Fact: Kids get annoyed by their parents. If you think your very existence isn’t making them constantly roll their eyes and groan under their breath, you’re living in a fantasy world. That’s just the parent-child dynamic. But you can lessen some of that pressure. They’ll never completely accept you as a non-embarrassing human being whose sole purpose isn’t to humiliate them in front of their peers—because, c’mon, you both know that isn’t true—but there are ways to broker a peace, where you’re only mortifying to them some of the time.
The first step is acceptance. You have to take a long, hard look at your own behavior. Not through normal, rational eyes. But through the eyes of a kid, who perceives the world in a very different way than the rest of us. The things you think are no big deal are actually, from their vantage, egregious acts of a monster parent. But you can change. Maybe not everything you do, but enough to remove a few landmines in the distance between you and them.
Here are 30 ways you’re annoying your kids, along with a few suggestions on how you can repair some of the damage. And to find out what else is off-limits when it comes to children, check out the 25 Worst Things You Can Say to Your Kids.
What are you, the FBI? Is this an interrogation? Kids might have plenty to say about their day, but they recoil at direct questions. If you actually want to find out if they learned anything at school or made any new friends, keep your mouth shut and let it come up organically. And if you believe everything you kid says, be forewarned: Here are 40 Lies Kids Say That Parents Always Fall For.
Nothing makes a kid lose their mind like being asked to pose for the hundredth photo in a 10-minute span. Good Lord, does every single waking moment of their lives need to be documented? If you really need one more photo, which is exactly the same as every other photo of them on your phone, at least try to be sneaky and unobtrusive about it. Snap a pic when they’re not paying attention.
Not every kid is concerned if their hair is a tangled mess, or they look like they just woke up from sleeping in a dumpster during a rainstorm. Coming at them with a comb or brush can feel to them like they’re being stalked with a rusty pocket knife. As a parent it’s important to choose your battles, and trust us, this one can’t be won. To avoid even more fighting, check out 30 Things Moms Should Never Say in Front of Their Daughters.
Every parent lectures their children about how TV and video games are rotting their brain but we don’t always have the courage to follow-through. Kids know that, and that’s why they freak out when our threats don’t turn out to be hollow. Take away their screen time, and it feels like you’re denying them food and water.
By interaction, we don’t mean long, drawn-out conversations. We mean just making fleeting eye contact and saying, “Hello.” Any attempt to acknowledge the existence of their friends can only be interpreted as an attempt to embarrass them in front of their peers. If you want to keep them happy, treat their friends like you’re encountering an ex on the street, from a relationship that ended badly. Just stare at your feet, remain quiet, and hope they don’t notice you.
Bananas and apple slices? Are you kidding me? The occasional piece of fresh fruit is fine, but any kid with working taste buds is going to demand more bang from their snack options. They want a snack drawer or pantry shelf that looks like a Willy Wonka fever dream. Failing to provide this can only mean one thing: You don’t really love them. And for more great parenting advice, here are the 30 Worst Parenting Mistakes Everyone Makes.
You could be a classically trained vocalist, able to hit all the notes with perfect vibrato, and your kids will still cringe like you’re a drunkard fumbling his way through a karaoke song. As long as the intention is to mortify them, you’re fine. But if you think they’re watching with hushed reference, amazed at why you didn’t become your generation’s Justin Timberlake, you’re fooling yourself.
It goes hand-in-hand with singing. You think you’re busting some sweet moves, and all your kids see is an uncoordinated grown-up who still doesn’t realize that The Robot is not within his or her skill set.
Homework is the IRS tax audit of the kid world. They know they can’t escape it, but they dread it with every bone in their body. When their parents bring it up, it’s never in a helpful way. Or at least that’s how it’s interpreted by kid ears.
You might think you’re saying something innocent like, “Don’t forget you have homework to do,” but all they hear is, “The clock is ticking! You won’t sleep tonight and you’ll fail in everything you try! You’ve disappointed me yet again!!”
This is an academic collaboration that was doomed from the start. Because communication just isn’t possible. You may be reading directly from the assignment, using the exact words of their teacher, and they’ll still feel backed into a corner. You’re pushing too hard, or not understanding, or making everything more complicated, or not complicated enough, why are you doing this to them?!
“Enforce” might seem like a strong word. You’re not a prison guard, after all. Oh, but you might as well be. Pointing out that bedtime is imminent is basically a hostile act on their personal freedom. Why would you selfishly point out the passage of time, as if you weren’t the secret architect behind it all, fiendishly plotting to rob them of precious moments? They may just crinkle their nose at you, but rest assured that somewhere in their head, they’re singing that big all-ensemble song from Les Miserables. “Do you hear the people sing? / Singing the song of angry men?!”
It’s like you don’t even care about that hastily drawn crayon masterpiece that they finished in five minutes and then forgot existed after you put it up on the refrigerator! Clearly the message you’re sending them is, “Your talent doesn’t matter and you should just give up now.” How… could… you?
Picture this: You’re at a restaurant with your family, just trying to enjoy a simple meal. You give the server your order, and then this big brute who calls themselves your parent interrupts to say, “Could you substitute broccoli for the fries?” Fiiiiine. While they’re at it, why not just make every meal a big bowl of tasteless paste? Cause obviously you don’t want them to experience JOY anymore!!
