Parenting isn't easy, and every parent is bound to make mistakes. But some mistakes stay with kids for years and years — to the point where they vow that as parents, they will never make that same mistake with their kids.
This can be especially common considering norms and parenting trends change drastically over the generations, so current millennial parents may view parenting completely different from how their parents did. When Reddit user -whitekingfr- asked, "What did your parents do to you that you will never do to your child?" a ton of millennials (and even Gen Z) chimed in with the things they'd NEVER do, and there was a ton of great advice and commiserating.
Here are 32 things people will never do to their kids that they experienced growing up.
1."Ever be really excited about something you've done, tell someone about it, and have them give a half-hearted 'That's nice' before going back to what they were doing, as if just politely acknowledging you exist is the same as being supportive? I'm going to try my hardest not to do that."
2."On the flip side there's being very enthusiastic about your interest because you could make money from it someday. So stop playing and focus because you're doing it wrong, you'll never make any money doing it that way, sit down and learn how to do it right, playtime's over."
3.And along those lines... "Telling them that their dreams/hopes/aspirations are 'really fucking stupid' because 'no one makes money doing ____'... Like, sometimes fulfillment is more important that being super wealthy, ya doink."
4."Use humiliation as a form of punishment."
"My stepmom used to record my mental breakdowns and threaten to post them on Facebook. One time she actually did…all of her friends and family commented how awful it was that she would post it, and she deleted it, but the harm was already done. Every single time I saw family for the next few months, it was just, 'Are you okay? I saw what happened; are you alright?' It was so embarrassing."
"It was just me and my father, and he used to record my tantrums (since I was, like, 5) and then play them back to me over and over so '[I] could see how ridiculous it looked' among other things. I suffered from OCD and anxiety since I was really young, and he never believed in disorders like that so he used to purposely trigger me then tell me I was so dramatic and to knock it off. My childhood left me with the habit of bottling my emotions and also becoming aggressive toward others who show big emotions. I’m working on it."
5."As an undiagnosed ADHD kid with two diagnosed ADHD kids of my own, I will NEVER use boredom as a punishment. I remember getting put in my room with no stimuli, the time felt like I was in Inception, where one minute of punishment equaled an hour of IRL time. So yeah, my kids are probably a little less 'disciplined' than others, but I'm sorry, I can't inflict the same torture knowing what it felt like. That's why it's so hard for me to understand how those that are abused continue the cycle. It definitely sent me completely in the opposite direction."
6."Force religion on them. I completely understand and support encouraging your child to try to join you in your faith once they are old enough to understand it and make their own spiritual decisions, but forced spoonfeeding every Sunday during early developmental years before they know how to tell what is real and what isn’t just isn’t morally right in my mind."
7."Ignore the awkward conversations."
"This also includes the sex and birth control conversations. My mom to this day still gets really uncomfortable."
8."Being 'midwest nice.'"
"Midwest nice is basically doing everything in your power to not 'make waves.' You don’t want to challenge anything, you don’t want to highlight anything 'bad,' and you downplay everything so that everyone gets along."
For example: "'Oh sweetie, let's talk about this later, we don't want to make a fuss on Thanksgiving.'"
"This was my life! 'What will neighbors think,' and 'you'll regret trying that.' I never fit in and knew my children wouldn't either. I moved many states away to a 'live and let live' environment. ... I recently went 'home.' I picked up the newspaper and saw all the gossip, and it triggered me. Everyone plays 'nice' while gossiping and taking joy in people's pain."
9."Force my kids to eat, finish their plate, etc.... My mom had a terrible, abusive boyfriend that we lived with when I was 4 to 7. He would force me to eat all the food on my plate, and if I didn't, I was beat. The food was so disgusting, I just couldn't bring myself to eat it. I preferred his MRE's [military ready-to-eat meals] to the food he cooked. A few years later, I went to live with family friends. (They never knew about the abuse.) They ALWAYS joked and commented about what a good eater I was. I've always been severely underweight, so I've always been able to impress people with how much I can eat. ... I promised myself I would NEVER force my kids to eat, and I never did. When I cooked something new, my only rule was that everyone had to try one bite. That's it. If you don't like it, cool, but you can't turn your nose up to it without even tasting it."
10."Criticize my child’s weight."
"My dad used to make a pig oink sound every time I went for seconds or went to eat bread or any sort of sweets/dessert. I am so lucky I never developed an eating disorder from that."
"My parents sent me to a terrible dietitian when I was 8. I was put on a calorie counting diet as an 8-YEAR-OLD CHILD. My parents and sisters did not even support me while I was on this diet. They just kept eating all the things I couldn't eat in front of me. ... It is the reason why I keep contact with my family to a minimum."
