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50 Things Parents Do That Annoy Their Kids

It seems like everything parents do annoys their kids, but these offenses are especially bad.

There's no better expression of the often tense relationship between kids and their parents than Will Smith's 1988 hit "Parents Just Don't Understand." It reminds us that parents often seem like they exist in a different universe, one in which they're oblivious to how annoying they can be to their children. But Smith's classic is just the tip of the iceberg. There are an infinite number of things parents do that get under their kids' skin, sometimes because children are impossible to please, and sometimes because the adults are in the wrong (yes, really).

For a master list of what not to do if you want to stay on your kids' good sides, here are 50 ways that parents annoy their kids—whether it's justified or not.

Being openly affectionate with them in public

mom kissing son

Hugs and kisses from parents are great, just as long as there aren't any peers nearby. Trying to get a kiss from your kid when his friends are watching is basically impossible—but that doesn't mean you won't try!

Trying to be cool

old woman with pink hair taking a selfie

You might actually be hip among your own social circle and age group. But to a kid, a parent will never be anything close to legitimately cool. Sorry, putting on a leather jacket won't give you any more street cred with them.

Staring at your phone

people on phones

It's kind of ironic that parents always complain about how much screen time kids have these days, when plenty of grown-ups are just as hypnotized by their own phones, staring at those little screens even when their kids are vying for their attention. Your email can wait—follow your own advice and put the phone down!

Telling them they have to wear shoes or they can't go outside

mom scolding child

All kids feel like shoes should be entirely optional. Although the outside world is not exactly designed for shoeless wandering—the "no shoes, no service" rule applies to just about everything, from school to church to shopping malls—every kid somehow thinks they'll be the one to figure it out. A parent's insistence that they put on shoes anyway feels like nothing short of betrayal.

Denying them fast food

child looking at burger

Listen, you don't have to explain why an apple is far more nutritious than McNuggets. Kids are taught that from a young age. But Happy Meals have toys and fries and they come in cool cardboard lunch boxes—and look, there's a McDonald's at the next exit! (You may win this battle, but the war rages on.)

Taking too… many… pictures

mom taking pictures of son and dad

Never has a generation of children been more well documented than they are today. And guess what? They're acutely aware of every photo that's taken. They know that they can't do anything without some adult trying to capture it with their phone.

Parents who act like their child's paparazzi are a major source of frustration for kids who just want to experience something without being photographed. Basically, every toddler these days sounds like a celebrity shouting, "No pictures!"

Not helping when they made it perfectly clear that they didn't need your help (but actually, they needed your help)

unhappy child sitting on couch while her mother is on her ipad

This one is a double-edged sword. They want your help but they absolutely don't want your help, until it's too late and their attempts to do it alone—whether it's tying their shoes or learning to parallel park—have resulted in a complete disaster. How many times have you heard, "Dad, why didn't you help WHEN I SAID, 'DON'T HELP'?" Yeah, dad!

Comparing them to other kids

mom shouting at daughter on couch

The last thing any kid needs to be told is how they're not as athletic as the star player on her baseball team, or how they don't get the same straight-A grades as the genius who lives down the street. Pointing out the achievements of other kids doesn't motivate your child to try harder. It just makes them want to retreat to their bedroom and slam the door.


mom scolds child

Raising your voice isn't going to make a kid respect you or take your admonishing more seriously. All they see is a grown-up letting their emotions get the better of them. If you can't explain to a child what they did wrong in a calm, even voice, maybe you're the one in need of a time out.

Not showing up

boy peeking through stage curtains

Your work is important, but does that really justify skipping your kid's big game, or not showing up to catch his stage debut in the school musical? Even though your kids don't always seem to want you around, it means a lot to them to see you sitting there and cheering them on. So, take the time to be there as often as you can.

Endless questions about their day

dad talking to upset child

Sure, kids are being elusive when they respond to this line of questioning with a shrug and a noncommittal answer. But sometimes, they just want to make it through a meal without being grilled. While encouraging your kids to share their lives with you is a good thing, they may not want to recount every detail like they're giving a deposition.

And interrogating their friends

parents talking to teens

It's not that kids don't want you having any interaction with their friends. As far as they're concerned, though, it should just be limited to a polite "hello" and "have a nice time!" And to be fair, you probably don't need to launch into a line of intense questioning about your kids' friends' family, academic career, and personal hobbies—at least not right away.

Complaining about bills

parents fighting while child looks on

One of the best parts about being a kid is the lack of financial stress. Mortgages and utility bills are not something they need to lose any sleep over, but they just might if they're exposed to too much grumbling from their parents about missed car payments and IRS fines. And that would make them cranky with good reason.

Being overprotective

mom hugging child

Kids want to run free and scrape their knees sometimes, but nothing ruins that fun like a terrified parent hovering nearby, always ready to cushion their fall. It can be a challenge giving your children space to explore while also keeping them safe—just know they're probably going to be annoyed no matter what.

Telling them to eat their vegetables

child eating broccoli

Sorry, moms and dads: A 2014 study from the University of Chicago found that kids are less likely to eat healthy food when their parents are pushing them to do so. So not only do your children hate hearing "finish your broccoli"—it's also unproductive! You might have to find some trickier ways to sneak veggies into their diet.

Not being absolutely fascinated with Legos

dad and son playing with legos

Even parents who enjoy sitting on the floor with their kids and creating countless Lego structures eventually hit their limit. Legos can be engrossing, but you're still an adult. Kids are perplexed by this, as Legos are clearly made for hours of fun, and what could a parent possibly have to do that's more important than building a castle from scratch?

