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What Parents Are Actually Teaching Their Kids

Updated on February 8, 2013
Family Rules
Family Rules | Source

Sending The Right Message

It is very common for kids and parents to see things differently.

When asked, parents say that they want their children to be happy, confident, and feel secure. Unfortunately, some of the choices that parents make teach their kids the exact opposite of those qualities.The intentions are always great but the results aren’t always what they expect.

Most parental decisions are made in an effort to support their children and protect them from the bad parts of the world but what is the actual lesson they are learning?

A couple questions that arise in a society that is exploding with perpetual aging adolescence are:

  1. Are parental decisions and behaviors preventing kids from learning how to function and navigate their own lives?
  2. Are these decisions and behaviors keeping our kids from maturing and behaving like competent, confident members of society?

Common Mistakes

The following is 5 of the mistakes parents most commonly make with their kid’s best interest at heart.

  1. Fighting their battles and making excuses
  2. Paying for personal items and bills
  3. Rewarding and celebrating with food
  4. Allowing disrespectful comments or behavior
  5. Taking responsibility for their child’s choices

Fighting Personal Battles

Parents often get involved in their kids’ turmoil with friends, siblings and even teachers. It is an automatic response to jump into action when we feel like our kids are in need of rescue.

When a teen says they are no longer speaking to their best friend, parents may be quick to jump to their child’s defense and call the friends parents or demonize the former best friend.

This is a huge missed opportunity for sharing adult wisdom and life experience with your teen. The parent should help their teen figure out what they did or didn’t do to shape their current situation and guide them in a direction to resolve the problem.

The child will learn an important lesson in conflict resolution that they will carry with them into their adult personal and professional relationships.

*This course of action definitely does not apply to bullying. If a child is being bullied in any shape or form, adult intervention is necessary and should be immediate.

School Supplies
School Supplies | Source

Fighting School Battles

There will commonly be a time when school work takes a back seat to the social scene. Most kids will test the boundaries at school much like they do at home. This usually happens between the grades 6-9 and is totally normal.

An important turning point comes when parents become aware that their teen has some missing assignments, has been turning things in late, disrespecting their teacher or simply skipping classes altogether.

If their parents defend or excuse the behavior and buy into the idea that it’s all the teachers fault, kids will have a much harder road ahead of them.

When parent calls the school or emails the teacher in an effort to get an extension for assignment dates or any other special accommodations for their child, they are sending the wrong message. Every phase that kids go through happens for a reason.

When the parent imposes consequences at home for the teen’s behavior at school and insists that they contact their teachers themselves to find out how to minimize the damage done, they will learn accountability.

If teens are required to use their lunch time, before school, after school and weekend time to make up their school work and get back on track, it may teach them that avoiding responsibilities and deadlines don’t make them disappear, it just makes them harder.

make-up | Source

Paying For Extras

As parents, we are accustomed to providing for and taking care of our kids when they are young.

Admitting our kids are getting older and changing is hard because then we have to face the fact that they are becoming more independent and will not need us as much as time goes on. One of the ways we hold on to the delusion that our kids are still little and helpless is to continue to cater to them as we did when they were young.

When kids are old enough to have cell phones, wear make-up, prefer designer clothes or want expensive hair styles instead of bargain cuts, they are letting you know that they aren’t little anymore.

It is the natural progression into adulthood that makes them seek more trust and freedom of choice. The balance of development dictates that when more freedom is given, more responsibility must go along with it.

When kids are given everything they want, they don’t learn how to be appreciative and content with what they have. Learning to desire things and not always get them is an important part of growing up.

assortment of cell phones
assortment of cell phones | Source

How To Help Them

If teens are required to earn and save money for the things they want that go above and beyond the necessities, they will learn numerous valuable lessons at once.

Such as:

  • How to budget money and time
  • How to prioritize goals
  • Patience
  • Appreciation
  • Work ethic

They will also get an unexpected feeling of pride and accomplishment in their own abilities.

Hand held electronic gaming system
Hand held electronic gaming system | Source

Replacing Items

It can be really frustrating to see your child’s disappointment when one of their favorite possessions gets lost or broken.

The first impulse may be to do whatever it takes to fix the problem and make the child happy again. This may sound like the perfect solution for everyone but there is another important opportunity that your teen may be missing out on if that happens.

