Parenting can be a very slippery slope. All parents want the very best for their children and the ways mothers and fathers express that can sometimes do some serious damage to kids as they develop into adults. Here are a few examples of things parents have done to their children that ended up causing problems for their kids well into adulthood. Content has been edited for clarity.
“It’s Just A Little White Lie”
“At 5, my parents got me a dog, I named him Smokey. We had Smokey for a few months and I loved him to death. One morning Smokey was gone. My parents told me he got into the garbage and choked to death on a chicken bone. I had a million questions and my parents gave me a very detailed breakdown of what happened.
Years later I had a guinea pig. One morning Andrew was gone. My parents said my 3 year old brother let him go.
Turns out my parents had enough of Smokey and gave him away. Andrew froze to death because my mom forgot to close the window in the room he was in, so naturally throwing my 3 year old brother under the bus was the logical move at that point.
I harbored choking anxieties through my whole childhood and it took years to let go of my anger towards my brother. I mention these issues to my parents in my late teens and they nonchalantly said they were lies. I have many other more messed up lies my parents told me as a kid that affect me to this day. Needless to say, my wife and I have an honesty policy with our son.”
Mother Knows Best
“My mom brags about how harsh she was as a parent. She literally tells her friends, ‘I never held back with my kids so nobody should be able offend them because they have already heard it from me.’ I wish somebody would tell her that this isn’t a good thing. I was emotionally neglected as a child and physically and verbally abused. When I started being diagnosed with mental illnesses as a teen, she told me that it was the devil and refused to pick up my prescriptions. When I finally broke down in tears and told my mom that I was touched by a relative, she told me that it was normal for cousins to experiment with each other. When I complained about how my grandfather touched me and how uncomfortable it made me feel, she told me that issues like that were common on that side of our family and that I should be more conscious of what I wore around him. When I recently told her that I didn’t have a good childhood, she got really offended and told me that I shouldn’t complain because I could have had it a lot worse. Her examples of worse was being abused or ending up in foster care. To this day, I still have trust issues as well as feeling as if my trauma is severe enough to be addressed or if I should be hurting even though others have it worse.”
Divorces Are Never Easy
“After my parents’ divorce, I got left with Mom. I was around 11 or 12 and she told me if I leave her (my two older sisters went with dad), she would hurt herself. If that wasn’t enough pressure for a kid, she would have rage fits where she would break my things or throw them at me and say horrible things like, ‘You’re just a little golddigger who loves daddy because of his money.’ We lived off of his alimony. I was so afraid to tell anyone of this because I knew they would take me away and she would end up alone unstable and without money. So I just sucked it up. She was great at times, 50-50 good and bad. I snapped the moment I felt it would just be easier to die. That’s when I went to my dads house, he was super supportive and over the moon that I wanted to live with him. I never told him why. The worst part is, now she’s denying all of it ever happening. She’s tells me I had it good. Oh and she’s a certified life coach now. So yup. Bunch of issues I’m working on. I’m doing much better now.”
Kids Can Be What They Want
“My father raised me to be pretty gender neutral for the first ten years of my life. I was never told ‘You can’t play with that, that’s a boy’s toy.’ I was taught I could do anything. I didn’t even acknowledge my private parts for the first 10 years of my life, and why would I? It didn’t stop me from doing anything. I’d wear skirts one day and beat up jeans and hoodie the next. I’d play with My Little Ponies while playing soldier. I grew up never being taught it was bad to be LGBT or gender non conforming, and it was my mom who went to work, my dad stayed at home all day doing housekeeping stuff.
Then everything changed when my parents got divorced when I was ten, and my father remarried to a super duper religious woman. This was when I was around 11, when my body started to drastically change, and very suddenly I had to come to the realization that I was female. The whole gender-neutral raising went out the window, suddenly it was ‘You’re a girl. You’re not allowed to have a boy’s haircut. Why don’t you wear more ‘form fitting’ clothes? Why do you want to play violent video games, you’re not some violent boy. Don’t call yourself a tomboy!’ They were super uptight about the last one. They did NOT like me calling myself being more masculine or a tomboy, even though I was definitely known as ‘the tomboy’ in school. Looking back, I think they were worried I was going to say I was transgender, even though I never once said, ‘I want to be a boy.’ It was only until my step mom said, with poison in her words, ‘She just wants to be a boy,’ that I seriously considered the possibility that I may be transgender.
