Some People Really Don't Deserve To Raise Kids, And Here Are 35 Examples Of Toxic Parenting To Prove It
"It isn't cute to joke around and say your daughter will start dating when she turns 30."
Reddit user u/afku0t asked the community the worst examples of parenting that are actually harmful for children, and the responses were eye-opening. Here are some truly damaging things parents do to their kids:
Warning: Some submissions include topics of verbal abuse, physical violence, eating disorders, and self-harm. Please proceed with caution.
1. "Play the 'victim card' whenever something goes wrong. The child will adopt a similar reaction to problems when they occur, and no one will get anywhere productively."
"Yep, this is definitely my mom. She'll never admit she's wrong, and will twist everything around to make it seem like it's my fault. And if there's any argument about it, I'm just considered 'childish' — she's a master of gaslighting, emotional manipulation, and blowing any confidence I might have."
2. "Never allow their kids to express their emotions. I wasn't allowed to cry or get visibly upset, and for a long time, this forced me to adopt bad coping habits where I would scratch at my skin until I bled or pulled my hair out. I still can't handle conflict well."
"This messed me up for a loooong time. I was constantly getting punished for being upset — sorry that screaming at me for crying never worked for getting me to handle my emotions better, folks. I'm still trying to fix this at age 30 — like, I'll get shaky and tear up over a minor conversation about conflict. It sucks."
"When I was a kid I would cry easily — my parents always said I cried 'at the drop of a hat.' I think that I was very angry, and when I was told to just not be angry, I'd get mad at myself because I just couldn't stop being angry. So, I'd bottle everything up and when something would trigger a strong emotion out of me, I'd cry. That made me feel even worse, and robbed me of my self-esteem. I still don't know how to deal with these strong emotions other than to isolate myself and protect others from myself until I get better."
3. "Create inconsistent rules, like if a parent says, 'No X until you have finished Y' and don't enforce it. If you don't mean it, don't say it. If you as a parent don't have the discipline to enforce the rules you make, how can you expect your child to learn anything positive about discipline or rules?"
"My dad would always say, 'Hey, could you go do X?' and when I’d get up to go do it, he’d say, 'It doesn’t have to be right this second...' So, I’d sit and wait a bit before going to do whatever the favor was, but then he’d get mad at me for not doing it sooner."
4. "Control every little thing their kids do. My experience was to the point of total isolation — I wasn’t allowed to go to school (I got pulled out to be homeschooled), go in my backyard, or even visit friends without a parent present until I was 18 years old."
"When I was 18, my parents wouldn't want me to drive after it was dark outside. At the time I lived in my own apartment, and driving two hours away to my place after Thanksgiving was terrifying to them — I'm 30 now, and whenever I travel by myself, they call me every 15 minutes. I have to explain to them that it's more dangerous to be answering their phone calls than to be driving by myself."
"People who have anxiety now are the products of helicopter parenting because they had to go home straight after school, couldn't attend parties or friend gatherings, and they were forced to take up their parents' hobbies instead of their own. Parents need to learn that their kids need to live their own lives, and instead of bubble wrapping their whole childhood, they need to learn from their own experiences — even if they are painful. Some kids come into life with no skills for themselves, and are fucked right out of the gate."
5. "Shame their kids for making mistakes, such as wetting the bed, spilling things, etc. People make mistakes all the time, and kids need to know it’s totally okay to mess up sometimes."
"I totally agree — my mom would get so mad at me whenever I'd wet the bed. It started at 8 years old and continued until I was 12 years old (at least three nights a week). When I was around 9 years old, I started to get up, change my mattress, sheets, and pajamas, wash and dry them myself, and clean up without ever waking my mom because she was so upset every time I did. It became super shameful for me, and I became a very secretive and introverted kid as a result of it. I formed this unending desire to be perfect, and would verbally abuse myself (talking in my head) whenever I made a mistake, especially when it came to wetting the bed, crying and shattering my self-confidence every time."
"If I ever knocked over a cup or spilled something, it was never considered an accident — my dad made me believe I was mistreating my mother when I did this. The sound of a dish breaking makes my heart beat out of my chest to this day."
