Each and every action has consequences that we can’t predict. Even the tiniest things can have a deep, long-lasting impact. Not just on us! On the people who we care about the most. And even the most seemingly harmless things that parents do can have some really serious consequences for their children’s lives.

That’s what Reddit users have been discussing after u/DL4MISH created a thread on r/AskReddit about these small, allegedly harmless things that some parents do. The discussion really took off: their question got a whopping 1.2k comments. Scroll down, have a read, and let us know which of these opinions you agree with, dear Pandas.

Each and every parent should do their best to provide a healthy, happy home for their children, however, they can sometimes lose sight of what's most important. For example, being overprotective can be just as bad as not being protective enough, and we shouldn't forget that our kids are individuals with their own unique needs.

Bored Panda wanted to learn more about how to be a better parent and what pitfalls to avoid, so I reached out to author and child independence expert Lenore Skenazy, the president of Let Grow and the founder of the Free-Range Kids movement, as well as parenting blogger Samantha Scroggin, the founder of Walking Outside in Slippers. Scroll down for both in-depth interviews.

#1

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Not letting them have privacy. My mother never let me have absolutely anything private, she always searched absolutely everything for me and if she found something she didn't like, she humiliated me for it or threw it away without telling me anything. Now I am extremely possessive of my things and panic when someone looks in one of my drawers or anything like that. My partner thinks I don't trust him, but I just have an absolute trauma with anyone looking at my stuff and I feel ashamed and guilty for absolutely anything private that I have.

Denislovage , Karolina Grabowska Report

Burs
Community Member
1 month ago

Right. My parents never knocked on the door in the 23y that I lived in their house. It’s not like I was doing anything wrong but I would like to change or nap without getting a heart attack anytime the door opened.

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According to Lenore, the founder of Let Grow, a nonprofit that promotes childhood independence and resilience, it is “not only hard for parents to figure out the exact right balance between too strict and too lenient, too prying and too hands-off—its impossible.” So figuring out the right balance becomes a key issue. 

“One thing many parents are choosing today is to keep their kids under constant surveillance, with the help of tech. Whether it’s being able to track their kids’ movements, read their browsing history, or even scan their texts, parents have all sorts of new tools to make them seemingly omniscient,” Lenore told Bored Panda that child surveillance has become a touchy issue in recent years with the advances in technology. However, this is a problem because kids need to have some privacy as well.

“For the same reason you didn’t want your parents to read your diary, or to build a treehouse on the branch right next to YOUR treehouse, children need some space to grow into their own person,” the child independence expert said. “Kids need to know they are loved, but they also need to know they are trusted. They can’t prove that if parents never actually let them do some things literally on their own, without constant surveillance.”

#2

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Saying "you're so mature for your age"

No

I was a smart anxious child who learned quickly to please adults to stay out of trouble and I also had to raise my siblings and sometimes cousins ...

Most girls I know who were told this also had to deal with some type of adultification

lucycolt90 , Annie Spratt Report

Andy Acceber
Community Member
1 month ago

Also, if you're a kid or teen reading this and ever have someone tell you "you're so mature for your age," run. That's a classic grooming technique. Adults know teenagers want to feel mature. Some may try to use that to prey on you. (Some may just be saying it. Still, that's not okay. You're a kid/teen. Be silly sometimes, be stupid sometimes. Don't worry too much about being mature.)

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#3

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Whenever I get a bad grade on something my parents always tell me that “I’m smarter than that” or “I’m not trying my best”. It doesn’t sound bad, but it has seriously messed me up, because I really am trying my best, but it just isn’t good enough. They think I’m smarter then I actually am, and it sucks because they have unrealistic expectations of me.

MallowBrain13 , Andrea Piacquadio Report

Tomas Holicka
Community Member
1 month ago

Grades are a messed up way of feedback - many children learn because of grades rather than discovering for the pleasure of discovery. As a parent, I have a hard time negotiating my children's unwillingness to do what's requested of them while understanding they have their own idea of what's important to them. I'd like to ask the children here - what would you suggest? (Mine are too small to articulate that properly).

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What we shouldn’t be doing is treating our children as work-release felons by constantly tracking and monitoring them. “In the past, the only people we electronically tracked were felons on parole. They had to wear an ankle monitor that the warden could check to make sure they were where they were supposed to be. The felon knew that this was better than prison—but it wasn’t freedom,” Lenore explained.

Instead of surveilling their own kids all the time, parents could attempt Lenore’s approach of “talk, don’t stalk.” This approach leads to greater trust.