I’m out of that situation now but I have to admit… I have some severely messed up gender issues and I directly blame it on my step mom and dad. They used me being masculine as an excuse to abuse me. Nowadays I can’t even appear tomboyish like I loved being as a kid, now I just wonder if I really was meant to be a boy.
Don’t do this to your kids, parents. Let your children be children. Just because they are slightly gender nonconforming doesn’t mean they’re trans. And even if they are, that’s okay. Just let them be kids, or they’ll become messed up adults.”
Your Child’s Appearance Is Not Your Own
“My mom was always very obsessive over my appearance, she still is to this day and I’m 20 years old. I always had to have nice hair, couldn’t just be back in a bun or ponytail. Always had to have a full face of make up, foundation, concealer, eyebrows, the whole works otherwise she’d turn her nose up at me. I worked for her for a good few years. She’d rather have me come in late and look presentable than come in on time with less make up on than usual; it wasn’t even a job where that much make up would be necessary.
She hated me being pale and once I used fake tan once, she insisted I use it all the time because the darker I am, the skinnier I look. Don’t even want to get started on her obsession with my weight; I had eating disorders through my entire early teens and she saw me turn into a skeleton at 13 years old and now still I binge/restrict and have BDD but she continues to give me ‘advice’ to slim down, suggesting I eat less than the 1200 calories I already eat daily. Just the other day, I had no breakfast, 3 slices of leftover pizza for lunch because I’d been out walking all morning and into the afternoon. I was staying at home from uni and my mum suggested I shouldn’t have any tea because I’d already ate so much for my lunch and then proceeded to get angry at me when I told her how messed up she sounded because she’s ‘only trying to help.’
She really believes she’s helping and doing the right thing and for years I thought it was harmless, till I went to uni and the friends I made were horrified when I would casually mention the things she told me as if they were normal.”
You’re Your Own Person
“My parents always compared my twin sister and I to our older sister (15 years older). We never had ‘as good’ grades as her and they would always say ‘why can’t you be more like your sister?’ I always acted like it didn’t bother me, but this started since elementary all the way to high school, we would hear it constantly. Even my older sister hated that they did that because it wasn’t exactly encouragement.
We acted like it didn’t bother us, but it did eventually because we started doing other things that we considered accomplishments that they never seemed to brag about, unlike my older sister’s brain. I like to think my twin and I are very talented artists in our own way. We were also really good runners for our cross country team, being the top 2 runners.
Our parents never seemed to qualify our talent for running and art as something to compare us to. It did make me feel better though when I was once talking to my older sister about it that she told me that she wished she had artistic talent like my twin and I and that she could run at least a mile without being out of breath (she’s overweight).
I did manage though to graduate with a 3.8 GPA and in the top 11% of our graduating class and I now run cross country for a university with a scholarship.
Also, ever since I was young, I was emotionally abused by my dad to where when I started talking with a therapist towards my ending years of high school, she diagnosed me with severe depression and PTSD.
Also PSA, emotional abuse is a real thing. My dad never once struck me, but it didn’t mean I didn’t grow up with mental scars that hold me back as an adult. My mom on the other hand has hit me multiple times for disciplinary reasons and I still love her. Never once was I scared of her growing up as much as I was my dad.”
“Where Are You Going?”
“Well, I was straight out not allowed to be angry. It wasn’t a written rule, but that’s how it worked.
No matter the problem at hand or even if it was a completely reasonable thing to be upset about, putting an angry face, raising my voice, or changing my voice tone would result in my mother getting very aggressive. And suddenly the actual problem was forgotten and it was all about the attitude.
The only way to actually solve some problem was to repress the anger as much as possible. But then she wouldn’t take the problems seriously, because obviously I wasn’t upset over them. But saying something like This makes me very angry, even with a fully calm voice, would just get her angry because nothing was ever a reason for me to be angry, apparently.
But not for her. She did could show her anger as much as she wanted.
Then she doesn’t understand why I don’t like to share my problems with her.
I guess she’s like that because Grandpa used to be one of those angry guys who started shouting very loud at the tiniest issue. I didn’t get to know him, but everything she’s told me about him went in the same direction. So I guess she’s just scared of aggression and that’s why she reacts so strongly to it.
