40 Things No Parent Ever Wants to Hear
If you have children, these are the things you'd really rather go unsaid.
No matter the circumstances, adding another human into this already complicated thing we call life will, of course, present some unique challenges. The unavoidable hardships of being a parent will test your mettle like almost nothing else can—so often is that the case that these battles can feel unending. It's why people say parenting, more than anything else, is the world's toughest job. Part of having that tough job is dealing with any number of tasks, problems, and challenges being thrown at you left and right. And these are often exacerbated by the manner in which certain information is communicated to you. Whether it's from your own child or just a particularly snarky, opinionated neighbor, there are plenty of things parents never want to hear—ever.
"But Emma's mom let us have ice cream!"
Even if you won't admit it, you probably want to be seen as a cool parent—you know, the one whose fashion sense has remained in the current decade and who always takes the soccer team out for ice cream after a big win. But often times, it's important to be a good parent, not a cool parent. And if that isn't a hard enough realization to come to, having to hear how cool some other parent in your child's friend group is should do the trick.
"I wish you weren't my parents."
Kids, by their very nature, are impulsive—meaning you're bound to hear some less-than-kind words from the mouths of babes. Unfortunately some of the things they say when overcome with emotion can be downright hurtful—claiming they wish they had a different family, for instance. And while no parent enjoys being on the receiving end of such a brutal critique, give it a week and they'll be singing a different tune.
"I'd rather be with my friends."
Even if you know in your heart of hearts that your kid would rather spend time with people their own age, it's never easy to hear that they don't want you around. The good news? Just a few years later, they'll be begging to come home to get your advice on everything from relationships to taxes.
"You love my brother/sister more than me."
You try to play fair with your kids, but it won't always feel that way to them. And while you may feel like you need to try to level the playing field, just know that even the most doted upon children feel this way about their parents' relationship with their siblings from time to time.
"I love dad/mom more."
Kids often vacillate when it comes to their affection toward one parent or another. But like most things with children, their feelings are bound to change quickly and frequently. Just because you're not their "favorite" today, doesn't mean you won't be tomorrow.
"But mom/dad said it was OK."
Mischievous kids constantly attempt to find the cracks in their parents' armor—which is why it's always beneficial to be on the same page as your co-parent, lest they use this line on you.
"I don't want to be like you when I'm older."
If you're a left-brained engineer, then they'll want to be a right-brained creative. If you're a filmmaker, they're off to Wall Street. After all, it's "totally uncool" to pursue your parents' passions. But rest assured, it's just teenage rebellion. In reality, parents have a significant influence on their children's career choices. In fact, a 2017 analysis by The New York Times found that sons were almost three times as likely to have the same job as their fathers, and daughters were almost two times as likely to follow in their mothers' footsteps.
"Don't tell me what to do."
It can be undeniably frustrating to hear your children insist that you stop giving them advice and instruction. After all, if you didn't tell them what to do, then they'd be sticking gum in their sister's hair every day and eating dryer lint for dinner.
"I hate you."
This phrase seems to get thrown around quite a bit in heated arguments between kids and parents, and it's hard not to take personally. Fortunately, unless you're guilty of some egregious parenting, odds are they don't mean it.
"You're such an [expletive]!"
Nobody likes being called names, and even when it sounds a little bit amusing coming from the mouth of someone who still can't say "spaghetti" properly, it still stings.
"I didn't do it!"
Ah, the sibling blame game. So you're telling me that you didn't make that mess that you're currently standing over? Suuure.
"Mom, MOM, mom, mom, mom, MOM…"
After a few years of parenting, you begin to forget what your own name—or silence—truly sounds like. And while you love the title parenthood has earned you, you love it a lot less when it's being screamed at you over and over when you're trying to read a book or catch a quick snooze.
"Your child has chickenpox."
It's a scenario pretty much every parent undergoes at some point—but that doesn't make it any easier. Ross says this sickness is "almost inevitable" for every child, but getting a call from the school nurse that "your kid's chickenpox lottery ticket has been called can be extremely annoying." Because you just know that for the next 10 days or so, you're going to be stuck trying to stop them from scratching all those itchy red bumps every two seconds.
"Your child isn't fitting in with the other students."