There has to be a better way to remove a smudge or food particles from your child’s face. When they see that wet thumb hurtling towards them, ready to attack their cheek like a Silkwood shower, it sends a shudder down their spine. They’re not recoiling because they oppose having their face cleaned. But the difference between a moist towelette and your spit-soaked thumb is like the difference between a nice shower and getting sprayed down with a garden hose.
Yes, refueling a body with the nutrients it needs to survive is important. But is it going to help a kid survive the kill-or-be-killed dystopian nightmare-scape of Fortnite? Your inability to understand how a third-person shooter game is more important than sitting at a table, pretending to eat vegetables and ignoring questions about what they did with their day is making them feel legitimately insane.
Just walk away. You can revisit the subject at a later time. Like when they’re 30.
If they have no choice but to accompany you on a grocery expedition, fine. But let’s at least prioritize. How much on this so-called “list” do you actually need? We can tell without looking that you’ve probably gone way overboard with the fruits and vegetables. Allow your kid to pare it down to the essentials. Pop Tarts. Boom, you’re done! What was so hard about that?
You know your phone takes photos too, right? You don’t have to whip out that big iPad and start pointing it everywhere, like you’re shielding yourself with a three-ring binder. Every time you do that, you make your kids want to follow the same safety advice of surviving a house fire: Stop, drop, and roll.
Oh really, the temperature today could fluctuate a few degrees below normal, so we might want to bring a sweater or at least a light windbreaker, unless we’re worried about that 20% chance of rain prediction, then maybe we should bring a slicker, but nothing too heavy because OH MY GOD, please make it stop!! A parent talking about what the weather “might be” is the kid equivalent of waterboarding.
It’s like when kids in the 60s were confronted by parents who insisted on saying things like, “That’s groovy, I can dig it.” They don’t think you’re cool now. In fact, the exact opposite.
A parent is always better served by being (or at least appearing to be) out of the know. Once you start dropping slang—“That girl you were talking to, is that your bae?”—not only have you given a kid justifiable cause for leaving home and becoming a full-time train hobo, you’ve ruined your poker face. They know what you know. Feign ignorance, and you have a much better chance of gaining important intel. And remember: always steer clear of the 40 Words People Over 40 Shouldn’t Use.
Three words: Get… a… room. Yes, kids are very happy that their parents feel genuine affection towards each other. But that affection should be communicated in ways that are kid-approved and non-gross. Like, just smiling at each other. Or holding hands for five seconds until their kids notice and then immediately releasing your grip with extreme prejudice.
If you seriously want a hug and/or kiss from your kid, act like a normal person and request it before leaving the house, and definitely before the window shades are open or there’s any natural sunlight anywhere near either of you, which could expose your parent-child affections to the sneering gaze of an unforgiving outside world.
You leave them only one choice: To leave town and change their name, in fact change their whole identity. They have to go into the witness protection program. Seriously, what else can they do? The way you leaned in for a kiss, and it landed right on their cheek and stayed there for several seconds? How could your kid possibly live that down? They have the Mark of the Beast now. You have undone them.
Yes, it makes no sense. Why not just play Minecraft rather than watch a guy who looks like he lives in his parents’ basement play Minecraft for hour after hour after hour? How is that entertainment? Just asking the question means you’re painfully out of touch, and the extent of your video game knowledge likely begins and ends with the original Super Mario Bros.
It doesn’t feel like you’re asking a lot. You just don’t want them to use the toilet like it’s a bullseye they have no intention of hitting. Or to leave wet towels on the floor, or specks of toothpaste on the vanity mirror, or god knows what that is in the sink.
Your reasonable requests, however, are greeted as if you’re a health inspector looking to shut down the family business. What bribe do they have to cough up to make you go away? To learn about the best ways to clean up after your kids, check out 20 Amazing Tricks for Cleaning Your Bathroom.
Imagine being a kid again, and your parents suddenly have the ability to say something to you, or share a photo, or (heaven help us) a “joke,” and that exchange can be witnessed by everyone you know and everyone you could ever possibly know. That’s the horror show modern kids have to contend with. How embarrassed are they? A 2017 British study found that 14%, or just over one in ten kids, are more embarrassed by their parents online than in real life. This is definitely one of the reasons why you should be so happy you’re not a teen right now.
If you insist on telling your kids a “hilarious” tale from your childhood, make sure it adheres to these two rules: One, it has a point. Whether it’s “our phones were attached to the wall” or “and that’s when I learned that you’re only responsible for yourself,” have a destination or moral in mind. Two, is your story longer than a Looney Tunes cartoon? If so, don’t bother. You’re heading straight for “I get it, I geeeeeeet it” territory.
Asking a kid to take out the trash or empty the dishwasher might seem harmless, or even an opportunity for them to learn about the value of hard work, but to them it’s nothing short of community service. They’re only doing it because the other option is incarceration.
You can encourage them all you want, but your “good job” praise is falling on deaf ears. You might as well be a parole officer, signing off on their paperwork and reminding them with a glare not to skip town.
You will never convince them that Empire Strikes Back is a better movie than The Last Jedi or even Rogue One. It’s just never going to happen. It’d be like arguing that the Marx Brothers are intrinsically more comedically talented than Teen Titans Go. Pull your hair out all you want, you’re not changing their mind. If anything, you’re just making them more annoyed that you’re so stuck in the past.
No, that photo of them as a baby, hairless and slobbering, waddling around the kitchen floor like a pantless penguin, is most certainly is not “a-dor-a-ble.” It is a public attack on their character.
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