“Try to keep the lines of communication open with your kids, and gradually give them more freedom as they get older and earn it by being responsible. Taking all independence away for their ‘safety’ is a way to teach them that you don’t think they can handle anything on their own— how deflating!—and that you don’t trust them. Would you appreciate a spouse who tracked your every move? Would you feel trusted? Love requires some trust.”

#4

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences “You have it so easy, I wish I only had your problems.” Teaches kids that their problem are never good enough to struggle over. Makes them feel guilty when they need help with something.

Dinosaur-Hugs , Lucas Metz Report

Foxxy (The Original)
Community Member
1 month ago

Everyone is entitled to how they feel. Just because someone is worse off, doesn't mean we don't have a right to our own feelings and struggles.

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#5

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Along with snooping, being overly strict. The children of really strict parents learn how to lie, steal, sneak out, all because their parents are so damn strict. It doesn't teach a child anything, except that they cannot trust their parents to have their back. Yes, you need to to have rules and boundaries with your kids, but you're not the gestapo, they're allowed to hand secrets!

My father built special boxes for all his grandkids, they're beautiful, and have special locks. For example, one is shaped like a piano, and to open it, you need to play the keys in a certain order. He can change this order if needs be, (there are over 1,000,000 possible combinations) and only he and the child know the combination. They are also designed that the child will know if someone has tried to open the box. Their Mum, my SIL, HATES this. She cannot stand that the kids can hide things from her, and has been trying for years to get my Dad to tell her the combination. (Sometimes he will just to shut her up, then immediately changes it. I don't know why she bothers!)

Thing was, he had zero privacy growing up, and knows how much he hated it, so made sure his grandkids didn't go through the same thing. Wish he'd done it for me, my mother has no concept of other people's privacy, and has no trouble even now going through my papers if she can. The result? I'm FABULOUS at hiding things!

Kids need to know they're trusted. Constantly treating then like the enemy will do nothing but make them the enemy!

SassyDivaAunt , Monstera Report

Madison Feehan
Community Member
1 month ago

I'd buy one of those boxes!

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#6

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Not getting help for their own traumas. They pass it to their kids

Ocean_waves726 , Jordan Whitt Report

Firstname Lastname
Community Member
1 month ago

Can confirm. My mother looked for help in her trauma through me and tried to use me as her therapist when I was just a child.

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Meanwhile, blogger Samantha, who runs Walking Outside in Slippers, told Bored Panda how she approaches parenting and the importance of seeing each child as an individual. What works for someone else’s child might not be what your own kid needs.

“I am trying to do more to meet my kids where they’re at, figuring in their personality and what their needs are for them personally. In the past, I would sometimes assume that I knew what was best for my kids, based on what the ‘average’ kid ‘should’ need or want. But kids can be so different, even within the same family,” Samantha explained to Bored Panda.

#7

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Not seeing them as individuals and not listening to them. seriously, listen to that mini-person that you literally brought into the world. Of course, their problems will be different than yours & adult problems but that doesn't mean that it is manageable for them. You basically making them believe that they are insignificant which will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

progressiveavocado , Pixabay Report

Kanuli
Community Member
1 month ago

90% of parents seem not to get this. On top: they seem to have completely (!!!) forgotten how it was to be a child themselves!

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#8

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Tell them they can't play with a toy because it's for the opposite sex.

retsis-elttil , RODNAE Production Report

Andy Acceber
Community Member
1 month ago

Since the 90s, it's become much more acceptable for girls to play with dolls AND trucks, but even today, it's frowned on for boys to play with dolls. Misogyny is nuts. If you want caring, nuturing adult men to exist in society (and we all do), let little boys play with toys that foster caring and nuturing skills.

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#9

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Force them (especially little girls) to hug or kiss people when they don't want to. This establishes lack of ownership in their own body, the inability to say no to unwanted touch, and teaches them it is their job to make others feel comfortable at the expense of their own comfort.

Also praising them for being smart instead of hardworking. This leads to kids coasting on their intelligence then peaking and failing because they don't have practice and habits of working hard at something challenging. I see this a lot with gifted kids who are completely lost once they go to college or get a job.

Having an overly close relationship, venting to them about your problems, and using them for emotional support. If you want to learn more, Google "emotional incest".

BaylisAscaris , Devi Puspita Amartha Yahya Report

Paul Davis
Community Member
1 month ago

Also it seems that if you're harping on a kid's intelligence, they actually become afraid to do things because they feel if they fail it will mean they're stupid. The best is to promote a kid's hard work -- which means bonus points for trying things out.

