People Share The Parenting Lessons That Backfired
Parenting is rough. People are telling you what to do all the time, from your older neighbor complaining about the state of the current generation to the mom in your yoga class begging you to try attachment parenting. Which one of them is right? How do you figure out the secrets to effective parenting?
“Will I destroy my kid forever? Why did anybody let me have children?” Most parents have had these thoughts at one point, and sometimes the fear is warranted. Thousands of people took to Reddit to share the biggest lessons that backfired from their parents and themselves: from simple misunderstandings to full-out fails.
Seriously, please teach your children how to use 911. We’ve compiled the best of these failed parenting lessons to show that maybe you’re not doing so bad after all!
The Pros of Gambling
When I was a cub scout, my family and I attended a large fundraising dinner. This included a raffle with many prizes, the best of which was a brand new pool table. At the time, I had an allowance of 2 dollars a week. I asked my parents if I could use up my allowance money for the next six weeks and spend 12 dollars on raffle tickets to try winning the pool table.
My parents decided that this would be a good lesson about the dangers of gambling. They agreed but warned that I wouldn’t win the prize; I’d have to learn the hard way not to pay with cash I didn’t have. I won the pool table. Reddit user: [redacted]
The Tickets Ran Out
Trying to keep my 4-year-old in bed. He often gets up 4 or more times saying he has to go to the bathroom. Most of the time he doesn’t have to go, and we send him back to bed. Five minutes later, he does it again. He knows that he can get out of bed this way. My wife decided to make tickets.
Once the tickets were done, so was he. If he could stay in bed the rest of the night, he got rewarded with stickers. The first night we tried it, he pooped himself. Reddit user: BigODetroit
Parents Are Not Friends
Not a parent, but when I was like 16, my dad told me that I need to stop treating him and my mom like my friends because they’re my parents. The very next day, before I got home from school, I had friend requests from both of my parents on Facebook. I denied them both.
When my dad got home from work, we had a conversation that went like this. Dad: Did you see that your mom made a Facebook account? Me: Yes, I did. Dad: Well, did you accept her friend request? Me: No, I didn’t. Dad: Why not? Me: Because just yesterday you told me you’re my parents, not my friends.
My dad just looked at me, looked at my mom, and said, “He’s not wrong. I said that.” My dad and I still laugh at this, of course; it’s been 8 years since that happened. Reddit user: DrunkenWalrus41
Being Sold in the Parking Lot
My mother tried to teach temper tantrums out of me as a child. Once, in a desperate attempt, she said under her breath to me in public, “Get up or I’ll sell you in the parking lot.” I don’t hold her accountable for this reaction; I was a terrible child. She was tired with two small children.
However, a different day and another meltdown later, she was trying to get me to act right. I looked dead into her eyes in front of everyone there and screamed, “Why don’t you just sell me in the parking lot?” Reddit user: [redacted]
Parenting Is No Piece of Cake
My parents taught me to call 911 when I saw somebody doing something illegal. I called the cops on the Wiggles movie I was watching when I was 5 because a clown stole a cake. I mean, what else was I supposed to do as I watched this crime take place on my television screen?
Luckily the 911 operator realized I was young, my story didn’t make sense because it was a kid’s movie, and asked to talk to my mom before sending out cops. Reddit user: Turtelbob
I wanted to teach my son the value of money and work ethic because he kept wanting Roblox. I decided it would be a great teaching moment and a win-win opportunity, as I thought he should start doing chores around the house. He really wanted to buy some in-game item, so I created a chore chart and gave each chore a value.
We established a schedule and everything. It was working out majestically; every day without asking, he was doing dishes, cleaning his room, picking up the dog poop, it was epic. Then one day, I came home and nothing had been done. I asked him, “Hey man, what’s up with the dishes? Oh and go pick up the dog poop too.”
He simply replied, “Nah.” Fighting back rage, I simply said, “Excuse me?” He said he made enough money over the last however-many days that he bought his skin and he was good now. It was hard to argue. Reddit user: dgmilo8085
Taking the High Road
I taught my daughter to always compliment people who insulted her. You know, just so she could take the high road. We were in a Burlington Coat Factory in Michigan when my mother was shopping for a bathing suit. There were very few to choose from, so she was complaining. My kid was four at the time.