6. "Force the oldest child to wait a certain amount of time before they are granted a luxury, and then not make a younger sibling wait that same amount of time before they get that same luxury. It teaches the older child that the younger is the favorite, and leads to a lot of resentment from the older child both towards the parents and the younger sibling."
"Oh my goodness, this was one of my biggest complaints growing up! I was the oldest of three kids and would always have to wait patiently to hit an arbitrary age limit my parents had set, only for them to go ahead and decide to let my younger siblings do it earlier! I wasn’t allowed to go see PG-13 movies in the theater until I was 13 years old, no exceptions — it was so embarrassing to not be able to see any of the movies that everyone else had seen in middle school. Then, when I was finally 13 years old, my youngest sibling was 8 years old and she was allowed to tag along with me to PG-13 movies. I was furious."
7. "Make them 'finish their plate' every time at dinner, whether they're hungry or not. They're essentially shaming them for eating too much or too little — it's a sure way of encouraging an eating disorder at an early age."
"My parents did this to me. They'd dish out the portions (everyone would get pretty much the same amount), and I'd never be able to finish my plate — but I'd get the same amount every time. I'd eat and try to hide the fact I was almost getting sick from eating too much as I continued to. I wouldn't say I'm overweight, but I'm certainly not underweight, and my parents have no problem with pointing it out."
8. "Use their kid as their therapist. The kid usually wants to make them feel better, and they might be very good at emotional support, so it seems easy. But, the fallout doesn't happen until a decade or two down the road — you're there to support your kid, not the other way around."
"This. There's nothing wrong with talking about worries (given the kid is old enough to understand) with each other, but constantly piling every problem onto them is draining for the child and causes them so much unnecessary stress."
"The term is called parentification. When I learned it a few years ago, so much of my life began to make sense. I'm just glad that I was seeing a child shrink who was able to tell my mom to back off — of course, this was a year after she had already started using me as her daily therapist. They told her to stop, and she did to a certain extent — she mostly listened when I told her that I couldn't deal with hearing about the problems she was having with my dad. I've mostly dealt with it, but it screwed up my relationship with my father to a larger degree than I realized."
9. "Have a dynamic where one parent exerts strictness while the other parent exerts kindness. My father was always the one who'd get pissed if I did something confidently and he thought I was in the wrong. When I’d get yelled at or started crying, my mother would comfort me and ask me silently to forgive my dad for his shit attitude and short temper. I grew up with so much resentment for my father and always went to my mother for comfort without realizing that she was only making it worse.
Now when my dad gets pissed at me, it hurts a lot because I feel like I have to take it — and when I get pissed at my mother for treating me like a helpless child all the time, I feel like I’m being overly aggressive to her and I end up apologizing."
10. "Tease them about their romantic interests and crushes. Adolescents already feel insecure and foolish, so it's like kicking a pet. It can have a deep effect on delaying and ruining their confidence with romantic relationships."
"This one right here severely fucked me up, and is possibly the root cause of all my dating woes. I pushed away some very sweet women in high school because I was way too embarrassed and afraid of what my parents (or siblings) would say. My parents and all of my older siblings used to gang up on me, and mercilessly tease me if they suspected I had a crush on someone."
"My parents did this to me and it hasn’t prevented me from having relationships, but I used to keep them a secret. I used to lie and tell them I was staying at a friend's, when really I was going to visit my boyfriend at the time. It hasn’t effected me as an adult, and since my twenties I’ve been open about partners I’ve had, but part of me wonders if this is why my sister has never had a boyfriend (or if she did have one, kept him a secret?)."
11. "Base their kid's worth on achievements alone. How many 'smart kids' from elementary school do you know have trash mental health now? Probably a lot."
"I was a 'smart kid' — I didn’t study much, and I was still the best student. I didn’t learn to put effort in my work, and everyone told me how smart I was and that I would probably have a job like a doctor or another job that required a lot of studying. I began college last fall, and now I can’t get good grades anymore — I’m searching for an easier study path now."
