23 ways you didn't realize you're offending your children
23 ways you didn't realize you're offending your children
Parents have a tendency to drive their kids crazy. Generations have different social rules and expectations, sure. And parents almost always have their children's best interests at heart. But you may be saying things that are rude or offensive without even realizing it. This might not be fun to hear, but you don't always know what's best. Here are some common mistakes parents make that offend their children.
Pressuring them to get married
In years past, etiquette and expectations dictated that people get married in their 20s or early 30s. But it's the 21st century, people. Times have changed, and your children may not get married until much later. Don't pressure your child into marriage. It's unlikely they'll listen to you, and if they do, the pressure could influence them to stay in or pursue a relationship that's actually toxic.
Asking about future grandkids
It seems like as soon as a couple gets married, the mother or father of the bride or groom starts asking about grandkids. Don't be that parent. You may be hoping to see grandchildren before you reach old age, but that may not happen. Deciding whether or not to have children is a personal decision. Practice your patience and let your children come to you with the big news. Some couples can't have children, so your seemingly innocent inquiry is actually one of the rudest questions you can ask.
Commenting on their weight
Everyone's heard some iteration of body shaming from their parents. Even the supposed compliments ("Eat something, you're so thin!") can be tough to hear. It is never OK to comment on your child's weight. Asking them if they've lost weight, giving them weight loss tips, telling them they're thin or mentioning body changes in any way should be avoided. These things can all have serious negative effects on their mental health, ranging from a dip in self-esteem to a full-blown eating disorder.
Commenting on their appearance
Weight-related comments are especially important to avoid, but you really shouldn't be critical of any aspect of your child's appearance. Wardrobe choices and hairstyle opinions are personal and are an important way for your child to express who they are. Critiquing their appearance comes across as a critique of their inherent worth as a human being. You may want to limit the number of compliments you pay towards your child's looks, as well. Focusing praise on appearance rather than other aspects (personality, interests, intelligence, etc.) can make your child feel like looks are the most important thing. Believing that appearance is what matters most can contribute to body image issues and insecurity.
Commenting on their parenting
You shouldn't really comment on anyone's parenting decisions. But many parents feel entitled to comment on how their children raise their grandkids. Never contradict the parenting decisions of your child in front of their kids. Having grandchildren can change your life, but try not to impose your own rules.
Asking when they're moving home
Some parents bug their children about moving back to their hometown. The answer to "When are you moving home, honey?" might be "Never." And that's OK! Yes, you miss your child dearly now that they've left the nest, but you need to let them fly free.
Taking credit for their accomplishments
Your children might have gotten their beauty and their brains from you, but more than just genetics helped them achieve their dreams. Don't take credit for their positive qualities and their accomplishments. Celebrate them for their efforts!
Preaching your politics
Children sometimes stray from the political beliefs of their parents. You need to accept that your child is an individual with opinions and thoughts of their own. As tempting as it may be to preach your politics, allow them to make these decisions for themselves. Telling them how to feel about political issues can come across as belittling and rude.
Pressuring your religion
Religion, like politics, is a personal choice. You can teach your children about your religion if it's important to you, but let them decide on their own what to believe. Forcing your kids to go to church or telling them they'll go to hell, for instance, could backfire and make your child resent religion (and you!), instead.
Making comments about race, religion or sexual orientation
Older generations have a reputation for being less tolerant than younger folks, but it's important to do your best to accept all groups of people and identities. Your biases may be unintentional, but they can still be offensive. You never know who your child really is or who their friends and loved ones are. Do your best to learn about social issues and movements. Try to learn your biases and eradicate them. Take steps to support the LGBTQ community. And most importantly, let your child express their identity in whatever ways they please.
If you're upset about something, be direct about it. Nothing is worse than a passive-aggressive family member. Be mature and talk through conflict, don't let it fester while you mutter snide comments under your breath.
