Most of us don’t think about it too much while we’re growing up, but the way our parents bring us up really does have a huge impact on our mental health and some of the choices and decisions we make later in life.
And that can obviously be both good AND bad.
What small things do parents do that can really mess their kids up later in life?
Here’s how AskReddit users responded.
1. All of these things.
“Blame their insecurities on their child.
Project things they never got to do onto their child.
Put their relationship strains onto their child.
Make the child their counselor when they in fact need a professional that can give them some slaps of reality.
Refusing to acknowledge the child as their own person and not the parent’s property or item that says something about the parent (if that makes sense)
I worked in an acute psychiatric hospital for 4 years+.”
2. Bad parenting.
“Choosing when to give love to your child or making them “earn” it.
Coming in and out of their lives on a whim.
Constantly bringing up body image issues especially theirs (but then buy them junk food).”
3. Nobody’s perfect.
“Punishing them for making honest mistakes, causing anxiety if they aren’t perfect.
This one is very real for girls with ADHD, diagnosed or not. We make MANY mistakes, and none of them are on purpose, no matter how bad they are, I never MEANT to f*ck up, OBVIOUSLY.
Even with a diagnosis now I still always have like “background” anxiety as to when my next big f*ck up is going to happen out of nowhere, without me realizing, and getting rejected/scolded/hated for it…”
4. Your fault!
“The biggest one I see is parents who refuse to take accountability for their mistakes.
It’s not a huge deal if a parent messed up.
It becomes a big deal when they refuse to admit they did something wrong and then blame their kid as a way of covering up their mistakes.”
“One time I forgot to look both ways before crossing a street. I wasn’t hit, but it was close. My mom punished me for that.
Once there was a miscommunication on picking me up and she couldn’t find me. She punished me for that too. That was a long time ago, but I clearly remember both instances and still am terrified if messing up.
I’ll get yelled at if I accidentally break something. if I every cry, I’m told to go where she can’t hear me. And yet she tells me to trust her and talk to her anytime.”
6. Good points.
“Mental health professional here- these are some off the cuff things that come to mind:
Kids learn how to treat themselves, hold boundaries, self-care, etc from how their parents treat themselves. Parents: you are a child’s model. Model self-respect and self-care. Hold yourself to high standards without denigrating yourself. You get the idea.
The worst thing a parent can do is criticize/provide inconsistent attachment. Most of us go to therapy to resolve issues around feeling worthy of what we need/want. Parents who shame their kids for mistakes, or even for something like crying when upset, can create these kinds of problems around emotional regulation.
You don’t need to coddle a tantrum, but shaming it is not a great way to teach kids to self-soothe. It is, however, VERY difficult not to treat your kids the way your parents treated you. I can’t tell you how hard it is not to scream back at a screaming kid if that’s how you were treated.
There are bio-social factors that were wired into your brain long before you were old enough to procreate. Therefore self care, admitting mistakes and getting your own therapy to resolve your own issues is key (see above).
A great book about narcissistic parents and the way these sort of wounds get passed down generation to generation: The Drama of the Gifted Child.”
7. Praise them.
“So many things, but the biggest one that I see is not praising their kid enough.
If I want my parents to take anything away from my teachings it is that praise goes a long way. Who doesn’t like being told they are good and that they did a good job? Praise for being, “you are such an awesome kid! I love you so much.”
And praise for doing, “Thank you so much for doing your chores. It is such a big help and I appreciate it so much.” Praise is a life changer builds self esteem, self confidence, pride in oneself and one’s work. Lack of praise can make the opposite.
Too many times parents feel like chores should be expected, and to an extent yes, but still telling them you appreciate it makes them want to keep doing it and motivates them.”
8. Pro tips.
“Don’t punish your child for the behavior you asked them for.
For example, if you want your kid to talk to you more don’t yell at them when they share things that are scary and uncomfortable. If you want your child to spend more time with the family don’t make sh*tty comments about them when they come down.
Don’t parentify your child. Don’t tell them about your bills, relationships. what their asshole parent did. Don’t use them as an outlet – it is not their job to support you.