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Samantha opened up just how different her children are despite growing up in the same household. “My 6-year-old daughter, for example, is very organized and a bit of a perfectionist. She also needs lots of attention and affection. While my 10-year-old son is a sometimes wild but also very sensitive and artistic soul. He needs his space. They are night and day,” she said.

“I have learned I need to adapt my expectations of them and goals for them based on their individual personalities and quirks. I can create space for them to be who they are, and I believe this acceptance and customized attention will benefit them in the long run as they develop into teens and then adults.”

#10

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences When they make fun of their kids to get a laugh out of friends / family at dinner and stuff. Really has a horrible effect on children. Thankfully never happened to me though.

FaynHimSelf , Priscilla Du Preez Report

Ren Karlej
Community Member
1 month ago

Happened to me. My father would make jokes about me to my sisters. I heard him talking about me to them as well. I was just a child and he is bitching about me to my older, also a child, sister. Taught her it is okay to be snide about people, so that's lovely as well.

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#11

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Benign neglect. My therapist informed me this is not “benign”. I guess this is the opposite of the helicopter parent. While my mom made sure we were fed and healthy, she also didn’t do much to connect with me one on one. I forgive her because honestly she had a lot on her plate with six kids including one that was seriously ADHD, but it was still damaging.

Jrsygrrl , Zhivko Minkov Report

Demi Zwaan
Community Member
1 month ago

Having six kids is no excuse. She should've thought about that before the excessive breeding.

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#12

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Tricking / pranking them. I've seen a few videos of Christmas or birthdays where parents have given their kid something like a PlayStation 5 box which doesn't have one in. It doesn't matter if they pull one out from behind the sofa after a few seconds of confusion, tears and anger, they've taught their kid a powerful lesson about their relationship. There's no way that's not going to come back to hurt everyone later on.

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Hermione
Community Member
1 month ago

These are sad sad videos.

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Lenore, the president of Let Grow, previously explained to Bored Panda that our “catastrophizing culture” has made a lot of parents anxious and scared.

As a result, plenty of adults don’t want their kids doing much of, well, anything. They become overprotective and even overbearing because they’re scared for their children’s safety.

“The result is not safety, it’s anxiety—kids who absorbed the message that everything is too much for them to handle. When you’re anxious, a simple slip-up doesn’t seem so simple. It seems huge—even life-threatening. How can you avoid those awful threats? That part is simple. You avoid doing anything,” Lenore explained how some parents think.

#13

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences If parents are divorced, unless the other parent is a legit horrible person, talking really bad stuff about the other parent in front of the other child

SalFunction12 , Nik Shuliahin Report

Rei
Community Member
1 month ago

I would say even if the other person is horrible you still shouldn't talk bad about him/her in front of your children. Its an adult topic. If the child talks bad about him/her be there listening and expressing to them you understand their negative feelings.

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#14

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences "There is no such thing as mental illness, it's just weakness." I needed help as a teen and did not get. I felt so guilty seeking help as an adult. I have bipolar disorder, still sometimes feel guilty for being medicated though I am now in my forties.

Mdp1342 , Fernando @cferdo Report

AnnaBanana
Community Member
1 month ago

Same story. And I still get guilt tripped for it.

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#15

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Destroy a sense of confidence through constant criticism.

The_Polar_Bear__ , Alex Green Report

DennyS (denzoren)
Community Member
1 month ago

Oh boy, do I know this one.

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According to Lenore, this leads to children being far more passive and timid than they should be. “Everyday life is seen as filled with risk” for them, even if they’re objectively completely safe.

Lenore was very straightforward about the fact that this passivity is not making children happier. When they’re kept snug deep inside their comfort zones, they start to think that this is all that life has to offer. What’s more, they have a limited understanding of their own capabilities, thinking that they can’t do much of anything.

However, authority figures like teachers can help kids become more independent and to help both them and their parents leave their comfort zones. Sometimes, it takes someone from the outside to give a helping hand at the right moment to make you realize something needs to change. 

#16

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences I think alot of parents cause food/weight issues unintentionally. And that is something I have personally taken very seriously as a parent. Creating a healthy relationship with food.

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Burs
Community Member
1 month ago

Or grandparents. My grandmas always forced us to eat way too much (and I always liked eating) but at the same time always shamed me for being “fat”. I was in the middle of the healthy bmi unlike my underweight sister but that’s fat I guess.