Making choices for them
Some parents get so caught up in their child's life that they end up trying to take over their decisions. Everything from what to wear to a big interview to which career path to pursue should be decided by the person themselves. It may be tempting to micromanage your child's life or influence their decisions. After all, you don't want them to make the wrong choice! But messing up sometimes is an important part of learning and growing up. Plus, you might not actually know what's best for them. The best judge of that is probably your child.
Telling them to leave you alone
Never tell your child to leave you alone. Children of all ages crave love and attention. Yes, they can get annoying, but don't let your short patience get the best of you. Causing your child to feel unloved and pushed away could have long-term effects.
Calling your children any sort of name or labeling them with personality traits is really not OK. For a child to hear you call them nosy, picky, annoying or another negative train can be hurtful. And even a seemingly benign comment like "You're so shy!" or "Kelly's such a klutz" could actually be offensive and embarrassing.
Invading their privacy
It's never OK to invade your child's privacy. Don't rummage through their room when they're not home. Avoid eavesdropping on their private conversations. If they keep a journal, don't read it. You may be worried or want to protect your child, but being invasive is dishonest and can build resentment when they inevitably find out that you snooped.
Speaking for them
There's nothing worse than when someone asks you a question and your mom pipes up with a (sometimes incorrect) answer. "Oh, Sophie loves asparagus." "Noah wants to go to school for medicine! Don't you, Noah?" Maybe not! Pipe down and let your kid speak for themselves.
Dismissing their emotions
People need to feel heard and validated by the people they love. If they have feelings they want to talk through, listen to them. If they are upset about something, it's worth addressing. Don't dismiss your child's feelings or tell them not to express them. And never, ever tell your child not to cry.
Not respecting their belongings
One of the first things you should do once your kids move out is to clean up their room. But don't throw things away without asking. Tell your child what you're doing with their belongings and when you're repurposing their bedroom. Yes, it's your house, but it was their home once, too. Their room and their childhood belongings probably mean a lot to them.
Comparing them to their siblings
Growing up with siblings sets kids up for all kinds of comparisons at school already. One child is usually thought of as smarter, better at sports or more outgoing. Any quiet kid knows it's the worst to hear "You're so shy compared to your sister!" And being compared to the shining GPA of an older sibling can make a child feel discouraged or ashamed. Try not to contribute to the comparison game as a parenting tactic. It's annoying and, frankly, offensive to be told that a sibling is better at something than you are. Your kids should feel that they are all admired and respected equally.
Trying to change them
No matter if you're 5 years old or 31, it can be tough to feel like you aren't accepted by your parents. Don't try to change your children. It's one of the worst things you can do as a parent and role model. Guide them in the right direction and lead by example, but if your child has a quirk or trait that concerns you, don't try to alter it. If your daughter doesn't want to be a lawyer, you can't make her. And if your (adult) son wants to cover himself in tattoos, that's his decision.
"Projecting" is a phenomenon common in toxic relationships wherein someone projects their own flaws or struggles onto someone else. For instance, a parent who is irresponsible with money may tell their child that they are recklessly spending even though they aren't. Another example might be a mother who feels she hasn't had enough career success putting too much pressure on their child to achieve. This is something you should avoid doing in all of your relationships, but especially with your children. Parents' projection can cause a child to change their behavior in order to live up to expectations or lash out if they feel they are being accused of something unfairly.
Telling them how to spend their money
Once your child has become an adult, it's no longer acceptable for you to critique their spending. Their finances are their business. You can express concern or have a discussion. But don't tell them what to do. What you should tell them is how to do their taxes, open a savings account and understand paperwork. They don't teach financial planning in school, unfortunately. Make sure to prepare them for adulthood with this information and other pieces of advice financial planners wish people knew.
Complaining about how often they call
Don't complain to your child about how often or rarely they call you. Telling them they call too often can make them feel like a burden, while complaining they don't call enough comes across as clingy. Either way, you're making them feel guilty. You may not always be free when they need you, but telling them you're always available to talk is one of the few lies it's OK to tell your kids.
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