Note: This post contains mentions of abuse, grooming, and suicidal thoughts.
While certain values passed along by your parents may still be meaningful to you, you could have ended up rejecting other things they preached that now feel flawed.
1. "My mom always told me to put others first and always give them the best. I still believe in this to an extent, but early in my adulthood I realized that I can only put others first and give them the best when I have already taken care of my own needs. I can’t be giving to the point where I leave myself at a deficit. It’s not selfish to take care of myself, it’s necessary for my own mental and physical well-being. Beyond my own basic needs I am happy to give what I can, but never more. Giving more of myself than I am really capable of doesn’t do anybody any good."
2. "Going to church on Sundays, which was my stepmother's mandate. It's something she grew up with and passed it on to me, as well as her own children. Personally, I never cared for church (at least her church); at the same time, I don't believe you have to attend church (or any religious institution) on a regular basis to be a good person."
—Anonymous, 53, New York, NY
3. "Forgiveness...My parents were steadfast that you 'have to' forgive people, not for them but for yourself. As I've gotten older, I realize that's complete bullshit. Sometimes, people don't deserve your forgiveness, and more often than not, it doesn't hinder my life in any way to not grant forgiveness to those people. In a Fiona Apple interview, she said something along the lines of, rather than forgiving people, you should just accept them and move on. Accepting means that if someone isn't earning your forgiveness or isn't showing you that they're trying to change, then you don't need to give them any forgiveness. You should accept them for who they are and decide whether you want to keep them in your life. I like that much more. I've accepted that certain people are terrible, and I've cut them out. They don't need my forgiveness, just like I don't need to give it to them."
—Anonymous, 35, Austin, Texas
4. "'Blood is thicker than water' and 'familial love is unconditional.' That was usually in the context of how I was still obligated to love my father even after he beat and berated me. I no longer believe in blood bonds or unconditional love — love and respect have to be mutual. I refuse to love someone who intentionally hurts me to make themselves feel bigger."
—Hazel, 21, Minnesota
5. "'Hard work pays off!' and 'You can do anything you put your mind to.' Working hard will kill you and have you being a pack mule for billionaires. Life is about working smarter!!! And being efficient — not doing all this grueling work and getting bloody knuckles and having nothing to show for it."
6. "'Don’t be so sensitive.' My parents valued 'toughness.' I think they believed sensitivity equals weakness. They feared us being vulnerable and someone taking advantage of us. It taught me to be hard and cold and show no sympathy or empathy. I was mean and didn’t like it. As I was exposed to more as an adult, I realized that being sensitive is normal — being a hardass is not. Now that my parents are older, I think they’ve learned they didn’t like being that way either. They are much more receptive to emotions and listening. Just wish it had happened sooner."
7. "'It’s always cheaper to do it yourself.' My parents are amazing people and have always worked extremely hard. They DIY’d every house project, car fix, etc. Unfortunately, I watched them piss away a lot of time and money over the years trying to do things themselves. There were a lot of fights over project redos and fixes. There is a fine line to tread. I’ve learned to be realistic about my limitations and to evaluate projects in a way that takes into account my time, longevity, materials, what it will cost if I make a mistake, etc."
9. "'College will be your only open door to the good life.' Not exactly true. I tried the college thing, and it was NOT for me. Could I be making more money? Sure, and even the college graduates reading this are agreeing with me, LOL. But I'm just fine right now. I have a 401k, savings, great credit, a home, car paid off...not too shabby for someone with no degree. My husband is the same — no degree, and he's doing fine. We're not drowning in debt, nor do we owe hundreds of thousands in student loans. College is NOT the end-all, folks. Trade schools, getting in with a good company and working up — those all still exist, and people still make good livings from them."
10. "That you have to stick with a job forever. I had a job in my 20s that made me borderline suicidal, so I just up and quit one day. No notice...just sent an email and left the office forever. I called my parents to tell them, and my dad said, 'But you signed a contract. You made a commitment.' Yes, but I didn’t sign on for the level of abuse I suffered. My parents said essentially the same thing when I left my first husband after I found out he’d been sleeping with my 'friend' for the entirety of our four-year marriage. Yes, I made commitments to that job and that man. But I didn’t sign on for emotional, mental, and sometimes physical abuse. I’m allowed to care for myself and ensure my safety above all else."