Grandpa likely wasn’t allowed emotions as a kid. It was also times of war, which likely messed with him, too.
Sometimes people can be hard to understand, but there’s always a reason.”
Name Calling Makes No One Better
“My stepmom called me names when I was younger and since my dad was strict about us kids listening to her, I ended up believing much of what she told me I was. She straight up called me a b-word, brown noser, etc). I really hurt my self esteem and I had very dark thoughts for like 4 years after that. I still have issues today after graduating because she more recently very heavily insinuated that all 7 of ‘her’ kids (step and biological) were overweight and needed to eat less carbs to cut off those pounds. She told me when I was losing motivation to do well in school that I was supposed to be ‘one of the smart kids’ (I skipped a grade). Told me I was the reason she wanted to divorce my dad. She’s also super passive aggressive whenever I go over to my dad’s, no matter who’s there: my guests, her guests, visiting family; anyone can see it.
And guess what? Last year I told my dad about all of this, and she hadn’t breathed a word of any of the crap she did to me for the past near decade of my life, minus the ‘diet’ thing. But really?? Are you kidding me??
Tips for parents: Don’t call your kids names. Don’t tell them they look bad, fat, or demean them, even jokingly, unless you know they aren’t taking it seriously and joke back (the real kicker for younger me). Don’t blame them for your crazy problems. And please, never compare your kids, ESPECIALLY not straight to their faces.
Don’t be rude. You can mess up a whole person in a matter of seconds. Take the time to listen and create a healthy relationship with your child. They’re important, too; this family thing ain’t just about you.”
“My mom was a yeller and she yells even on the littlest things. For her, that’s her normal way of ‘explaining’ or expressing her emotions.
Anyway, every time she yells, I never responded growing up. I was just dead silent. She embarrasses me in front of a crowd, yells at me, and I just stay quiet. No answering back or explanation of my side. No nods or anything.
As a grown up, I am introverted and quite reserved. I couldn’t keep up a conversation or comfortably make small talk. I feel like all her yelling and me repressing my feelings have been major causes as to why I couldn’t properly articulate how I feel, why I couldn’t communicate as well, etc.
Also, my friends say that I’m super chill and quite friendly (I am very selective of people I choose to keep as friends, it all depends on who I vibe with). They’ve never seen me mad, even if they’ve known me for years. However, I’ve noticed that I do yell and show my impatient and irritable side to my boyfriend and my brother only — people who really do know me. It sucks ‘cause my boyfriend sees how I’m super nice to my friends, yet super sensitive and agitated at him. It’s my truest form, to be honest. He understands and appreciates how I could completely show my bare and honest side to him, but he sometimes gets jealous of my friends because I never raise my voice at them. I try to control my emotions, but it’s hard for me to keep my sanity in front of people that already truly know me. It’s a lot easier to be nice to people who don’t actually know you.”
Shaming Will Never Work
“Well the first thing that comes to mind is when I was a kid, my dad used to shame me for not being more athletic or into sports. In early childhood, his idea of getting me into sports would be to interrupt whenever I was playing or doing something and force me to go outside and toss a ball around with my brother, who also didn’t want to be there until we had completed some sort of goal, like 20 consecutive passes. If we failed, we were shamed for not being physically adept like ‘all the other kids.’- I was six. It would be even worse when we had to ‘play catch’ with him, as he would throw it really hard at our hands and shame us for not being able to catch it despite having the force of a SUV.
Whenever we were on the playground and some kid did something impressive like shoot a basket, he would be like, ‘Why don’t you guys do that? That kid shouldn’t be better than you are.’ Suffice to say, I came to really avoid any sport at all, and all the ones that I was in, I learned to hate, because he would always be so serious about them. I avoided sports and became pudgy. Then both my parents would make shame me. They would force me to go outside for a set amount of time each day in the summer in order to make sure I was ‘getting the exercise I needed.’
One time, I came back from Taekwondo (they forced me to do it, my dad would go with me to the lessons and be super extra) with my brother and my mom just blew up at us, calling me lazy, fat, ugly, stupid (I had only ever gotten straight A’s up till then, and despite being fat, I don’t think I was ugly) she went in on me and my brother for 30 minutes straight, we were crying really really hard, and had hidden under the table to save some face. She followed us to the table and started yelling at us from above, proceeding to go on for another 20 minutes at least. My dad, only after my mom had finished, had said she wasn’t completely wrong. This is only one of the many abusive episodes my mother had. I was in the 6th grade.