A woman trying on pants said something rude to my mom, and my daughter saw that my mother became agitated. She squeezed out behind me and told the woman, “Your teeth are such a pretty yellow!” Reddit user: berthejew
Juice It Up
I used to let my son have Five Alive juice boxes in his lunches because it’s a small amount and at least it has vitamin C. In the grocery store one day, he started asking for Kool-Aid, and I said no way because it’s full of sugar. I pick up the Kool-Aid and Five Alive to show him the nutritional data to prove my point….
It was only to discover that they have the same amount of vitamin C but the Kool-Aid has far less sugar. Now he gets the Kool-Aid. Reddit user: onyxandcake
Tough Love Doesn’t Always Work
When I was 11, my father caught me smoking. As a punishment, he made me finish the whole pack. I hated my first cigarette and had no intention of ever smoking again. But after smoking that pack, I would try to hang out with the older kids and smoke with them….
Because after all, my punishment wasn’t as bad as the usual grounding, and they found me funny to have around. I smoked until I was 37 or so. Reddit user: [redacted]
Dishing It Out
Not a parent, but one time my parents grounded us from using their dishes because we never washed them. They said from now on we had to buy our own paper dishes and plastic cups/utensils. I went that day to the dollar store and stocked up. Come dinner time, none of my siblings had.
I sold them all plates/utensils at a huge markup. This went on for several days as my lazy siblings kept putting off going to the store. Best punishment ever. Reddit user: admiralofawesomeness
The Most Adorable Backfiring Ever
Due to a last-minute adoption (it’s a long story), my wife and I went from one kid to two kids very quickly. They are close in age (18 months apart), so we tried reading books about how to avoid sibling rivalry and encourage a positive sibling relationship as they got older.
One of the books said to teach the kids that they are a team. That’s what we did. It resulted in my daughter getting angry at me any time I would discipline her brother, because he was her baby. I would try to explain that discipline is part of learning, but she wasn’t having any of that.
She agreed that she should be disciplined for bad behavior, but not her baby brother. You have to stand up for your teammate, after all. That’s really the only time she would ever throw a full-blown screaming tantrum, so then I would have to deal with a full meltdown on two fronts.
It was my son crying because he was being disciplined and my daughter crying because her brother was being disciplined. Reddit user: Mannings4head
My mother is a teacher, and she once taught her class that if a bad guy is chasing/following you in a car, you should turn around and run back the way you came, because it will take longer for the car to turn around catch up, and you have a better chance of escaping. A few days later, one of her students ran away, so she drove around looking for him.
She caught up and called out the window, “[name], you need to come back with me right now!” He looked at her, gave a grin, and ran back the way he’d come. She was cursing herself as she tried to turn the car around to follow. Reddit user: BoldlyGone1
When the Truth Is Too Much
My son asked me about Santa Claus. Because of circumstances with my child’s father, I have a strict personal policy of never lying to my child. So, I answered his questions directly and told him the history behind the Santa Claus tradition. He was riveted. I walked away feeling good about the conversation.
His teacher pulled me aside after school. He had stood up in the middle of class and announced to the whole room that Santa Claus was dead. Reddit user: infinitivephrase
Reading Too Well
I taught my kids to read very early on in their lives. My son could read by the time he was four years old, and my daughter by the time she was three. This led to some unwanted conversations as they read things over our shoulders…and they were sometimes the craziest things, always when we weren’t expecting it.
Even mundane things like signs on the road. We were trying to take it in stride until one of them said, “You’re going too fast, Daddy. It says 55 mph and you’re going 70.” Reddit user: Cadomski
My daughter used to always unbuckle her seatbelt to reach for things in the car, then not put it back on. We had a minivan at the time, so she was always moving around, saying “I just need my backpack” or whatever, and we were always telling her to sit down and get her seatbelt back on.
She was maybe 8-ish? I was home one night when she burst through the door, crying, blood on her face and clothes, holding a t-shirt to her face, husband close behind, shirtless and looking very sheepish. I asked what in the world happened to them, thinking they had been in an accident. Nah, just a backfired lesson.