Don’t withdraw your affection as punishment. Love from a parent is a right, not a privilege. Doesn’t matter how much trouble they get into – you can discipline and love a child at the same time.
There are more – but the bottom line is that your kids should know you like them. You think they are fun and interesting. You can sit through difficult and uncomfortable moments with them. You can respond to their crisis without becoming the crisis.”
9. Just trying to please parents.
“Characterizing behavior as bratty, manipulative, or attention-seeking, especially out loud where your kids can hear you.
Kids want one, single, godd*mn thing on this earth, and that’s to please their caregivers. If they knew how to do it reliably with good behavior, THEY WOULD.
If there are a lot of problem behaviors, there’s a lot of problem parenting.”
“I’m not a mental health professional, but I worked in a level 3 lock down facility for kids to rehabilitate for a few months.
The amount of kids shipped off in the middle of the night simply because their parents didn’t want to deal with it was unreal. And then you find out this is what the parents did with everything.
Any time the kids had any kind of problem, no matter how small, the parents would avoid dealing with and wonder how their 15 year old got hooked on meth.
If your kid has a problem, f*cking talk to them. Let them vent, let them be sad, or upset or confused. Ask your kids how they’re doing and actually mean it, open up those lines of communication because I saw too many kids say, “its not like anyone cares what I do anyway” and it’s so sad to hear.”
11. Pay attention to these.
“Counselor here. A few thoughts:
Not setting appropriate boundaries (too many, too few, too rigid, or overly permissive)
Inappropriate disclosure (kids shouldn’t know about their parents marital conflict, money problems, etc. No emotional dumping)
Someone kind of already said this, but negative views about oneself (diet culture/negative body image, negative self talk)
Not helping a kid identify their feelings related to their behaviors. Related, not allowing kids to appropriately express full range of emotions. Invalidation.
Age inappropriate expectations
Stigmatizing mental health
Projecting your own anxieties onto them/not being able to manage own anxieties.”
12. From a professional.
“Mental health professional here.
Being in and out of their life, causing them to feel depressed and question their self-worth because their own parent doesn’t want to be with them. Just be all the way in or all the way out.
What I’m referring to are parents that show up when it’s convenient here and there. Obviously divorced parents with split custody can only do so much.
Punishing them for making honest mistakes, causing anxiety if they aren’t perfect. Additionally, never giving them consequences for anything at all, creating a sense of entitlement.
Doing everything for them and never allowing them to make their own decisions, which teaches them no responsibility or problem solving skills.
Enabling them to continue to make poor choices by defending them all the time. More entitlement and narcissism as they get older.
Only acknowledging when they do something wrong, and rarely praising them. Again, more anxiety about not being perfect. Additionally, only praising their efforts in things you like, rather than praising all their efforts.
Being aware of abuse and not only allowing it to continue, but to do nothing to advocate for your child, or trying to sweep it under the rug. Or being the one perpetrating the abuse. PTSD and all its components come into play here.
Sharing your adult problems with them. More anxiety when they feel like they have to fix your problems. There is such a thing as “adult conversations.” To clarify, I don’t believe there is a golden age to talk with your kids about mature topics. All kids handle this differently.
Some like to help and be part of the family decisions, and some cannot handle when they can’t help. It’s one thing to talk about financials with teens so they understand money doesn’t grow on trees. It’s another thing to talk to a 6 year old about how you can’t pay rent and might end up homeless.
Projecting your hopes and dreams on them. Maybe little Johnny doesn’t want to be a lawyer. Let’s not riddle him with depression because he hates his life because you forced him to live out your dream instead of his own.
Not apologizing when you’re wrong. This leads to the child thinking that everything is their fault anytime something goes wrong.
Even if they don’t end up with a mental health diagnosis, we don’t want them being maladjusted adults when they’re older.
Also, just because you’ve experienced these things, it doesn’t automatically mean you are/will be damaged. How we behave as adults is purely our responsibility.
If you’re experiencing poor mental health as a result of these things, or anything else for that matter, seek professional help. If you feel like you’ve adjusted fine even with having these experiences, that’s great!”
Okay, now it’s your turn!
What small things do you think parents do that cause problems for their kids down the road?
Sound off in the comments!