The Habit That Drives Kids Away — Without Parents Even Realizing It

This is how we were raised, but that doesn't make it right.

father shrugging, not knowing the answer to his daughters question LanaStock | Canva

As parents, we often feel we need to be right, to have all of the correct answers, and to show our children that we know best. This parental need to be right comes into play particularly when we try to hold boundaries. But sometimes it backfires. The need to be right when attempting to hold boundaries with our kids has the following detrimental effects.

In fact, the need to be right or always hold authority can cause our kids to feel mistrust. Why? Because we aren't always right! Nobody is.  


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Three reasons the need to be right & hold all authority is bad parenting policy 

1. It puts us in the position of having to defend our rightness

When we try to enforce a boundary with our kids based on the idea our reasoning is right (and therefore the boundary should hold based on the correctness of the reasoning), it puts us in the position of having to defend whether we are right in the first place

It implies that the validity of the boundary depends upon whether we are right or not. But unfortunately for us, what is right and what is wrong is always debatable, and herein lies the problem. Once the underlying premise had been called into question, so goes the boundary with it. 


Mother and daughter tension, the parent is not always right fizkes via Shutterstock

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2. It sets you up for an endless argument

Once we, as parents, have established that a boundary should be upheld due to the rightness of some concept, then let the arguments begin. Since we have left ourselves open to the inevitable debate about how right we are, a challenge, or an argument may quickly follow. 


We can easily find ourselves arguing over arbitrary facts rather than achieving anything close to what we were after when we tried to set the boundary in the first place. Mission not accomplished. Do you want a debate or do you want closeness? How far will you take any given fight? 

And how willing are you to fight with your child? 

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3. It models the need to be right — and our child may adopt the tactic

Ouch. Kids tend to copy their parents, we are their best teachers. When we need to be right, they will most likely follow suit. Now we are set up for some epic arguments where no one is willing to back down because both parties must be right and the other person must be wrong. Generally, this will not be fruitful. 

What to do instead

What is the trick? Well, this is the part that is not so easy!

The trick is letting go of the need for our kids to "know" we are right. We have to be OK with them thinking we are wrong, stupid, old-fashioned, or whatever other opinion they may have about us. This is harder than it seems, because at some level we all want our kids to like and respect us, to look up to us, to know we know what is best for them, and we want them to act accordingly. Can you overcome the desire for your child's admiration and set the appropriate boundaries for them and the whole family? Easier said than done, but possible!

Here is the bonus: Holding boundaries is so much easier once we let go of needing to be right about them. Voila! So it might rain or it might not, and the bike might rust or it might not, either way, the child still has to put the bike away because right or wrong, that is the boundary! Mission accomplished.


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Leslie Ferris, ACC, ELI-MP, MBA is a life coach with multiple specialties, including working with families raising kids facing challenges.