9 Common (but Harmful) Parenting Tactics

People on Reddit are sharing the most problematic parenting strategies that need to be denormalized STAT.

Chances are, you know plenty of the discipline techniques your parents used might not be acceptable by today's standards. And all you need to do is hop on TikTok to see that millennial and Gen Z parents aren't fans of certain old-school ideas (like emphasizing virginity). So now, Redditors are hoping to call attention to parenting tactics that some parents still use but are quite toxic.

Redditor u/TheYeet56 kicked off the thread by asking, "What is a normal parenting tactic that shouldn't be considered normal?" Read on for nine of the top responses.

An image of a hand saying no on a colorful background.
Getty Images (2). Art: Jillian Sellers.

1. Comparing a Child to Their Sibling(s)

u/llcucf80 points out that comparing your kid to their siblings deserves to be denormalized. "The good old, 'Why can't you be more like your brother/sister?' does nothing for their self-esteem and really can keep them from becoming their own person. That's all they should be anyway—themselves, not their siblings."

u/Platinum--Jug adds, "This also makes one sibling resent the other and probably increases stress in the other sibling."

These Redditors have a good point. A study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that when parents compare siblings, it may impact the way parents treat their children and how children behave. Further, it can result in parent-child conflict.

2. Treating a Kid Like Your Therapist

"Telling your kids your personal problems," is another no-no, according to u/Designer_jpg. "Like, 'Your dad is horrible; he didn't even do the dishes. I hate my marriage.' Your kids are not your therapist. Also, they can't do anything to solve your problem. Instead, address your issues with your spouse and a therapist."

This dynamic where a parent receives emotional support from their child is known as parentification and is harmful to kids. For example, a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that youth exposed to parentification had poorer competency in their close friendships. In addition, researchers concluded that parentification might lead to poor youth outcomes because of the inappropriate burden and developmentally inappropriate responsibilities.

3. Invalidating Their Feelings

Just because children are young doesn't mean their emotions are unworthy of attention. u/GABBA_GH0UL describes this as "Invalidating their emotions, be it ignoring or shutting them down."

Invalidation doesn't just feel bad; it's also a risk factor for some mental health conditions. For example, research has found that, under the right genetic and environmental conditions, chronic childhood invalidation is a risk factor for developing borderline personality disorder (BPD).

4. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that causes someone to question their reality. Gaslighting may look like refuting your child's memory of something, telling them they are overreacting, or blaming them for your problems.

u/talkingtothemoon condemns parents "gaslighting their children into believing things that are simply not true in order to defend themselves."

u/Damn_Dog_Inappropes says it's all too common, adding, "My mom has completely rewritten my childhood."

5. Not Allowing Disagreement

"Getting mad for 'disrespect' or 'talking back' when their kids win an argument," writes u/TurtleLurtle37.

"My dad would get mad at me for being "rude" and "disrespectful" when I would explain how I felt about something when he didn't agree. All it taught me was not to express my feelings to him. He was shocked when I went no contact at 27 because "things were going so great!"

Instead, model mutual respect by being a good listener and being open to your child's differing points of view.

6. Calling Your Child "Spoiled"

"I do think it's absurd how often parents will speak of their own child as 'spoiled' for having all kinds of nice possessions like video game systems, cell phones, cars, as if that wasn't entirely the parent's choice," points out u/should-stop-posting. "If you don't think your kid should have those things for free, then don't buy them for the kid. Don't shower gifts on your child and then act like the child is a bad person for owning them."

7. Using Humilation and Embarrassment as Punishment

Doing this as punishment is a no-no, wrote u/SubOptimalGoat. While shaming kids as a form of punishment may be a social media trend, it's not effective and is harmful. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against verbal abuse that leads to shame or humiliation because of its negative impact on kids' self-esteem.

8. Not Explaining Your Decisions

"Like, 'You have to do this because I'm your mom/dad, and I say so. End of discussion!'" notes u/Pohjoiset_Revontulet. "Instead, you can bring your kids on board with sooo many of the decisions you make for them if you take the time to explain your reasoning to them. Kids understand more than a lot of parents think—just give them a chance."

9. Not Dealing With Your Trauma

Many of the issues above likely stem from parents failing to do their own self-work before raising kids. As u/sargeantsunflower points out, "[Don't have kids] before [going] to therapy to address your own childhood trauma, as this just causes undue trauma on the kids."

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