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#17

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Bulldoze parenting. Which in my opinion is worse than helicopter parenting. For those who don’t know; bulldozer parenting is when you essentially remove every obstacle your child faces out of fear of them getting hurt, discouraged, down on themselves, or failing at something.

As a parent of 4, it’s extremely hard to not do this because it breaks your heart watching them hurt. However, it makes them stronger and is way better.

ShextMe , Greta Hoffman Report

Andy Acceber
Community Member
1 month ago

I nannied a 12-year-old autistic boy who I adored. His mom was one of those. One day, he was on the playground and started to play improperly on a piece of the equipment. I could tell this wouldn't end well, but there were no other kids around. I let him do it. It broke my heart, but I knew it would be best for him. When he fell, I comforted him and help him clean up/bandage his scrapes. He learned from that experience, and it was so cool to watch his process of evaluating safety grow after that.

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#18

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Making fun of or heavily criticizing a child's accent, speech impediment, or othe linguistic trait. When I was a kid, my mom said my accent made me sound "unintelligent". So I suppressed it and now I have a permanent stutter, which she also mocked me for, which makes it worse. I hate speaking now, it feels embarrassing.

GrimGrnningGorehound , Ksenia Makagonova Report

Burs
Community Member
1 month ago

Making fun of your children in general. My parents always mocked me or my sister if we did something they did not like. From crying to doing non academic activities like sports or drawing. I used to stay up late and draw or write at night ready to hide it if I heard them walking towards my room as if I was watching porn or something. I am 30y and I still can’t do those things in front of my partner

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#19

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Comparing them to other kids, can really mess with your youngsters confidence.

Dozer2023 , ottonbro Report

Foxxy (The Original)
Community Member
1 month ago

I never understood this. I think it's absolutely ridiculous coz every child learns things at a different rate.

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#20

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences “Are you physically hurt? No? Then stop crying.” Guess what I never stop doing as a 30 year old?

Additionally, my parents made the decision to not medicate me when I was diagnosed with ADD in the late 90s. My mother (to this day) thinks I swayed the test results because I was/am a people pleaser and I thought I was doing what the adults wanted to happen. Both my parents thought having the medication on my permanent health record would make getting jobs and healthcare difficult for me in the future. So now I live as a diagnosed adult who isn’t on meds because that mindset is something I’m still unlearning. Stigmatized family topics are fun.

DjinnAndGingerale , Anthony Tran Report

Kanuli
Community Member
1 month ago

That’s what my parent thought too. Though not only was my personality totally different with medication, the results I scored were seldom scored as high (was a simple intellgence test for youngsters), and you can fake being worse, but being better? It was like night/day the doctor said. I still stopped taking medication for some time, and even after taking it again now I don’t plan on taking it forever. What’s way more important I believe, are 2 things: Realisation that it is an illness, but not an excuse for your behaviour, just an explanation. And secondly: Parenting plus mechanics you should be taught and learn over the years how to handle it. And this of course is highly individual. I had to learn this all by myself though, but I found ways to counter my adhd with willpower and clever tricks. But it exhausts me like crazy. So it only works so far.

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#21

Parents saying “i’m the parent” or “i’m doing my best” in response to your frustration. any argument i’m in with my mom, her reason why is because “she’s the parent”. it makes me feel invalidated as a kid.

if you’re a parent and you don’t have a good reason for something, or won’t reveal the real reason when your kid asks why, you should rethink your priorities. an “i said no because i’m the parent” response to a kid asking to color their hair doesn’t help anything. if you really don’t want them to, explain using real reasons.

seniority does not inherently mean respect. treat kids as small people with less experience, not as beings who are lesser-than.

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Viviane
Community Member
1 month ago

The "less experience" aspect is key. I think of adolescence as a time when people have adult-sized emotions without the life experience to handle them.

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#22

Shipping them with their friends or teasing them about liking someone who is really just a friend

Needless to say this is stopping me from ever making a boy friend (not boyfriend BUT BOY FRIEND)

Also has made me stop being friends with some cool people (not parents but classmates who do the same)

CanisIupus Report

Burs
Community Member
1 month ago

Yeah. Mocking them for having real or hypothetical crushes is really damaging. I never could talk to my parents about boys or emotions. They met my now ex once (I was already 21!) and were mocking me for like a week. And they were surprised that I didn’t introduced them to my partner for about a year.