"I love my mom, and we have a great relationship, but I didn’t realize how toxic her relationship with her weight was and how it affected me as a child until well into adulthood. She urged me to count calories and watch my weight before I even hit middle school. I lost 15 lbs this summer due to a relapse of my depression, and she has been showering me with compliments ever since. Does not feel great."
11."Forcing them to be a pseudo parent to younger family members."
"My aunt had 13 babies in 13 years, so during my childhood, she was nearly always pregnant, or post natal. Being the only girl in the family, I was expected to help her wrangle her football team of boys. From the age of 7, I was expected to spend the majority of my time doing chores for them. By 12, I was expected to miss school some days."
"I routinely have told my oldest daughter (7) to let me be the parent, and in turn, she gets to be the kid. Let me worry about the parent stuff; that's not your concern. Focus on being a kid."
12."Act like my very existence is burdening them. Both of my parents, though excellent parents for the most part, were guilty of this. I get it, life can be frustrating especially as a single parent (my parents divorced when I was 6), but your kid doesn't understand any of that. They're not gonna know why you groaned or muttered 'goddammit' when they ask to be fed or say they don't feel well, and they're just going to think it's because of them. I'm 24 now, and to this day, I still have trouble asking anyone for help or expressing my needs, whether it's a friend or a coworker or my S.O. I'd rather just sit in discomfort or put my own needs aside so as to not 'bother' the people I'm with."
13."She never had time for me. Now that I'm older, she wants all of my undivided attention, but when I was little, she could only take me in small doses. She acted like going to my school events was a chore. Driving me places was a chore. Anything that had to do with me was a chore. I want my kids to feel loved all the time. So I will do my best to give them my undivided attention when they need me, to happily show up to all performances and school events, and to always be there for them."
14."Touching me when I didn't want to be touched. Forcing hugs and kisses. Tickling me and getting mad when my body reacted and I hurt her. When my kids tell me stop, I will stop. When they say they don't want any physical touch, then we won't have physical touch (unless explicitly necessary — running in traffic or something else dangerous). She did the best with what she knew, but she didn't know much. I'll just do better when my time comes."
"My parents were pretty great, but I hated how we were forced to greet our extended family members with a hug and kiss 'Give aunt Huan a hug and kiss.'
How about no since I don’t know aunt Huan and don’t think I've even met her before. How about you let me just say hi and not be uncomfortable as fuck? Our kids only had to say hi to be polite. No forced physical contact."
15."Keep them from television almost entirely. Often we had no TV — sometimes we had a TV that was purely for screening BBC programs like I, Claudius and films like the The Seventh Seal (they did have kid's films for us, just not many). That was way back in the '80s and '90s — my parents are both neurologists, and they had concerns about screen time way back then. I understand why. I hate seeing my kid watch screens; he just gapes at the screen like a stunned fish. Honestly, there is not much to be said in favor of screens when it comes to child development; screen time is not correlated with good outcomes. But pretty early on, kids start use pop culture as a means of bonding."
"The kids at my kid's nursery are all playing at being Spider-Man, and if I kept him away from the Lego Spider-Man videos that all the kids in his clique watch, he might miss out on this bonding opportunities. FWIW, I think my parents had good intentions. But the end result was a teen who didn't understand pop culture references, and an adult who watches screens too much to this day (which is my own fault, I admit)."
16."Be passive aggressive. I was in a college communications course when I learned the phrase 'passive aggressive,' and a light bulb went off in my head. I finally had a term to describe my family’s dysfunction. I thought we were a perfect family because we didn’t yell. Sometimes I think the yelling might have been preferable because at least it would’ve been honest."
17."Fighting in front of us and slamming doors, complaining about the other parent to their kids behind another parent's back. Then consistently having the gall to literally tell us this is normal behavior in a relationship."
18.And relatedly... "Stay married 'for the kids.' ... I never grew up knowing what a healthy normal relationship should be like and am only learning now in my mid-30s."
19."Moved and I had to start high school in a new area where I didn't know anyone or had a single friend. [I] would never do that to my kid."
20."The silent treatment. I hated this method they both used as a form of punishment, so I swore I would never do this to my own kids, and I haven't. My kids are all grown now, and we might have disagreements, but I will always talk through and communicate with them. The worst part of my parents' silent treatment is that I would often not even know what offense I had committed. It's a great way to really sever any attempts for having a close and loving relationship."
21."Complain about how hard or expensive it is to be a parent. That was all I heard and grew up thinking I was a burden to everyone. Yeah, it's hard and costly, but I made the choice to bring them into the world."