One of the hardest things for a parent to hear—sometimes even more so than hearing that their child got in trouble at school—is that their child isn't getting along well with their peers, says Lynell Ross, a certified child development coach and founder of Zivadream.
"Every parent wants their child to be happy, healthy, and to make friends and fit in with the other kids," Ross says. "Many parents see their child 'fitting in' with others as a form of validation that they've done a good job raising a socially functional child, though this isn't necessarily true."
"Your child just isn't grasping the material."
It's always heartbreaking to watch your child struggle through course material—especially when they're working so hard to understand it. Fortunately, just because they're having a difficult time now doesn't mean it'll be that way forever. Not everyone needs to be—or will be—a genius at calculus, anyway.
"Your child missed school today."
While you appreciate Ferris Bueller's Day Off just as much as the next '80s film fan, does anyone really want to find out that their kid's "sick day" was actually spent being a truant? Having to explain to your child that they can't just skip school—even if you did when you were a kid—is a conversation every parent hopes they don't have to end up having.
"I can't talk to you about this."
No parent ever wants their child to feel like they can't talk to them, says licensed mental health professional Haley Neidich. They want their children to communicate with them about their emotions, but often "make the mistake of believing that their child will be open and honest with them without laying the groundwork for security and trust."
Neidich says it's key to build that relationship of trust and openness with your child before you get upset that they feel they can't talk to you. It's not a one-way street. And also know that this is a common feeling that comes when children reach their teenage years.
"I hate myself."
Even when something like this is said by a hormonal teenager, it's a hard thing for a parent to hear and it always needs to be taken seriously, says Amanda Webster, a lifestyle coach and mother. With teen suicide rates the highest they've been in decades, parents have to be diligent about looking for certain signs that may indicate their child is struggling with something internally. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the biggest indicators are a loss of interest in activities that once brought them joy, changes in appetite, and increased irritability.
"I can't wait to move out when I turn 18."
The bad news: Your kids are counting down the days until they can legally care for themselves. The good news: If nothing else, this shows you've imparted a spirit of independence and determination that might actually benefit them later in life.
"I got a tattoo."
It can be jarring to hear that your bundle of joy is adding ink to their perfect skin. Of course, some of your fears about their body art can be put to rest: As tattoos become increasingly mainstream, that tiny symbol on their ankle or forearm certainly won't make them unemployable.
"I was in an accident."
Nobody likes to hear that their loved one was close to experiencing serious physical harm, and just as few people look forward to seeing their insurance rates soar. But if your kid is relatively unscathed, you've got to admit you both got pretty lucky in the long run.
"Can you come and bail me out?"
There are few things more terrifying for a parent than hearing that your child could spend a night behind bars. Unfortunately, all the finishing schools, therapy, and quality time in the world can't keep every kid from engaging in—and getting caught for—behavior that isn't exactly considered to be in accordance with the law.
"I'm dropping out of college."
And just like that, the entire future that you envisioned for your child seems to be in jeopardy. As Vicki Nelson writes for College Parent Central, while parents want to support their children and the decisions they make, it can be hard to do so when it's something that can have such a profound effect on their future—both personally and professionally. Ultimately, it's about helping your child figure out what the right decision is for them.
"I'm moving away."
Whether they're moving a few states over or all the way across the Atlantic, the thought of not seeing your child on a regular basis can be a devastating blow—even if you knew it was bound to happen at some point. Fortunately, this is one long-distance relationship that's unlikely to falter. And they'll end up appreciating you even more with the added element of distance.
"I need a little help with the rent again."
While it's nice to imagine that your child will be financially stable the second they enter adulthood, that's rarely the case. Like it or not, when the economy's tough, you'll still be the first one they call to pad their bank account.
"Can I come stay with you for a little while?"
Yes, housing your 27-year-old can be a pain. But, it's common these days. After all, 2016 data from Pew Research Center found that 15 percent of young adults in their late 20s and early 30s were living in their parents' house. So, let's just call it a make-up session for all those times they refused your company as teens.
"You were never there for me."
As a parent, it's normal to worry about if you you failed your kids in one respect or another. Whether or not you actually did do wrong by them is up for speculation, but either way hearing your child say this line confirms that that they at least felt neglected under your care at some point—and that can feel like a knife to the heart.
