10 Things I Thought Were Caused By Bad Parenting Before I Had My Own Kids

At some point as a parent, you come to the humbling realization that kids do things that defy logic, reason, and decorum, despite everything you’re trying to teach them.

Here are ten things I used to attribute to bad parenting for before I had children of my own:

1. Tantrumming

What ever made me think parents could stop a toddler from tantrumming in the middle of a tantrum? It’s like trying to stop a train. A really loud train. A really loud, out-of-control train that comes out of nowhere, and all you can do is dive headfirst onto the tracks and hold on for dear life while it barrels past above you. You can try speaking soft, calm words to slow the train down, but, well . . . it’s a freaking train. Good luck with that.

2. Whining

Want to know how many times I’ve said “I can’t understand you when you whine” to my kids? 5,273,926, give or take a few. Seriously, kids don’t whine because it works. They whine because they like the sound of their whiny voices. And because Caillou.

3. Nose-picking

Every kid I know. At home and in public. They eventually outgrow it, but until then it’s a daily battle for years and years. Sometimes they just sit there with their finger shoved up their nostril, not even moving it. Just sitting there. Ew.

4. Not Responding When Someone Speaks to Them

Two of my children have been non-responders, despite repetitive talks about it being rude to ignore people when they talk to you. One of them responds to people in her head and doesn’t realize that the words didn’t actually come out of her mouth. The other just pulls a Marshawn Lynch and doesn’t respond if he doesn’t have anything to say. Shyness is a tricky business.

5. Not Going to Sleep

Some nights, our youngest child can lay in bed for two and a half hours in a dark room and not fall asleep. No exaggeration. 150 minutes. He’ll talk to himself, sing, occasionally call out to tell us he’s not sleeping (as if we can’t tell). It doesn’t matter if we’ve run him ragged all day. It doesn’t matter how calm and soothing our bedtime routine is. It’s crazy. The kid’s a night owl.

6. Being Loud

Some kids have no volume control. Their voices are just LOUD. They don’t have to be yelling or screaming or anything—their voices just pierce the air. Even their whispers are loud. There’s really nothing you can do about it short of muzzling them.

7. Fibbing

One of our kids was born habitually honest. I was that way as a kid, too. I remember the one time I lied to my mother, and I still feel ashamed about it. But our other two have gone through the normal little kid fibbing stage, despite our consistently talking about the importance of truthfulness from very early on.

I couldn’t believe it the first time one of my kids lied to my face. How do you even do that? They say it’s a sign of intelligence. Sure, let’s go with that. It’s better than the “OMG, my kid’s gonna be a sociopath” line of thinking.

8. Not Washing Hands after Using the Bathroom

Washing hands was part of our potty training process from the get go. We ALWAYS washed hands after using the toilet—sang the ABC song, talked about germs, the whole kit and kaboodle. Every. Single. Time.

And yet it still took a good SIX OR SEVEN YEARS for them to routinely remember to wash hands every time they went to the bathroom on their own. I can now add “expert hand-smeller” to my resumé.

9. Chewing with Their Mouths Open


“Please chew with your mouth closed.”

Ten seconds.


“Sweetie? PLEASE chew with your mouth CLOSED.”

Ten seconds.


“Sweets. CLOSE YOUR MOUTH when you chew.”

Ten seconds.


“Honey, seriously. You have to get out of the habit of chewing with your mouth open. What if you go to other people’s houses and chew like that?”

“I don’t chew like that at other people’s houses.”

Blank stare.

“Well, please don’t chew like that at our house, either. It doesn’t matter who you’re around—nobody wants to hear you chomping your breakfast cereal.”

Ten seconds.


It’s like talking to a wall.

 10. All the Other Gross Things

We were at a friend’s house the other day, and I walked into the kitchen and found my kid’s wadded up, dirty socks on the kitchen counter.

MY KID’S DIRTY SOCKS. ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER. AT OUR FRIEND’S HOUSE. Not my youngest kid, either—one of my older-than-a-decade-and-really-should-know-better children. I don’t even know what to do with that.

Picture a kid from a super nice family with super stellar parents peeing on his brother’s toothbrush. Yeah, that happened.

Our 5-year-old pretty much licked his way through Disney World last year. We had to tell him to take his mouth off of every blessed handrail in the park. I’m not even a germaphobe, and it made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

So. Many. Gross. Things.

Do we teach our kids these things? No. Do they learn them other places? Maybe. Do we do our darnedest to teach them otherwise? YES. Does it always work? Clearly not.

I used to think kids who misbehaved, or who seemed rude, or who did gross things must have something “off” at home. Obviously, their parents didn’t know how to teach proper behavior. (Can I please go back in time and smack myself?)

Now I know that they were likely just normal kids, and their normal parents were just as shocked at what they were doing as I was. There’s a reason it takes 18 years (at least) to raise responsible, socially adept, non-disgusting humans.

Fingers crossed.


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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 32

  1. Not washing hands after using the bathroom. That one is a biggie and you just don’t want to count how many times you have( and still have) to remind them. After all is said and done, we’re not bad parents. We’ll survive and get over the challenges (both real and imagined).

  2. I so dislike Caillou….he gets on my nerves. Glad my children out grew him. On a separate note…the hand washing….I’ve taught to my own children from the very beginning how important it is, even before learning to go potty by themselves, yet they still will try to get out of it . I couldn’t figure out why my son was peeing all over the floors, walls….basically every where except inside the toliet. Until one day I walked in on him and notice he wasn’t holding on to his penis as he peed. I yelled, “grab it and point in the toliet”. He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “no I don’t want to do that cuz than I have to wash my hands.” Yep I died after he said that. Lol.

  3. Yeah, freakin’ Caillou… my mom had banned Barney from our household, I think I’m banning Caillou. I hate that it’s one of the most popular shows on Sprout! :'(

  4. So you’re telling me my baby will be gross and rude no matter how hard I try to teach him otherwise? LOL this parenting thing will be a trip! Great post 🙂

  5. The lack of hand washing, the chomping, the being loud, the fibbing and the whining. So many of these occur in this house. I’ve even had them make signs for themselves as a reminder. That’s more for me so I can refer to the sign instead of repeating myself over and over.

  6. I would add to love your children no matter what… they will do things that break your heart but don’t write them off they aren’t perfect. I know it’s not gross or loud or embarrassing but it’s the one thing I wish my parents did….

  7. The chomping? I was sitting waiting for eldest to finish up her class at the junior college the other day — I said COLLEGE — when I nearly stood up on the quad and screamed, “For goodness sakes, people, you are COLLEGE — I said COLLEGE — students! Chew with your mouths closed!!! My 14 year old taking a class here chews with her mouth closed (my other 2 don’t, but I didn’t want to yell that); you can too!!!”

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