"This is reminding me of when I was 17 and the crash of '08 was unfolding all over the news. I remember sitting on the top of the basement steps listening to the TV that dad was watching and hearing about how people were losing their money, their homes, everything. I knew my dad had some money invested at the time, and that’s what he was using to keep us going since he didn’t have a job. I remember asking him if our money was ok, and he said to me, 'Nope! We’re broke now.' I remember feeling myself curl up into a ball and start panicking, thinking about what I could sell of my things to help pay the bills. Thinking, 'Okay, I can forget about Christmas this year. Just ask for only the necessary things like clothes and toiletries.' We came out of the crash just fine without having to sell a single thing. I’m 32 now, and it took me YEARS to get comfortable enough to open up my own retirement plan last month. Financial abuse toward a child is fucking cruel, and I will never forgive my father for doing that to me."
22."Telling them I regret being a parent or lamenting when I need to be strict as a parent. Hopefully, this wouldn't matter as I do not plan to have children whatsoever. While I was loved, these kinds of things are not things you should say to your children ever, even if you believe it in your heart of hearts. Like, of course, I knew what they meant by it, but the surface level interpretation still hurts, even when I know it's not true."
23."That shit where you aren't allowed to be angry. If I'm gonna make you do some shit you don't wanna do, then I'm at least gonna let you be pissed."
"My mom gave allll the lip service to 'it's okay to be angry,' but any actual display of it was immediately shut down and punished. Somehow, that left me a bit emotionally stunted in that area by the time I had grown up."
24.And more generally... "Completely shutting down at the slightest display of any 'bad' emotion. ... There's people out there who think that any display of emotion is equal to 'being out of control.'"
25."Nitpick. If I got a B, I was asked why wasn't it an A. When I got an A, I was asked why it wasn't it 100%. When I got 100%, I was asked why my handwriting was terrible."
26."Making promises I know I won't keep."
"My kids know, if I say 'I promise,' it is iron clad."
27."Ignore how they feel because of how I feel."
"My parents did this. They had feelings, and the way I interacted with them made them have feelings. But they couldn’t comprehend that their actions informed my feelings, too. It was like I wasn’t a full person to them.
If I was disappointed or upset with them for things they did, or were supposed to do and didn’t, they would get angry with me for making them have to feel guilt or regret. They literally couldn’t handle the uncomfortable feelings associated with the idea that they had parented poorly and would re-direct those uncomfortable feelings into anger at me for causing it. It was a wild ride, let me tell you.
Their feelings trumped mine, all day long. I’ll never do that to my kids."
28."One uppers. 'I feel...' 'Well at least [you don't have to...]' It's crushing."
"My kids are 21 and 18. 2020 affected their senior and freshman years, respectively. I got so much shit from older people when I would say it made me sad they had to go through this, etc. 'KIDS THEIR AGE WERE GOING TO WAR,' blah blah. Like, yeah, and that really sucked for them. I'm not comparing the circumstances; I am just acknowledging my kids' feelings because it sucks?"
29.And along those lines... "Be jealous that they have life easier than I did."
30."Smoking in a car, smoking in the house nonstop, I won't take my kids to the bar and continue to smoke... I won't smoke, I guess is what I'm getting at."
31."Not as much of a childhood thing, but an adult thing... I will invest in my kids' adult lives as well. My parents were all around good parents. But once they had an empty nest, they absolutely loaded their lives with other social obligations, and feel like distant extended family now."
"My wife and I are suffering from a lack of any support system. Our marriage is suffering because we get alone time, like, two weekends a year. When my kids were babies, the tone for visits was ALWAYS 'bring the boys over to see us. But you know, stick around so you can handle them, and take them with you when you leave.'
They're fantastic during the couple times a year I bring the kids there. Hiking, crafts, they buried treasure in the yard and made treasure maps...like, really cool stuff to interact with them. But the day to day 'it takes a community' shit doesn't exist.
I will not do that to them. I will support their adult relationships by not waiting for them to beg for help. I'm not going to be intrusive (I know some grandparents who are way too involved). But I will be available. I will insist that the kids spend overnights, weekends, summer weeks, with me. Because I know how valuable breaks, and vacations, and mental health are.
And not just babysitting. I want to stay close to my boys into adulthood. Let's catch a game, have a drink, come on over, and I'll grill some steaks."
32.And finally... "Never have them. Five kids, no grandkids. Parents can't figure out why. We were provided for quite well. Grew up in a very sterile environment and made to feel like we were a job for them. I will not say my Dad was abusive, but he had no concept of how to promote and nurture a kid. It was always what you were doing wrong, never what you were doing well. Result: None of their kids were motivated to have kids of their own."
What did your parents do to you growing up that you would never do as a parent? Let us know in the comments!
Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.