12. "To save all money and NEVER spend...vacations and any luxury are a waste of time. Mom recently passed away. My parents have a lot of savings, but she never got to enjoy life. I don't go too wild with spending, but life is short. Treat yourself."
—Anonymous, 40, White Plains, NY
13. "Prejudice. They were against mixed race relationships, and they always talked poorly about people of other races. They claimed they weren't 'racist,' just 'prejudiced.' Whatever, it's the same thing. I've worked in the medical field for my entire adult life, and I've worked alongside so many people from so many different places and cultures. That completely changed the thinking that I was raised with. And, of course, they considered themselves good Christians."
—Jennifer, 45, New Hampshire
14. "Purity culture. 'Dressing modestly' and heteronormative ideas on sexual expression and acceptance. My brain and body are still unpacking internalized ideas in therapy from the long-term effects, but coming out as queer and wearing clothes I love that embrace my body are some of the best things I’ve ever done for myself!"
15. "Not talking about your emotions. And strict monogamy and that marriage is for life. I’ve always been emotionally open, and I knew I was polyamorous (even if I didn’t know the term) when I was a child. My parents are and have always been emotionally stunted and closed off, and they have a miserable marriage. They cannot turn off the judgment that I speak openly about my emotions and that I’m in a loving, thriving, healthy, wonderful polyamorous marriage (nine years so far and thriving!). To this day they say it’s wrong and not a real marriage. Yeah, how successful and happy are you two and your marriage?"
17. "'Kill them with kindness.' Why be kind to someone who is cruel to you? I was a doormat for far too long because of this."
18. "'Ignore bullies — turn the other cheek.' Imagine a parent in 2023 telling their child to just let the bullies treat them like shit and don't raise their voice about it; don't make waves. Unreal."
—J.H., 36, California
19. "My grandmother raised me from birth, and she always taught me the importance of keeping it classy and acting like a lady, even in difficult situations that may require unladylike actions. I threw that out the window years ago because I learned that it’s OK to act unladylike when the situation calls for it: two weeks ago I was accused of something I didn’t do because a member of management lied to senior management about me. 15 years of knowing senior level, and they clearly believed this young manager over me. Last week I quit. I explained my reasons for leaving via email, addressed it to senior executives, and cc’d the manager who was gossiping about me. If Grandma were still alive, she would’ve given me an earful about respect for others. Unfortunately, this was a situation that didn’t deserve my respect because they clearly didn’t respect me."
—DJ, 50, Chicago
20. "I grew up poor, and my parents raised me with the mindset, 'You get a stable job, and you work that job until you die.' When I was 16–18, I had an abusive boss, and my mother would tell me, 'At least you have a job.' At 24, I graduated college, then found a 'stable dream job' that worked me to death. After 15 years, I finally took a year off for my mental health. My siblings told me how incredibly brave (or stupid) that was, and that's when I realized we all had that mindset. I've worked really hard to break it and take each job as it comes, reassuring myself I can find something else if this one is unhealthy."
—Anonymous, 48, Phoenix
21. "That a woman’s purpose was to serve a man."
—Anonymous, 34, Pennsylvania
22. "My mom was extremely proud of being a virgin when she married my father and shamed me for not being abstinent as a teen (17). My mother also cheated on my dad and kept the baby, but she’s less proud of that. I’m not going to shame my kids for wanting to be active, and I will teach them all about safe sex so they won’t have to rely on Plan B or sneak around."
—Anonymous, 29, Florida
23. "That merit/talent/skill is always the most important factor in career advancement. Nepotism, budget constraints, changes in management, office politics and more can all override any demonstrated merit/talent/skill and affect your career path."
—Steve, 58, Ohio
24. "My mum used to say on the school run every morning, 'Be nice and kind to everyone'. Now I do think it is still important to be nice and kind to everyone, apart from if they are not nice and kind to you. Now, in adulthood, I struggle to say what is truly on my mind or how I am feeling due to the fact that I don't want to upset someone else, even if they have really upset me."