"Yup, this is me. I had a line of bad teachers in elementary school who ruined my love for learning — my parents didn't accept this and continued pushing me, not letting me stop to breathe. I eventually burned out in middle and high school, and my mom only recently apologized to me for how she treated me: 'I thought if I kept pushing you, everything would just click back into place.'"
12. "Treat kids like they're somehow below them. Everyone's just as much of a person, and generally speaking, people all have a similar capacity for intelligence. Your kids aren't dumber than you and they don't have to arbitrarily reach a certain age to be your equal. The only reason they don't know as much as you is because they haven't been around as long as you have/haven't had the life experiences you've had. You don't have to dumb yourself down to deal with kids — you just have to approach things in a way that makes sense to them based on where they are in life."
13. "Say 'because I said so' or 'I'm the mother/father' to put an end to a conversation. Like, thanks for the lack of logical sense."
"You forgot the 'I put a roof over your head' trope."
"The worst is when you and your siblings learn to actually present a logical case for why the thing needs to happen as a countermeasure for 'because I said so,' to which the follow-up is, 'Well, I still say no.' As a young kid that can really fuck up your trust in a parent — a response like that tells you they don’t care about your feelings because they can’t even spare a molecule of effort to give (or even invent) a reason it shouldn’t happen. When parenting changes from an education and life lesson to a dictatorship, it’s gone terribly wrong."
14. "Over-schedule their kids. There's pressure to have your children do lots of activities, either at home or at school with additional classes and sports and so on. Some of that is obviously great, and it's always good to give a child access to the resources they need that might make them thrive or to pursue a hobby they enjoy. But, it gets taken too far in some cases, and some people won't let their children rest or relax unless they are doing something educational and productive. I think that creates adults who get stressed and never feel that what they do is good enough. I suspect it's also a factor in some people having mental breakdowns — learning to relax is a life skill, too."
15. "Punish them without taking the time to talk about the situation. Parenting takes time, and if you don't go talk to your kids after, you aren't doing your job. 'Here is what you did — what were you thinking when you did it? What was your perspective? Okay, now that I understand what your position was before it happened, what are some other ways you could have dealt with it in another manner?' Questions like that — don't talk AT them, talk WITH them. Go on a journey together and find a better way. Make sure they know you love them and you're there for them — making things right is what adults do."
16. "Be glued to their phone instead of being present when their kid is excited about something. Kids are exploring their world and making discoveries all the time, and this is the perfect opportunity to boost their self-esteem by encouraging and telling them how smart and awesome they are. There's nothing more defeating than finding something new and then getting in trouble for it."
"I would also add 'belittling what they like' onto this. My mother complains that she feels like she doesn't know me anymore because I never call or share what's going on in my life. I don't share anything with her anymore because she actively makes fun of things I like and calls me 'weird' for it — as a kid, she was skeptical of my interests, and put me in fear she'd take them away from me. I hid my books and my drawings from her for fear of what she would say.
My dad was the opposite, and always made a point to take an interest in my hobbies as a kid. He took me to movies I wanted to see, and he knew more about Pokémon than any man in his fifties should've. My relationship with my dad is awesome, and I love sharing things with him because we turn it into something we can laugh about together."
17. "Treat their kid as though they're never going to grow up to become an adult and experience adult things. You should teach them about safe sex, protection, and consent, and don’t act like they are never going to have it. It’s not cute to joke around and say your daughter will start dating when she turns 30 — like, how do you think you made your kid?"
"My sex talk consisted solely of my mom handing me The Period Book in 4th grade. My parents would freak out and and cover the television when anything vaguely sexual happened — I am now 27 years old and have never had sex, and I don't know how to healthily engage in a romantic relationship. It hit me in the last year or two that I should be able to do adult things without feeling 'dirty' about it."
"My mum would always shame me for liking girls and being around them. She tried to make me stop hanging out with a friend when I was 14 years old because 'she looks like the kind of girl who would try sex just for fun.' I was interested in the idea of sex, but knew I was too young for it — her comment really grossed me out. She wouldn't let me attend the sex ed classes in primary school, but I forged her signature for the classes in high school, and thankfully I learned what was up."
