It's not about being a perfect parent. It's about not repeating mistakes and knowing how to say sorry.
I have no idea how to raise children the right way. I don’t have them yet and I never write or preach about the things I haven’t experienced on my own skin or somehow succeeded at. But I definitely know how not to raise a child. It always surprises me how parents most often don’t read even a single book about raising children. Usually the funny argument is: I’ll raise my kids like my parents raised me, I turned out okay somehow and therefore it must be right. At the same time, they’re depressed and not satisfied with their lives at all; and believe it or not it has a lot to do with the relationship with their parents.
Below are the crucial facts of how not to raise a child, no matter what, from the very subtle to the very obvious ones. No matter if subtle or obvious fact, all of them leave deep scars in a child’s life that are very hard to heal.
- Criticize your kid over and over again and never be satisfied with what s/he does. If you think it will encourage your child to perform better, you’re wrong. Maybe s/he will try harder, but the cost is enormous. Cognitive distortions and negative thinking will cripple their life. “It’s okay honey, but you could do better. How come the kid next door can do it?”
- Label your kid with stupid tags that will misshape their self-image, just to feel a little bit better about yourself. “Watch out, you’re going to spill the milk again. You’re so clumsy.”
- Indirectly show your kid that you think s/he is incompetent. “Hey kiddo, would you help me peel the potatoes?” After a while. “Oh, let me do it, I’ll do it much faster.” No shit you’ll do it faster, you’re an adult.
- Expect your kid to do things that you’re not doing. Children observe and learn how to behave. Apple doesn't fall far away from the tree. Simply don’t stuff your face with chips on the couch while yelling at your kid that he can only eat at the table.
- Ignore your kid. If you ignore somebody you let them know that they don't exist. A big percentage of young adults who make suicide were ignored at home. They don't think it matters if they exist or not. And it doesn’t matter only what you say, it’s what you actually do. Kids spell love like this: T-I-M-E.
- Emotionally break your child because you’re an emotional midget. You’re nothing but a pussy if you break your child. Read this: Congratulations, you just broke your child.
- Fail to provide a stable and loving home for your kid, regularly leaving them at grandparents’ or aunts’ houses, moving from city to city or whatever. No stable environment when young, no stable emotions when you get older.
- Make your kid feel like they’re a burden in your life.
- Verbally abuse your kid by yelling, mocking or regularly losing temper. Invisible scars often hurt much more than visible scars.
- Tell family secrets that a kid shouldn’t tell anyone else. Secrets do no good to anyone.
- Expect your kid to grow too fast or take over your adult responsibilities for his or her siblings. You’re the parent. “You’ll have to take care of your mother now that I’ll be gone” as seen in the movies.
- Have inconsistent rules of what’s allowed and what is not. It doesn’t make sense to allow something when you’re in a good mood and lose your temper about the same thing when stressed out. It’s quite the same when one parent allows something and the other doesn’t. Confusion. Confusion at home, confusion everywhere.
- Physically abuse or punish children; even if the Bible says you should do it sometimes. Trust science on this one, physical punishment only leads to extreme anger and a desire for revenge.
- Push your kid to do extremely hard work to achieve something s/he doesn’t want, just because you want to live the dreams you’ve never achieved through your kid.
- Hate and dislike your kid’s behavioral patterns that you also hate about yourself. Things that we don't like about ourselves usually bother us when we see it in other people. “Of course if you’re lazy, your kid will probably be lazy as well.” Fix yourself, don’t hate your kid for that.
- Envy your kid if s/he is smarter, more beautiful or physically fitter than you are, especially as you’re getting older and your kid goes through hard times of growing up in adolescence.
- Control your child like a fucking puppet. The older a child gets, the more independent s/he should be. If they say no to you, learn to accept it. Of course you also have to draw the line somewhere, but your child is not a puppet. It's becoming and independent person and you have to handle it.
- Be so scared and anxious and controlling that you don’t let your child explore, learn and discover. Is the world really a place where you should be scared of everything? There’s no healthy person without healthy assertiveness and desire to explore and create.
- Neglect your child’s needs and desires. You knowing what’s best for your child may be the biggest excuse ever for being a bad parent. If a person’s needs aren’t met, frustrations and uptightness and depression and anger take place. Of course there are things that are obviously bad, like drugs, too much TV etc. but you should always talk with your kid about his healthy needs and desires and help them meet them.
- Suppress your child’s curiosity and creativity, just because it’s not easy to answer 100 questions per hour.
- Punish your kid for the mistakes s/he makes.
- Shut up or ignore your kid when s/he wants to explain something or tell something to a group of people. “Be quiet, daddy’s speaking.”
- Help overcome every challenge your kid faces (or even do it instead of him) or push him at everything s/he tries to do. It kills self-confidence in the blink of an eye.
- Fight with your spouse, abuse your spouse, be emotionally cold to your spouse, talk bad about your spouse, disrespect your spouse (like flirting with other people or whatever) etc. The shittier partner you are, the more damaged your kid will be and the more shittier partner s/he will look for.
- Ever forget to ask your kid how s/he feels, the needs s/he has, about his day etc. Here is the list of minimal questions you should ask your kid.
- Manipulate your kid with guilt and other negative feelings. “You won’t be at Christmas dinner, how come, you’ll ruin the whole family and its tradition.”
- Manipulate your kid with money in a way to keep them dependent on you, make them feel guilty if you buy them something or exploit them to make them work for your benefit.
- Compare your kids to one another and give one more love than the other. Don’t ignore the feelings of the first one when you’re expecting the second one and so on.
- Raise all your kids in the same way. You definitely must be fair, but you should adjust your upbringing accordingly to every kids character and situation.
- Let your alcoholism, drug or pill abuse or workaholic behavior cripple you from being a good parent and leave the kids on their own. Don’t make your kids invisible because of your addictions. I won’t even go there by saying that you must never sexually abuse your kids, actively or passively.
- Be just a passive bystander if your spouse is abusing kids.
Just don’t. All this shit leads to poor self-image, lack of self-confidence, depression, shyness, anxiety, relationship problems, cognitive distortions, negative thinking and an emotionally fucked-up life. You don’t control or own someone just because you gave them life.
The worst thing you can do is rationalize it. I don’t do it that often. I’m not such a bad parent. This is how I was raised.
No parent is perfect, I know. That’s okay. Everyone loses control sometimes. There also must be some friction in kids’ upbringing because friction causes frustration and frustrations bring desire for personal development and growth. Nevertheless, there’s an extremely thin line between being a good but imperfect parent and simply becoming nothing but a toxic parent, destroying your child’s life maybe even forever.
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But I make my kids breakfast and buy them clothes, isn’t that enough? No it’s fucking not; not even close.
Maybe the first step would be to read at least 10 books on how to raise kids like the best parent ever. And the second thing that would totally make sense is to talk with your spouse about this topic and agree on the key points. The collateral good thing is that communicating about raising your kids will bring you even closer as a couple. I was surprised that until now, I met only a few couples who were really openly talking a lot (like on a weekly basis) about how to raise their kids, what they’re doing right and what not.
Your kid is the ultimate start-up in life. Don’t fuck it up.
PS: If you have any additional ideas what I should put on the list, just send me an e-mail please.