This news is always a bombshell—even when it's a cause for celebration. When your daughter—or son—shares this delicate information, you instantly fear for their future, and how this baby will push them off of the track that they've set for themselves, or, alternatively, that you've set for them. Even more horrifying is the revelation that you're about to be a grandparent. Where did the time go?
"I don't ever want to have kids."
On the other hand, hearing your child say they don't ever want to have kids can be even harder to process. And if you want grandchildren, but are not likely to have them, you should "own these feelings" and "find ways to deal with this desire," psychologist Karen Fingerman told The Atlantic. She recommends volunteering at a local school or becoming a mentor to young children.
"You're smothering your child with all that affection."
Any unsolicited advice about how you raise your child is usually not something that's well-received, but this one is especially unwelcome. After all, how can you love your child too much?
"To encounter people that insinuate that holding their own baby will somehow ruin the kid for life can be very detrimental to the fragile and emotional state a new mom may be in," D'Wan Carpenter, chief medical officer of DJC Physical Medicine Consultants, previously told Best Life. She says there's no harm in holding a baby as much as the parents see fit because "sooner than later, they won't want to be held."
"It must be so relaxing to stay home all day long with the kids."
When your child-free friends utter this phrase, it can make even the calmest parent want to launch into a lecture about how much work being a stay-at-home-parent really is. While others get the quiet respite of a cubicle for eight hours a day, you're on your hands and knees scrubbing peanut butter off the floor—not exactly a vacation, by most standards.
"We're having a party—no kids allowed!"
What's so wrong with bringing your well-behaved kids to a backyard barbecue anyway? Also, the no-kids-allowed party people are often those without kids—meaning that they have no idea how hard it is to find a babysitter on a Saturday night.
"You never come out with us anymore."
Though you value friendships that you've created before and after having kids, finding free time—and a babysitter—is often too much effort for a single night out with your friends. And it can be incredibly frustrating when your kid-free friends think that you've neglected them or purposefully flaked on plans. Can't plans be made midday with kids allowed?
"You look tired."
No parents—especially those of a newborn—want to hear this. While you knew what was to come when you had kids, you don't love hearing that you're wearing visible signs of all those sleepless nights. After all, according to Parents, a survey from Owlet Baby Care found that almost "half of all parents with children six months or younger" were only able to get one to three hours of uninterrupted a sleep every night.
"Was it planned?"
Just like anything having to do with your body or health, it's pretty rude to have someone ask you such a personal question. Whether or not your pregnancy was planned is your business and yours alone.
"Just wait until they're a teenager."
Parents of older children seem to find joy in informing those with little ones that, like it or not, their precious angels will soon become surly, hormone-fueled teens they'll barely recognize. Why can't they just let parents enjoy those early years of cuteness and cuddles without stressing over the fact that things will inevitably change?
"I bet you can't wait to get back to work."
This frustrating phrase seems to be uttered most often by those in your life who don't have kids of their own, and give off the impression that having them is pretty much the worst thing that could happen to someone. They just don't get it, so don't let it get to you.
"Are you going back to work so soon?"
While many companies have shown signs of progress in terms of their paid family leave policies, according to 2017 data from National Conference of State Legislatures, still only 14 percent of workers in the U.S. have access to some kind of paid time off when they have children. And often times, it's the bare minimum, requiring working parents to get back in the office sooner than they'd prefer. This often leads to other, perhaps non-working parents, to pass judgement on those having to sacrifice time with their newborn for sake of earning a living. Basically, whether you're a stay-at-home parent or one who works, there's always someone out there saying you are doing it wrong. The best thing to do is completely ignore them and focus on what's right for you and your family.
"Well, here's what I would do…"
The way you approach parenting is completely unique to you and the relationship you have with your kids. To put it as simply as possible, unless someone seeks your advice or you seek theirs, it's best for everyone involved to keep the pontificating about parenting styles to an absolute minimum.
Abby Marks, mother of two and founder of Sincerely Marks, says to think twice "before you say you would give anything for your kids to give you some peace and quiet," especially in cases where you not only don't hear them, but you also can't see them. Usually you can hear children clunking around, she says, but when the noise stops, that's usually when they are "getting into things that they are not supposed to."
Additional reporting by Kali Coleman.