My husband tried to show her what could happen if she wasn’t buckled. He claims he just tapped the brakes and truly nothing more, but he didn’t plan for her to propel forward, her face slamming into something, bloodying her nose. Not sure if that helped her learn a lesson.
However, the car roaming subsided, and she’s a 19-year-old driver now who always wears her seatbelt. Reddit user: Maddiecay
The Clean Scheme
My parents tried to start a chore/payment system around the house. There was a list of chores and then payment for them. “Clean guest bathroom…$1.50.” First, I just kept using that bathroom, so it needed to be cleaned daily. Basically, I got paid to poop. They stopped that after the first week.
Next, I’d pay the neighborhood kids to do it instead. I’d give them $1 to clean the bathroom and pocket the $.50. I did that one for three weeks before the other parents found out and I got yelled at. Reddit user: Tampaburn
Crime and Punishment
Read a book that suggested you ask your kid what an appropriate punishment for misbehaving would be and then carry it out. My 6-year-old son pinched his brother or something, so we asked what an appropriate punishment would be. He said, “Pluck out my eyeballs and throw me over a cliff?”
We didn’t follow through with that one, unsurprisingly. And we stopped reading parenting books too. Reddit user: Mungobrick
One of my 5-year-old twins was still having occasional accidents because she would get so caught up in playing/doing something else that she just wouldn’t go and would pee her pants. To combat this, we would give her a special prize of some variety when she wouldn’t have an accident.
This, in turn, caused her twin sister to START having accidents so she could get prizes for not having accidents (even though she was fine on this front beforehand). We had to rethink our methods. Reddit user: KyleRichXV
When Fearlessness Becomes a Job
My youngest boy would never listen, and he was always totally fearless. Every time we told him, “Don’t do that, you’re going to get hurt,” he would do it and then not get hurt. I remember starting to hope that he would fall and break an arm or something just so he could learn a lesson, which is weird for a parent to say.
But he never got anything worse than a small scrape or cut that could be cleaned and covered in five minutes. Now he’s a stuntman for movies. I can’t say I’m surprised. Reddit user: Zarokima
Her Body, Her Right
My niece was taught that no one can ever force her into giving hugs, etc. It’s her body, and she has the right to say no. Well, she tries to use that as an excuse to misbehave every now and then. Like, one time, her dad told her she couldn’t play in a certain area because there wasn’t enough room….
She claimed that her body had the right to be there. Her body, her right. All three of us facepalmed at that moment. Reddit user: Erulasteil
The Quest for a Puppy
My kids were begging for a pet. I don’t want to take care of a pet, and I told them that they don’t clean up after themselves without me hassling them, so why would they clean up after a pet without me hassling them? I told them if they could keep their room clean for 6 months without me telling them, they could get a pet.
The youngest child proceeds to clean his room, then move his clothes and a sleeping bag into the hallway and lock his door so his room can’t get dirty as he sleeps in the hallway. Reddit user: [redacted]
I told my children repeatedly that if I found any more junk on their bedroom floor, I would donate it to the thrift store. I always gave them 15 minutes to clean everything off the floor. I could hear them scurrying to get everything done as I walked away to let the countdown begin.
I came back to find everything picked up, except they also went through the kitchen cupboards and put every food they didn’t like in a nice neat pile right in the middle of the floor. Reddit user: mollymuppet78
Food for Thought
My dad tried to implement the whole “you MUST eat ALL the food on your plate” in our house during meals. My mom was never a fan of that lesson, but my dad was stubborn, so she just let it go. Well, one day my sibling had 2-3 bites of food left on their plate and was very clear that they were absolutely full and couldn’t eat another bite.
Dad wasn’t having it and insisted they could not leave the table until all the food on their plate was gone. My sibling finished the last few bites and then proceeded to vomit on our dad. He stopped enforcing the rule after that. Reddit user: catastrophichysteria
The Blame Game
Not a parent, but as a child, I noticed my sister was writing her name on the walls when she was drawing on them with crayon. Taking on the role of Helpful Big Sister, I informed her that if she was going to graffiti things, she shouldn’t write her name and give herself away.