In the summer before 8th grade, I got sick of it all, and started running really hard and only eating one meal a day to lose weight. I finally became skinny. When people would try to insult me about being scrawny, I would smile and say ‘yeah, you’re right.’ In 9th grade I got really into weights and put on a lot of muscle. All without any support from my parents. Oh, also they held me back in preschool for no reason other than they “felt you needed a little more time” and so I was I became socially confused and ashamed for getting held back, I never had many friends at my school. So now, I’m 17, going into junior year, 5’11”, 187 pounds of muscle with around 12 percent body fat, blue eyes, dark hair, with the confidence of a verbally abused middle schooler.”
“I’m A Cool Mom”
“My mother tried to be a ‘cool mom.’ She was always sure to let me know that I could bring my friends over whenever I’d like, that she’d be there to support me if I wanted to try any substances. She was vocal about how her own parents tried to control her social life, and assured me that she’d never be like that.
This is good, but these weren’t the problems I had. I was bullied relentlessly, and as such had no social group at all. Because I was ‘such a smart, quiet girl,’ I was treated like a tiny adult, expected to show an adult’s level of emotional maturity and just ‘figure out’ how to solve my own challenges. She wanted so much to give me the childhood she never had that she had no idea how to deal with the childhood I ended up with.
Oh, for extra fun, my first real, actual, persistent friendships occurred over the internet in the late 90’s, which my parents didn’t know or trust. They didn’t believe that people I met and interacted with online counted as ‘real,’ and my mother did, ironically, wind up limiting my social interactions just like hers did.
Needless to say I’m an awkward adult, incapable of being truly close with anyone and with a tendency to see social interaction more like a complex puzzle than anything else.”
“She shared EVERY detail of her life with me. My mom would always tell me how I’m her best friend and every breath she takes and she wouldn’t know what to do without me. It sounds nice but was so consuming and smothering. She’s get so upset if I became to close to friends and point out their flaws to me. Any boyfriend I had she’d tell me he wasn’t good enough, not trustworthy, or point out everything that was ‘off’ about him. She tried so hard to hold me close to her and cut everyone out so it’d just be me and her. I left to Arizona in the middle of the night and couldn’t bring myself to return until two years later so I could actually just live my own life. She’s getting help but she still consumes me when I’m around I feel like I’m downing in her she still tries to convince me to be single, leave my good relationship and live with her trying to glorify it all but I’ve gotten help and I know how to tell her no and explain I need my space. But parents.. Your kids aren’t your friends, the your kids. Let them grow and be their own person. Have your own life too you guys deserve it”
Dad Is A Hot Head
“My dad has a short fuse, so he’d get frustrated and angry really easily. He especially hated it when us kids were upset about something. When my brother and I were in middle school, he told us we’d be moving from Illinois to Texas. We were pretty upset because, you know, we’re kids. We both started to cry at the dinner table and he yelled at us for it. I think he felt bad so he lashed out. So we were obviously incredibly upset but couldn’t show it.
A couple years later when I was at peak high school hormones, I got in a fight with my older sister who was home from college. I’d gone upstairs to get a coat, and when I came back, he was shouting ‘I’m sick of tiptoeing around your feelings!’ Yeah, you literally have never done that. But thanks for making it clear how difficult this horrible time in my life is FOR YOU. This was over 20 years ago and it’s always stuck with me.
Just the littlest things would set him off, either at us our our mom. He was stressed all the time, supporting a family of 6 and was really bad at coping.
He’s not a bad guy, and he’s mellowed out some as he’s gotten older. But when he gets overwhelmed he still lashes out. It affected my romantic relationships and has made it hard for me to validate my own feelings.
I would never tell him this. At 70 years old, I think he’d be pretty devastated to learn that all 4 of his kids grew up afraid of him, that his daughters are terrified of confrontation, and his sons’ anger issues are (I think) a direct result of our dad’s temper.
It’s crazy though. I wasn’t abused in any way, and we all STILL have trauma. Makes you wonder if any parent can get through it without damaging their kids in some way.”