the life out of them."
"Not a parent but my dad took my plumbing with him on Saturdays when I was a kid and In the summer. I was 17 averaging 250$ Each day I worked (I kept and sold all the scrap copper and brass, with his permission).
I was so used to payday pumping up my bank account by like 2-3k. Now at my amazing 15/hr research job (not many people get paid so much at my university, the minimum is 10.50), I feel like it’s not worth it. Parents, if your gonna employ your kid at your successful plumbing company, pay them a little above minimum wage and put the rest in an account for them to pay for school with. I spend money like a madman when I go out, I’m too used to making too much. 1,250$ a week is too much for a high schooler with no bills to have access to."
"Expecting my first to be potty trained way earlier and way easier than she actually was.
It turned me into an unrecognizable monster, to be completely honest. Not the kind of parent I strive to be. It was a complete, months-long, disaster.
Now potty training my second, and it helps so much that I've waited until she was almost 3."
"My oldest is about to be 5 years old so I still have time for major mistakes but right now would be accidentally making my son dependent on me or my wife wiping his butt after a poo. He will do it himself at school but apparently, at home, it has to be someone else... this has led to some fun standoffs of us yelling that he can sit there until he wipes his butt."
"Let our 3yo pick his own bedtime. After a week of going to bed at midnight, I had enough."
"Hey, I think it's really cool that you tried it and gave him a choice."
"I let her hand go in Paris rush hour.
She’s alive. She’s alive."
"Oh man, one time my wife and I took our son on a trip to the harbor since he was now old enough to go with us on these trips. After a fun-filled day, we were driving back home and my wife glanced in the backseat and goes “where’s our son?” I guess we were not used to having a 3rd person with us when we went out so that’s the story of how we almost forgot our child."
"I love listening to music in the car and some of the music obviously features some naughty or dubious words. When I had my young son in the car I would always skip certain songs but occasionally one slipped through the net.
Cue S*x on Fire by Kings of Leon. He got home one day and parroted parts of the song and I was desperately trying to distract him so he would forget it but he didn’t.
I had the bright idea of trying to get him to change the word to something else. He was still in the early speaking stage so everything sounded slightly garbled. Anyway I had success with the word ‘Shed’
For about a day or so he then just wandered around singing about how his shed was on fire. Then he forgot and moved on to something else and my mortal fear of him saying it at childcare subsided. I have not played that song in my car since and it has been many years."
"I picked up my 1.25-year-old daughter upside down, which I had done before, and my daughter always giggles with enjoyment. But this time I was a bit too careless and didn’t support her back well enough.
She swung her legs down towards the floor. Her back cracked super loud, and I could feel the joints pop. Fortunately, she was OK, but the look of terror on her face made me feel super guilty. But then she started to cry.
When my wife asked what was wrong, I said “Uhh... I think I broke the baby”.
But she’s still running around, so no long-term damage (hopefully)."
"Not locking up pills. My daughter was maybe two on a camping trip. We had one of those M-F pill holders with some anti-anxiety medicine in it. She got into it while we were unloading the minivan. We noticed some of the pills were missing. We’re almost to the ER, and we noticed them laying on the floor bed. Kids will find anything unless a parent asks them."
"For some reason, we thought it was okay to let my two-year-old boy see the Lion King at an outdoor summer movie night.
I guess I didn’t remember it well and didn’t think he’d pay attention to everything else going on.
He was glued to it. Aaaaand it’s pretty scary and sad.
Oddly, his biggest takeaway was when Mufasa said he was “disappointed” in Symba. If my son (now 3) knows he’s done something bad, he immediately tells me “you’re not disappointed. You’re Dada. You’re not Mufasa”."
"Listening to my mother when she was trying to be “helpful”.
Long history there, and not a good one. I had been abused and neglected as a kid and moved out at 16. Mother and I lost contact but I reached out when pregnant with my first child 10 years later. Big mistake. I drove myself mad trying to please my mother and do everything the “right” way. I finally set firm boundaries and now have only limited contact with her."
"Last weekend my 14-month-old got ahold of my coffee.
When I get up with him on the weekends I set in the same spot on the couch and drink coffee while he runs around and plays. So last weekend I went to the bathroom and left my coffee on the end table.