A few weeks later, she was carving patterns into the wooden desk in our dad’s home study and carved my name into it instead. Reddit user: [redacted]
You’re Done Growing Up
When my daughter was about five, she asked why we need the rain. I explained to her that we need it to grow the plants that we eat. She then asked why we need veggies, and I used this as an opportunity to get her to eat her veggies. I told her that if she wanted to grow up at all, she needed to eat lots of veggies.
My daughter has requested cucumbers, carrots, peppers, and similar as her snack since then. But now, I can’t enjoy a bag of chips at home anymore. She’d walk in on me eating them and tell me to go easy because I’m “done growing up.” Reddit user: ExtraLucky13
Even Parents Are Clueless Sometimes
When my son was about 3 or 4, he started to ask about how babies are born. I sat him down and gave him a very simple, age-appropriate explanation. He just looked at me, shook his head, and just said “No.” Very calmly but in a “I can’t believe you think that’s how it works” tone of voice like I’d told him something fake.
I just sat there not knowing what to do while he went back to playing Legos after that conversation. Reddit user: waitingforadragon
When I was about two years old, my family was at a game in Angel Stadium. My mother went to the restroom and left me and my siblings with my dad. While he was busy watching, I wandered off somewhere. When they eventually found me, I was halfway around the stadium.
A crowd had gathered to watch as a police officer held me while I screamed, “Call the police, this man is not my daddy!” over and over again. My parents had taught me stranger danger but forgot to teach me what police look like. Reddit user: ghode
Not a parent, but I work in a school. At my school, we have a lot of kids with learning disabilities. One of the first lessons of the school year is “everybody needs different things to learn, and if somebody is getting something different from you, it’s because that’s what they need to learn at school.”
You know, a kid-friendly way of explaining accommodations. Now, the usual accommodations we offer are special chairs/wiggle seats, extra breaks during the day, and extended testing time and tests taken in a quiet room. One kid, however, has decided to take the ‘everyone learns differently’ lesson to heart and now talks in a fake British accent (I live in America) all day.
“Because it helps him learn.” Then, all of the other kids started talking in fake accents. Reddit user: partofbreakfast
Throwing Isn’t Touching
My son is nearly two. We’ve taught him not to touch certain items that weren’t baby-proofed. He completely understands that “don’t touch” means he cannot put any part of his body on the object. No hands, no feet. So now, we have to watch him like a hawk because throwing a toy car at the glass isn’t “touching.”
Neither is whacking a window with a clothes hanger or shoving an end table into the lamp. Reddit user: KFiggNewton
Buy Yourself Something Pretty
When my daughter was young, I was trying to teach her the value of money and decided to start giving her an allowance. She had a few tasks to do around the house, and afterward, on the weekends before we would go out, I’d give her $5. I explained that because she helped out and did her chores, she had earned money to spend on whatever she wanted.
She happily accepted and stashed her money in her room. Later that evening, before I tucked her into bed after reading to her, she goes to her money jar, pulls out $2, hands it to me, and explains that it’s for being a good daddy. Reddit user: Tsquaredp
Blame It on the Uncle
Not me but my dad teaching a nephew. He hated smiling, so in pictures, my dad would tell him to say “whiskey.” When he tried cheese, it wasn’t the same. So, the word whiskey really got him smiling, and that was what the family would use when we had to take pictures.
Anyway, at school the principal was taking a picture of the class and tells everyone to say “cheeeeese!” My nephew very loudly says “WHISKEEEY!” Reddit user: [redacted]
Learning the Business Model of Life
I tried the whole “have your kids quote chores for pay and bid against one another.” It’s supposed to teach them about working for their money and not expecting handouts like an allowance. You know, so when they got much older they’d be independent and not expect anything from anyone.
It turned into every time I asked them to do something, I got “how much will you pay me”? So now, they expect money for everything. Reddit user: BobSacramanto
Straight Out of a Sitcom
My aunt and uncle were trying to teach my cousin manners and wanted him to address people as Mr. and Mrs. They used each other as examples, and consequently were known as Mr. & Mrs. [name] for ~2 months. And it worked! But a little too well, since he no longer called them mom or dad.