—Anonymous, 23, Staffordshire, England, UK
25. "My parents are traditionalists, and they’ve always told us to respect authority and our elders and never question them. I grew up thinking adults knew everything, and I should always accept what they say and tell me without question. When I felt that what they said didn’t make any sense, I never argued. How naive and stupid I was, and it wasn’t until I left uni and actually started a full-time job did I learn that adults don't know jack shit. I have two kids now, and I always tell them to question everything, that respect is not an entitlement because of your age, but adults also need to earn respect from the younger generation."
—Anonymous, 46, Australia
26. "You only have kids to help with chores or raising other children. I refuse to treat my son as a servant for my responsibilities. Yes, he does his own chores like keep his room clean and help around the house, but nothing to the extent of what my parents forced me to do. My parents had me cooking, cleaning, and being responsible for my younger siblings. I moved out the same day my mother told me she only had me to be her slave and take care of the things she didn't want to."
—Anonymous, 30, Indiana
27. "Not to live with a partner before marriage. Not only do I completely disagree, I actually find it necessary to live with a potential spouse before marriage so you know their true habits and if you are compatible in a shared space."
—Anonymous, 27, USA
28. "Respectability politics. My parents were a product of their time. While they taught me to love my kinky hair and dark skin as an African American, they discouraged certain aspects of our culture that they saw as a hindrance to being respected in mainstream society. They emphasized speaking 'proper English' and thought AAVE was ignorant. They taught me not to talk loudly and thought Black communities would garner more respect if the boys didn't sag their pants and the girls didn't have brightly colored hair and long nails. To be fair, they grew up in the '60s and '70s, following leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, who, rightfully at the time, emphasized looking put together, 'sounding intelligent,' and being disciplined as a way to highlight how despicable the physical and societal violence was against Black people."
"We had to PROVE that we were dignified (and therefore worthy of respect) by assimilating to whiteness. Today, the social and political dialogue in the US has progressed in a way that allows my generation to celebrate our cultural differences from mainstream, white society. We can accept our culture for what it is — creativity and adaptiveness that are part of out heritage and legacy as African Americans. I have a master's degree, am bilingual, have traveled the world, and have a professional job in my chosen field, AND it's OK for me to blast hip-hop music and rock bright red hair extensions and blinged out fake nails. Young adults today are allowed to acknowledge the fact that people deserve respect simply because they are human."
—Anonymous, 29, Los Angeles, CA, US
29. "So there was this little thing in my church. JOY, J-O-Y. Jesus, others, yourself. Seems cute and a way to teach kids how to be kind, but I still struggle with boundaries. They told us that everyone else comes before you, and that will make you happy. We were taught to never think of ourselves, which kind of just feels like a weird sort of grooming now that I’ve written it down. Like, never say no to your pastor because he knows what’s best, fighting for what you believe hurts Jesus’ heart because you’re being selfish, and standing up for yourself is being selfish and bratty."
—Anonymous, 26, Phoenix, AZ
30. "That I should be endlessly grateful to them for my life and every single thing in it. When I was 16 I had worked hard, saved my money, and paid for my cheerleading 100% myself that year. I was so proud and thought my dad would be too. When I told him, he pointed at the light overhead and asked if I thought power was free. He then proceeded to mock me in a high-pitched voice, saying, 'Oh, but I paid for my pompoms, Daddy. I don't know who buys all this food and puts a roof over my head, but don't worry about the pompoms, Daddy.' I felt so low and in that moment realized that nothing was going to be good enough ... ever. He basically thought I owed him a life debt. Children do not owe their parents for providing the basic necessities of food, shelter, and clothing. Now, I'm just grateful he isn't a part of my life."
—Bridgette W., 36, Las Vegas, NV
31. "My parents expected me to have children, have a family. I decided at age 19 I did not want kids and even informed men with whom I had a serious relationship about this decision. I'm now age 66 and childless. No regrets."
—Janine, 66, Bay City, Michigan
What things did you parents try to instill in you that you disregard as an adult? Let me know in the comments below.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.