I came back out about 60 seconds later and he was sitting in my spot, drinking my coffee which had thankfully gone cold. He had managed to pull it off the end table, onto the couch, and consume some while only spilling a little. He loved it and was really upset when I took it away.
I'm horrified to think what would have happened if it had been a fresh cup of hot coffee."
"I wish I never started co-sleeping with my baby. It was nice at first to have some newborn snuggles. But now she's one, she won't sleep without me... including naps which is very frustrating, she's never slept in her crib I've tried but she just screams. I miss sleeping by myself and not having a baby taking up 80% of the bed! By far the biggest mistake I made."
"I was far too fearful and now they are fearful."
User No 2 replied:
"My MIL was terrible for this and now my 33yo husband doesn't know how to ride a bike, doesn't know how to swim, won't put his face underwater even in a pool, and is constantly nervous about any perceivable risk.
I'm witnessing my SIL do the same thing to her toddler son now, telling him to be careful because there's furniture, etc behind him while he hops on a wide flat surface 1 inch tall."
"Trusted my 18-year-old brother to watch my son. He made my son go on the top bunk of his bed so he wouldn't have to deal with him while he played a video game. My son looked over the edge and got clipped by the fan right above his eyebrow. He has a big scar now."
"Thinking that 5-year-olds don’t put weird sh*t in their mouth anymore. Mine tried to eat the lense from a baby monitor camera. He bit it, and it shattered. I couldn’t find all the pieces and he wasn’t sure if he swallowed any. That was a fun ER trip.
He’s fine and didn’t swallow any."
"Their sister had a young child who was starting to learn colors and had a class coming up soon, so the parents thought they'd teach her in advance... However, they decided to prank their daughter by teaching her the wrong things (like pointing at black and saying "this is orange")! So she got to school all proud of herself and came home crying from embarrassment!"
"Put my son, who was about 8 months old at the time, onto our changing table which is about waist high, and turned around to grab more diapers. Terrible decision.
Caught him rolling off the table out of the corner of my eye but it was too late... he fell 3 feet, landed directly on his face, and did a full scorpion. He’s never cried so hard in his life before or after. I held him and just started crying because I felt so guilty hurting him like that."
"With some pack-n-play cribs, there are metal struts that allow you to suspend the mat up higher than the base of the crib. In the midst of sleep training and only having an audio monitor, we heard a thud, a cry, but the crying stopped in a minute, so we thought good, she put herself back to sleep. When it was time for a midnight feeding, my wife screamed, where is the baby? The baby had somehow squeezed and rolled off the suspended mat despite being swaddled down to the bottom of the crib, but the upper mat was still in the right place blocking our view of here. Now comes the bad parenting part... I bound up the sides of the crib with rope so it would be taut and she couldn't slip through again, but nope, another night, same thing, missing baby hidden in the bottom of the crib. At that point, we got our act together, and got a video monitor and started putting baby in the bottom to start despite having to bend down further every time to pick her up/put her down."
"My In-laws didn’t believe their daughter when she said her ear hurt and now she has permeated hearing loss. Worse, now every time one of my kids sneezes in front of grandma we have to go to the doctor to get antibiotics."
"I'm lucky to say that I haven't had any major ones (yet), but I used to have reoccurring ones. 1st kid, you're packing that diaper bag full. Even if it was down the street to the grocery store, I'd pack that thing up as if there was a high probability we'd be marooned for a day or so. 2nd kid comes around, and I'd forget the diaper bag, constantly. So many times I'm just buying diapers and snacks while out because that diaper bag stayed behind. It wasn't necessarily junked food, but it certainly wasn't the healthy organic brain-booster food that I thought was the only thing our first child should have. Funny how high that over-protectiveness can be when you're on child number 1."
"I don't have too many that I can think of but one really stands out as the dumbest thing I could have ever done and I really beat myself up over it.
When my daughter was 12 I had a little backhoe I used to do work around my home and property. We had 8 acres and we had 4 acres of manicured pasture with fencing and I let her drive my backhoe around that area.
I often think about how many people die on them that don't know what they are doing and learned a lot more about accidents on them but only after the fact.
Felt really stupid."