One of the funniest moments of my life was hearing my uncle describe how, in the middle of the night, instead of “dad,” he started hearing “Mr. [name]!” Cracks me up every time. Reddit: AphrodesiacBirds
Performing a Little Too Well
When my daughter was ten, she wanted to try out for a community theater version of Beauty and the Beast. She got nervous and almost backed out. My husband, who did some acting in high school, stepped in and said that he would also audition, even though he knew he was never going to make it.
He wanted to demonstrate to her that it was okay to audition, even if you might not get chosen. She ended up getting the part of Chip. My husband got the part of Maurice, Belle’s father. He didn’t even want to be in a play. Reddit user: [redacted]
Mind Games Turn into Actual Games
Not a parent, but when I was around 12, my father suspected that I stayed up late playing video games, even though I didn’t. I’m not sure where he got the idea, but one night he went into my room and told me that I shouldn’t play my Game Boy Advance past bedtime because I needed to rest.
That’s when I realized I could play my Game Boy Advance past bedtime, and I’ve suffered from insomnia since then. Reddit user: [redacted]
Touche to Cliches
I’ve been teaching my kids that life isn’t always fair so that they aren’t heartbroken very easily. The tantrums when one is invited to a birthday party have been too much. It’s been helping some. Then I was playing tic tac toe with my youngest. She covered up the column she wanted to use to win.
When I told her that cheating isn’t fair and that I didn’t want to play if she was going to cheat, she reminded me: “Life isn’t fair, momma.” Reddit user: miseleigh
Steer Clear of Beer
My parents did the thing where they gave 4-year-old me a sip of Budweiser under the impression that I would spit it out, say that it was yucky, and then turn it into some lesson about not drinking/only Mommy and Daddy can drink, whatever. You know, like some parents do.
I, apparently, am not normal. I instead took a sip and said “Mmm! Can I have one?” My parents were stunned for a full minute before they said no. Reddit user: drinkmoreshowerbeer
Elephant See, Elephant Do
When my older son was about three or four years old, we realized he was starting to act very spoiled and materialistic. We always tried to make him see how lucky he already had it, but he constantly begged us for every toy, candy, and treat he saw anywhere and everywhere.
I came across a photo spread that involved the photographer traveling the world and snapping photos of children with their most prized possessions. Of course, the kids in the US, Canada, and Europe were mostly photographed in rooms filled with stuff. But there were also photos of children from impoverished nations, usually showing the child with only one old, dirty stuffed animal.
I thought I was going to accomplish this brilliant parenting move; I’d explain how the kids with rooms like his were beyond lucky and he should be satisfied with all of the great stuff he had. Then I would show him the other photos and he would understand that there are children in the world with far less than he had.
We finally got to one with a little boy standing on his cot with his one possession, a well-loved, dingy-looking stuffed elephant. After a long bit of silence, he finally looked up at me, gave me a sweet smile, and said, “I want that monkey.” Reddit user: forever_monstro
Taking Things Too Literally
I told my 11-year-old who was being bullied on the school bus to stand up for himself if his bullies started hitting him again. “Honestly son, the only way to be rid of bullies is to show them you aren’t scared; if they hit you again, punch them back and kick their head in. Just stand up to them and you’ll see.”
A few days later, police land at the door asking for my son, as he was involved in a fight; a kid on the bus had kicked him, so he turned around, punched him to the floor, and then took my words literally and started booting the kid in the head.
Thankfully, the kid was okay other than some scuffs and bruises, and my son doesn’t get bullied anymore. I now watch which words I use to give him instruction, since he’s taking them quite literally. Reddit user: Nomad 2k3
This was like 7-8 years ago. My teenage son was staying up super late on his laptop doing teenage internet things (gaming I assume) and messing up in school, so we put parental controls on the router so that the internet would be turned off from 11 pm to 7 am. This, of course, impacted my wife and I, because we lost internet access during those hours too.
Anyway, he was way more tech-savvy than us, so he bypassed the parental controls and stayed online as late as he wanted. So we didn’t have internet, but the kid did. Reddit user: paul99501