If parents fix all their problems for them, they may get the message that when life is unfair, someone else will make it right for them. Kids will get a feeling of empowerment and control when they acknowledge how their actions contributed to the loss or destruction of their property and how they can correct it.

Parents should guide them and help them develop a plan to solve their problem and tips on how to avoid it in the future. Then, support them in their pursuit of replacing the item themselves.

cupcakes | Source

Rewarding and Celebrating With Food

Parents often give kids their favorite treat or take them to eat at their favorite restaurant for many different occasions.

Food seems to assimilate into all moods and circumstances.

  • Birthdays
  • Holidays
  • Bad days
  • School accomplishments
  • Sport wins and loses
  • Having friends over
  • Condolence because friends didn’t come over

When kids are trained to associate food with a variety of things that have nothing to do with actually being hungry or fueling their bodies, they are being groomed to have a negative relationship with food. This may not seem to be a problem when they are young, but when they become adults there is a real danger that they will struggle with food issues.

Parents don’t intentionally set their children up for this life long struggle, they simply know it makes themselves feel better in the moment to indulge and even encourage the unhealthy habit.

Allowing disrespect

It is common for even the most mild mannered kids to let a few disrespectful comments or defiant moments slip.

Teens and preteens are changing rapidly and that can be scary and confusing for them and their emotions may get out of their control at times.

Small disrespectful remarks and behaviors will escalate until firm boundaries are set. When the comments and behaviors are addressed and dealt with immediately, the phase will pass quietly.

When parents allow defiant and rude comments to slide by without repercussion, they are missing an opportunity to teach their teen how to handle stress and frustration. They need to learn how to verbally express themselves without alienating those around them and creating more frustration for themselves.

Teens need to know where the tolerance line is just like younger kids do. They rely on their parents to hold firm and be strong while they try to figure out the transition into adulthood. It may seem as though they are always battling against you but really they are just testing to make sure that you aren’t changing like the rest of their world seems to be.

Taking Responsibility

Parents always see the absolute best in their children but it can be dangerous when they don’t see the fallible part. Everyone makes mistakes and errors in judgment. It is an important part of learning and growing into a well-adjusted adult.

If parents help their kids avoid the uncomfortable task of facing up to bad decisions and dealing with the consequences, they are robbing them the opportunity to mature and become self-sufficient. There is a serious risk of stunting their development of empathy and accountability.

When kids are young, their parents will do everything they can to help their children and keep them from harm or sadness. It’s a parent’s job after all to love, guide, protect and teach their children. As children get older, a parent’s ultimate goal is the same but their methods need to evolve and change just like the child is.

Growing Up and Moving On

Growing up and entering the world independently should be a welcomed and exciting stage in a young adults life.

Unfortunately, this may become a very intimidating and fearful subject for the teens and young adults who have never learned how to manage even the simplest things on their own.

They simply won’t have the confidence in their own abilities to venture out and start their own lives.


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    • roxanne459 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roxanne Lewis 

      6 years ago from Washington

      You are so smart in saying that you honestly admit when you made a mistake and apologize! I have found that is very difficult to do but it is so important. Your kids are very lucky!

    • adjkp25 profile image


      6 years ago from Northern California

      Love the breakdown you did here. I think all parents are guilty of doing something wrong but for us the key has always been about being honest with our kids and apologizing if we did do something wrong. I think this honesty has cemented credibility in our house.

      Also, we created some basic family rules years ago and it is still on our fridge today!

      Voted up and useful.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I think the food reward or comfort action does lead to obese children and unhealthy coping of life problems. Good information here and very useful in raising healthy, well adjusted children.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      Very good information for parents who want to rear their children to be independent and self-confident. Voted up!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Great advice on handling those tough growing years. Making kids responsible for their actions will make them better adults. Great suggestions on how to change their thoughts for the better.

    • roxanne459 profile imageAUTHOR

      Roxanne Lewis 

      6 years ago from Washington

      Thank you Nettlemere! Doing what is BEST for our kids is certainly not always what is easiest or our first reaction. I struggle with this like everyone else. At the end of the day, we just hope we made the right decisions. :)

    • Nettlemere profile image


      6 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Roxanne this is awesome - it should be required reading for all parents. Lots of common sense, but that is easily overlooked in the understandable urge to protect the child immediately rather than setting them up to be resilient later in life.


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