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#23

Discussing adult problems/fears with them or around them. It can instill unnecessary fears which leads to anxiety problems. Or embarrassing them in front of others

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Monday
Community Member
1 month ago

Sometimes it's necessary, particularly about money. Yes it's going to give your kiddo anxiety, but it'll also help them understand the importance of taking care of what they have and knowing you're denying them [treat] not because you don't love them or they haven't done enough to deserve it, but because you honestly cannot afford it.

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#24

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences My mom always used to tell me how gross sex is and now I have intimacy issues.

JewelerSubject9134 , Womanizer Toys Report

Andy Acceber
Community Member
1 month ago

Same. Before renting movies as kids, my mom would have my brother and I check what it was rated and why. For example, PG-13 for sexual content. Mom defined "sexual content" as "huggy, kissy, gross stuff, ew." Every time. Verbatim. She also teased me when I started dating. It's weird, but it really got to me. It's taken YEARS to get over the idea that all "sexual content" isn't "huggy, kissy, gross stuff, ew." Sometimes I still find myself fighting against those internationalized messages. Don't do that to your kids. Be mature and honest with them about sex.

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#25

Snooping.

If you want your kid to get really good at hiding things from you and lying to you, this is how you do it. And as a bonus, they'll probably never trust you around their things in the future, if they keep in contact with you at all after they move out.

Piper_Loved_That Report

OhForSmegSake
Community Member
1 month ago

My mum was not a snoop, she considered that below her. Instead she employed a cleaner, told the cleaner that they could go through everything in our rooms, and then report anything suspicious or immoral to her. Snooping one step removed.

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#26

Don't tell kids that reading and school are more important than interpersonal relationships.

Also don't hit kids or teach them to associate fear and pain with love. It'll hurt their chances of having normal relationships in the future.

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Katie Lutesinger
Community Member
1 month ago

If you hit or scream at your kids, the only thing you're teaching them is that they should be afraid of you.

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#27

Do not use food as a reward. Especially the same food over and over again.

Otherwise you're getting a kid who subconsciously connects the two, gets happiness from eating that food, and will overeat it to the point of obesity, especially if its junk food.

Example me, with fries.

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Lovin' Life
Community Member
1 month ago

And dont use food as punishment. It's a basic need.

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#28

Micro managing your children Let them play let them be on their own.

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Marika Miettinen
Community Member
1 month ago

Even as an adult this is annoying! I wanted to do this one big project, I had researched it and drew some designs and looked up how to do things, but then I went to ask my dad if it'd be ok if I did something like that (I rent a house from him) and said that if he wants to help me out, he can. Well, he took over the project and it's nothing at all what I wanted, and if you tell him that his idea is/was wrong, he gets so pissed off, it's insane. He can scrap a whole project in his anger when he's told that he's wrong, so now I just have to live with what he made for as long as I still live here.

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#29

30 People Share "Seemingly Harmless" Things Parents Do To Their Kids That Can Actually Have Serious Consequences Simply handing them money.

It quite the needle to thread to figure out how to get money into your kids’ hands without it becoming an expectation, an entitlement. We want to give our kids stuff. But we don’t want it to create problems.

Helping kids learn the value of money is important.

geo_mallory , Alexander Mils Report

Slick
Community Member
1 month ago

It was different with my parents. They will spend extensively to impress friends and family with dinner parties etc, buying unessentiel objects (for asthetic status upgrade i guess) for them self when they can afford it. But eventually, we lost a lot. So much so, we (the kids) had to skip meals to get by. Our basic needs were neglected. So when we needed stuff demanded by the school, like fees or payement for projects etc, we would 1st have to endure humiliation because we only know how to adk for money and we cannot make our own and that we should be ashame to will have spend grossery money on our own desire (education needs). And it's even worst if we really do need it for our own needs. I never own a bra until i bought myself one after earning my 1st salary working part time at age 15.

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#30

When they reprimand their kids about a certain habit or action that the parents themselves do (or do to the kids) - it gives the idea that yes, my parent knows that this is wrong and is telling me that it is wrong but they still do it so maybe I can do it as well. Seems like it's a way to develop cognitive dissonance in kids.

UnderTheFishHook Report

Andrea Purzycki
Community Member
1 month ago (edited)

I had a friend who had parents who smoked. His parents didn't hide the fact that they smoked but my friend had never seen them smoke because his parents thought that as long as their kids never saw them smoking then their kids wouldn't smoke/wouldn't want to smoke. It didn't work. My friend was one of the first kids in my grade to start smoking.

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