18. "Never allow their child to be angry. I see it so many times with friend’s kids or relatives — children get mad and react, and the adult immediately says something along the lines of, 'Fix your attitude.' Children have anger too, and need to be taught to express and work through it in order to be a part of civilized society."
"My father would see kids doing things as little as rolling their eyes at their parents, and said if I ever gave him any kind of attitude like that, he would take me outside and beat my ass until I knew that was wrong. So, I would just look down, keep quiet, and avoid everything out of fear — he wondered why I always looked like I was getting ready to be hit when he'd yell at me."
"This! My dad had a rule that everything in your day had to be left at the doorstep. I spent my whole life suppressing things until they built up, then just exploded — it took a lot of therapy to get to where I am today, and I'm nowhere near where I should be with controlling my emotions. They really fucked me up."
19. "Stay in a loveless relationship 'for the kids.' One, your kids know you're miserable and two, they learn how relationships work from you. Do you want them to have a relationship like yours, or do you want them to be happy and healthy?"
20. "Continually brag about their child's achievements to other people, even though the child isn't particularly proud of them. It cheapens the experience when it's being shared, and the company of other people knowing inevitably makes them feel afraid of the limelight. The connection with the parent also feels more superficial."
21. "Show a disinterest in their hobbies, and only support what they view as 'worth it.' I did lot of different things as a kid when I was finding myself, as most kids do — my parents stopped showing up to my concerts because 'the band isn’t very good' and soccer games because we had a losing record. I remember getting yelled at for wasting my time with sports if we weren’t going to win. I was also told going into college that theater wasn’t worth pursuing because it wasn’t a 'safe' career. The only real encouragement I got was when it came to academics.
Nearly a decade out of college with no real career after trying and burning out on two grad school programs, I wish I had pursued something I was passionate about. Instead, I dropped them one at a time because they weren’t 'worth it.'"
22. "Give their kids no sense of responsibility. My mom (who I lived with for the majority of my childhood) did nothing to prepare us for the real world. We were never asked to cook, clean, do our homework, or brush our teeth — I only started learning to do those things on my own at around 13 years old because my dad took it upon himself to show me. They all sound like simple tasks, but when you grow up not being taught how to take responsibility, certain habits like cleaning up after yourself or brushing your teeth can be challenging."
23. "Totally ignore what a kid has to say. If my parents and I had a disagreement on something and it turned out I was right, their response was, 'You’re being disrespectful — you’re grounded.' It makes you feel like standing up for yourself is pointless, when in reality, kids have to learn that they should trust themselves and their thoughts."
"That's totally my mom — she loves gaslighting. She either changes the topic to something random, or she'll go the other way and say everything she does is wrong."
"My grandma once told my mom when she got in a fight with my brother, 'Never apologize to children!' which was so wrong — children are human beings just as much as adults are."
24. "TREAT THEIR CHILDREN AS LEVERAGE WHEN GETTING A DIVORCE. Do NOT teach your kids to hate the other parent! My parents went through a divorce so messy that it was in our state newspaper — my mother treated my sister and I as property, not children. She attempted to teach us to hate our father, and I spent years influenced by this. When I lived on my own as an adult, I realized just how messed up it all was — thankfully my dad is literally the nicest person in the world. Sadly, it just took forever for me to realize it. This messes up kids for years, gives them self-esteem issues, effects their emotional growth, and overall gives them a jaded perspective on life. Please don’t do it."
25. "Joke about their child not getting As on their school assignments and report cards. While it's nice that you want them to succeed and be good at what they're learning, it doesn't mean they're actually learning. Plus, it makes them feel as if what they do is never good enough, and makes them constantly desire validation with everything else they do in life."
26. "Buy things to keep their children happy. Man, I don’t want your presents or for you to hold them against me: I just want a person I can talk to and can be open with."
27. "Tell the kid they can always be honest and tell the truth, then go nuclear when they do."
"One time when I was 8 years old, my mother accused my brother and I of stealing her share of some leftover pizza. We didn't, so of course we denied it, and then she threatened to get the belt. We kept denying it, so she started to spank us five times each until I 'confessed' to stealing the stupid pizza. I got an additional few spankings and was locked in my room for an hour.
