I Assumed These 10 Things Made You A Bad Parent .... But Then I Had Kids

I quickly learned you can't control everything a kid does.

Last updated on Aug 30, 2023

woman gesturing that she doesn't know something Nicoleta Ionescu | Shutterstock

By Annie Reneau

I used to think kids who misbehaved or who seemed rude or who did gross things must have something "off" at home. Obviously, their parents didn't know how to teach proper behavior. (Can I please go back in time and smack myself?)

Now I know they were likely just normal kids, and their normal parents felt just as shocked at what they were doing as I was.

At some point as a parent, you come to the humbling realization that kids do things that defy logic, reason, and decorum, despite everything you're trying to teach them.


I assumed these 10 things made you a bad parent ... and then I had kids:

1. Tantruming

Whatever made me think parents could stop a toddler from tantruming in the middle of a tantrum? It's like trying to stop a train. A really loud train. A really loud, out-of-control train comes out of nowhere, and all you can do is dive headfirst onto the tracks and hold on for dear life while it barrels past above you. You can try speaking soft, calm words to slow the train down, but, well . . . it's a freaking train. Good luck with that.


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2. Whining

Want to know how many times I've said "I can't understand you when you whine" to my kids? 5,273,926, give or take a few. Seriously, kids don't whine because it works. They whine because they like the sound of their whiny voices. And because of Caillou.

3. Nose-picking

Every kid I know. At home and in public. They eventually outgrow it, but until then, it's a daily battle for years and years. Sometimes they just sit there with their finger shoved up their nostril, not even moving it. Just sitting there. Ew.

4. Not responding when someone speaks to them

Two of my children have been non-responders, despite repetitive talks about it being rude to ignore people when they talk to you. One of them responds to people in her head and doesn't realize that the words didn't actually come out of her mouth. The other just pulls a Marshawn Lynch and doesn't respond if he doesn't have anything to say.


Shyness is a tricky business.

5. Not going to sleep

Some nights, our youngest child can lay in bed for two-and-a-half hours in a dark room and not fall asleep. No exaggeration. 150 minutes. He'll talk to himself, sing, and occasionally call out to tell us he's not sleeping (as if we can't tell). It doesn't matter if we've run him ragged all day. It doesn't matter how calm and soothing our bedtime routine is. It's crazy. The kid's a night owl.

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6. Being loud

Some kids have no volume control. Their voices are just LOUD. They don't have to yell or scream or anything — their voices just pierce the air. Even their whispers are loud. There's really nothing you can do about it short of muzzling them.


7. Fibbing

One of our kids was born habitually honest. I was that way as a kid, too. I remember the one time I lied to my mother, and I still feel ashamed about it. But our other two have gone through the normal little kid fibbing stage, despite our consistently talking about how important truthfulness is from very early on.

I couldn't believe it the first time one of my kids lied to my face. How do you even do that? They say it's a sign of intelligence. Sure, let's go with that. It's better than the "OMG, my kid's gonna be a sociopath" line of thinking.

8. Not washing hands after using the bathroom

Washing hands was part of our potty training process from the get-go. We ALWAYS washed hands after using the toilet — sang the ABC song, and talked about germs, the whole kit, and kaboodle. Every. Single. Time.

And yet it still took a good SIX OR SEVEN YEARS for them to routinely remember to wash hands every time they went to the bathroom on their own. I can now add "expert hand-smeller" to my resumé.


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9. Chewing with their mouths open


"Please chew with your mouth closed."

Ten seconds.


"Sweetie? PLEASE chew with your mouth CLOSED."

Ten seconds.


"Sweets. CLOSE YOUR MOUTH when you chew."

Ten seconds.


"Honey, seriously. You have to get out of the habit of chewing with your mouth open. What if you go to other people's houses and chew like that?"

"I don't chew like that at other people's houses."

Blank stare.

"Well, please don't chew like that at our house, either. It doesn't matter who you're around — nobody wants to hear you chomping your breakfast cereal."


Ten seconds.


It's like talking to a wall.

10. All the other gross things

We were at a friend's house the other day, and I walked into the kitchen and found my kid's wadded-up, dirty socks on the kitchen counter.


MY KID'S DIRTY SOCKS. ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER. AT OUR FRIEND'S HOUSE. Not my youngest kid, either — one of my older-than-a-decade-and-really-should-know-better children. I don't even know what to do with that.

Picture a kid from a super nice family with super stellar parents peeing on his brother's toothbrush. Yeah, that happened.

Our five-year-old pretty much licked his way through Disney World last year. We had to tell him to take his mouth off of every blessed handrail in the park. I'm not even a germaphobe, and it made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

So. Many. Gross. Things.

Do we teach our kids these things? No. Do they learn them in other places? Maybe. Do we do our darnedest to teach them otherwise? YES. Does it always work? Clearly not.


There's a reason it takes 18 years (at least) to raise responsible, socially adept, non-disgusting humans.

Fingers crossed.

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Annie Reneau is a freelance writer, editor, and blogger. She's a writer for Brilliant Star.