The 10 Worst Mistakes Parents Make With Their Kids

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I remember meeting a girl who we’ll call Sarah. Sarah was 23 years old and about to turn 24. She was a virgin who had never had a boyfriend. She also was a girl who lived with her parents, didn’t drive because it was “too scary,” and also was not really used to advocating for herself.

I used to be friends with her, but eventually, I realized something was very wrong with her. Sarah wasn’t like other people I met. She was a girl who was developmentally delayed — and not by a birth issue, either.

After meeting her parents, I quickly realized that the reason she was so developmentally delayed was that her parents destroyed any opportunity she had to grow.

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Her parents barred her from hanging out with people of her own age until she was well into her teens. When boys would flirt with her, her parents would tell her that she was going to hell if she did anything with them. Her mother made her absolutely terrified of driving. Even something as simple as applying for a job was deemed “too much” for her to do.

Seeing this was pretty disturbing, but sadly, it was not that unusual in the kind of neighborhood I grew up in. As a kid in the upper-middle-class world, I saw many well-meaning parents wreck their kids through a variety of different parenting mistakes.

For people wondering how to be a good parent, here's some parenting advice for you: avoid doing these things, because they are some of the worst ones I’ve seen in my years. And what often happened to the kids in question? 

Here are the 10 worst mistakes parents make with their kids:

1. Refusing to let your kid take any risks whatsoever

This is exactly what happened to Sarah, and her parents claimed that it was because she had Asperger’s Syndrome. The truth is, her parents weren’t doing her a favor by removing any chance of risk in her life.

The way they “protected” her ended up crippling her ability to act like an adult. When her parents pass away, she will not be able to navigate the world.

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2. Telling kids that they are not capable of handling their own problems

This is a classic mistake a lot of middle-class and upper-class parents make, and I’ve seen what it does to kids long-term. When kids are repeatedly told that they aren’t capable of doing something, they’ll eventually believe it, even when they actually could manage on their own. I’ve seen more than my fair share of former classmates who had this form of learned helplessness.

3. Making your parental love conditional on your child’s ability to succeed

Do you know that whole concept of “tiger parenting” people were talking about back in the 90s? Yeah, this was often a way parents pushed their kids to do better in school.

Speaking from personal run-ins with kids of tiger parents, this really isn’t healthy. Most kids who have parents that pull this deal with crippling anxiety, and some even develop narcissistic personality disorder as a result of it.

4. Telling your child they should never fail

Nope! Failure is a part of life. Every great person who has ever made history has failed before they made it to the big leagues. If you’re telling your kiddo that they can’t fail, you’re actually dissuading them from taking the risks they need to grow.

Moreover, being able to handle failure is a really important life skill. Are you really comfortable robbing them of the skill it takes to get back up after they fail?

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5. Trying to get your kids awards and merit by unethical means

I understand the urge parents feel to help their kids succeed at any cost — really, I do. But you have to understand that parents who don’t let kids earn their own way set their kids up for a really rude awakening once real life hits.

Real life is, to a very large point, a meritocracy. If your kid doesn’t learn to compete and use their connections on their own, you should expect them to lose out on major life skills.

6. Helicopter parenting

Ugh. As a person who grew up with this being a common parenting method, I can honestly say nothing good happens from it. Hovering over your child, doing their homework for them, and living vicariously through them is not healthy. It’s actually a pathological form of obsession, and speaking as someone who knows a lot of kids who were products of Heli-parents, it destroys kids in the long term.

Most of the kids I know who were products of helicopter parents have a hard time functioning as adults. Those who do well often resent their parents or go completely no-contact with them in order to live a normal life.

7. Getting super strict with your kids

Believe it or not, strict parenting does not a healthy child make. Parents who are too restrictive often will have children who are anxiety-riddled adults, or children who end up rebelling so hard that they snap under their own personal issues.

Most kids who grow up this way do not become successful because of their parents’ guidance; those who do become successful do so despite their parents’ intervention.

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8. Not focusing on family time

Did you ever meet adults who had distant parents that never really spent time getting to know their own kid? I have, and the outcome is really sad. I assure you that you don’t want to have this happen with your children, simply because it impacts their ability to have healthy relationships with others so terribly.

9. Wrecking your child’s self-esteem and putting down their interests

I can’t name how many adults I know that suffer serious consequences because their parents didn’t emphasize the importance of self-esteem or because their parents would tear them apart over the dreams they had.

I’ve witnessed so many people who have gone into fields they hated, simply because they were terrified of what they’d hear their parents say if they followed their dreams. Some even committed suicide.

Having seen the importance of telling your children to enjoy life and feel good about themselves, parents that wreck their children’s self-esteem through cutting remarks are making horrible mistakes.

10. Having clear favorites

To date, I have never seen a functional family that clearly played favorites with their kids. Most kids who end up being the black sheep of the family also tend to do better than the “golden child” their parents prefer.

Unsurprisingly, the black sheep of the family almost never maintain contact with their parents, and the so-called golden child tends to bail once their parents ask for help. Food for thought, isn’t it?

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Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, New Theory Magazine, and others.