Later when my dad came home from work, she had me confess to him that I stole her pizza and lied about it. That's when he said it wasn't possible because he took it to work for lunch — my mom didn't apologize and my dad wasn't okay with how that situation played out, but this kind of thing continued to happen again and again."
28. "Be too fixated on money to truly enjoy their children. We were lower-middle class growing up, but my mom was always so fixated on how much everything cost that it kind of messed me (and everything) up. Even though I’m comfortably middle class, I still find myself focused on the price of everything. I can’t bring myself to buy anything full-price, even though I can afford it — I have a hard time throwing things away because I spent money on them, or because they could be reused somehow."
29. "Give children no privacy. Just because they're your kids, it doesn’t mean that they are extensions of yourself and shouldn’t be allowed secrets and a personal life."
31. "Establish time limits before they go on their electronic devices, and when time it's up, look through the device. I got a tablet when I was about 12 years old, and my parents routinely went through it without telling me and then got mad at me and grounded me without telling me what I'd 'done wrong.' It led to a lot of erasing, hiding, and sneaking things."
32. "Protect their kids to the point where they're totally disconnected from the world."
"This is such an important one. I have a friend who's 25 years old and scared of EVERYTHING because her parents literally never let her out of their sight. I invited her out to a bar about three miles from where we live, and she said that her mom wouldn’t let her go because it was too far. She’s never been out on her own, she went to a local college, and she isn’t allowed to date — it’s heartbreaking to witness because below all of the social disconnect, she's such a sweet person."
"I know this dude who's also 25, and has been covering up his arms for the past three years so his mother wouldn't see his tattoos — he has almost two sleeves now, and he's still hiding them."
33. "Scare their kids into doing things. My parents used to do it to me all the time, especially when it came to tests — if I told my mom I wasn't too confident about an upcoming test, she would get mad and say, 'It's not my fault you didn't study hard enough. You're going to be a failure and never get a good job.' It scared me, and as a result, I didn't do well until my last year of high school. She should have told me that failure is how you grow the most, and that even if you don't pass a test, it's okay — luckily my dad taught me this. My parents had very different ways of parenting, which I think ultimately fucked me up."
34. "Kick their kid out of the house. Not only did my mother kick me out at 15 years old, but she lied to child services and said I just wouldn't come home. Every time I tried to go home, I wasn't allowed in or she would assault me in a way that didn't leave marks until I got scared and took off. It's been 23 years, and I move every year like clockwork and can't stay in one place because I'm still looking for a home. Every time my husband and I had a disagreement for the first three years of our marriage, I started packing so I could leave before he kicked me out (which he never did). I assume everyone will get rid of me if I'm not perfect, and I quit jobs constantly because I don't want to face any rejection — as soon as things aren't 100 percent in my life, I get scared and run."
35. And "Berate their kids when they have different opinions other than their own. This usually forces kids to keep their thoughts to themselves."
"Every time my brother would have an argument with my mother (which she instigated), she would always say something along the lines of, 'We support your ass, so your opinion doesn't matter!' (even if she was in the wrong). Now she wonders why he won't call her or come visit when there isn't a holiday."
"My mom would always override me and then wonder why I never bothered to speak up for myself. All she did was ask me about work, and if I said I had a stressful week or mentioned something less than stellar, she'd zone in on it and tell me how stress was good for me. So, I stopped telling her much of anything about work, and then she whined that I 'never told her anything.'
I've even asked a couple of my friends about it, telling them the context and my mother’s responses, to which my friends said it was best not to confide in her about super important details because she wasn’t going to make a good confidant. Sometimes I tried to bring up certain TV shows I had watched, but she didn’t watch the same stuff, so it wasn't much of a conversation prompt — I’d even ask her if she’d seen certain shows, but she got so hung up on my word choices that the conversation turned into how I could have better phrased myself instead."
Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
If you are concerned that a child is experiencing or may be in danger of abuse, you can call or text the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-2253 (4.A.CHILD); service can be provided in over 140 languages.