Trying to tell a joke

smiling mom

You've heard of "dad jokes," right? Well, it's not quite a term of endearment. Calling something a "dad joke" is a warning that what you're about to hear is more likely to make you groan than laugh. We've come to accept that parents are never as funny as they think they are. So no, your children aren't going to love your attempts at comedy.

Living vicariously through your kids

dad coaching baseball

So you always wanted to be the star player on your high school basketball team? Or play piano like a young Thelonious Monk? Or maybe you wanted to launch a successful political career by becoming class president? If your kid is interested in any of these pursuits, by all means, encourage them. If you're projecting your own childhood dreams onto them, however, it's going to be obvious—and they're going to push back.

Oversharing their lives on social media

woman on facebook, reach a customer service rep

Your Facebook friends don't need to hear about the intimate details of your kids' lives, however funny or relatable you might think they are. If you insist on oversharing, keep the focus squarely on yourself and leave your kids out of it. Otherwise you're going to annoy them (not to mention the adults who follow you on social media).

Being overly dramatic about the hardships of their youth

girl covering ears while parents talk at table

Adults love lecturing kids about how difficult everything was when they were younger. While the "I had to walk to school two miles in the snow" schtick is pretty played out, parents today might vent about growing up without the internet. Either way, your kids aren't impressed.


singing man in kitchen

The more convinced you are that you have some solid pipes, the more likely it is that your kids respond to your singing like nails on a chalkboard. And maybe you really are talented! But trust that when you're serenading them, your kids aren't thinking about why you didn't become a famous pop star—they're wishing they had ear plugs.

Asking embarrassing questions in public

boy covers face in embarrassment in school hallway

Some things just shouldn't be discussed in polite company, and that goes for the questions you ask your children. Like, say, if they're wearing clean underwear today. Or if they still have a tummy ache. Or, most mortifying of all, if they need their favorite "lovey" doll. Your kids might want your tender loving care behind closed doors, but they'd prefer a little less intimacy in front of others.

Standing in front of the TV while they're trying to play video games

video games

Sometimes it seems like parents don't even care that their kids are in the middle of an epic game of Undertale. It might be hard to understand the gravity of standing in front of the TV while your kids are playing a video game, so think of it in their terms: It'd be like sticking your head in front of the TV during the first moon landing.

Creating chores

to do list

Obviously somebody has to empty the dishwasher and make the bed and fold the laundry, but no kid will ever understand why that somebody has to be them. Surely there's an adult somewhere who wouldn't mind taking care of that busywork so the kid can finish their aforementioned game of Undertale, right?

Insisting they tag along for grocery shopping

girl pushes grocery cart

You know they're just going to push the grocery cart into things while moaning, "How much longer? How much longer? How much longer?" Of course, if you don't take them, they'll complain that you didn't get any of the food they wanted. Sometimes it feels like you can't win.

Forcing them to listen to your idea of "good music"


You know who agrees with you that the best music ever recorded just so happens to be the songs you listened to in your youth? Anybody in your age range. Your kids, however, have their own musical tastes and preferences, and they're probably not going to come around to your side no matter how many times you force them to listen to songs you're not quite ready to classify as "oldies."

Reminding them to clean their room

mom telling crying child to clean her room

To a kid, even the most cluttered of bedrooms feels comforting and perfect exactly as is. Maybe an avalanche of dirty clothes isn't your idea of aesthetically pleasing, mom, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Demanding that they use the restroom even when they don't have to go

angry mom with child

It's a parent's battle cry at the start of any road trip: "Don't forget to use the bathroom before we go." It doesn't matter how much kids insist that their bladders are empty—a parent won't let them climb into the car until they've at least gone through the motions. And they'll definitely be getting some eye rolls as a result.

Overscheduling them

after shcool soccer

Some parents enroll their kids in tons of after-school activities: sports practice, music lessons, outside tutoring—it never ends. Granted, keeping your kids active has benefits, including raising their self-esteem and steering them away from trouble. But that doesn't mean overscheduling your kids is the solution. If you do, get ready to hear a lot of, "C'mon. No piano today. I'm tired!"

Saying something they're upset about is not a big deal

dad comforting son

Trivializing a child's problems is not going to solve anything. Even if what feels like the end of the world to a kid will be forgotten tomorrow, your best bet is to be compassionate and let them have their moment to feel like the sky is falling. Trying to convince them that it's an overreaction will only cause another overreaction, this time directed at you.

Eating their Halloween candy


Some parents try to convince themselves that they only eat their kids' Halloween candy to protect them. Without all that extra temptation, maybe your child can avoid a stomach ache. It's a nice idea, but nobody really believes it. You're eating their candy because you like candy, and you figure they won't miss a few "Fun Size" Milky Ways. J'accuse!

Being terrible homework helpers

dad helping child with homework

Kids don't expect their parents to have all the answers, but they'd appreciate more than just a shrug and an apologetic explanation like, "Math sure has gotten more complicated than when I was in school." (In your defense, we know math has gotten more complicated!)

Showing off your dance moves

man dancing in kitchen

Your robot dance may have killed at your junior high semi-formal, but your kids aren't nearly as impressed by those "stellar" moves. Go ahead and dance like nobody's watching—just don't be surprised when your children can't resist a brutal critique.

Bringing out old baby photos

couple looking through photo album over coffee, things husband should notice

Kids are well aware that their parents thought they were adorable as babies. What's less adorable to your children is you embarrassing them with yet another trip down memory lane, exposing them to photo after photo of their squishy, giggly baby selves.

Public displays of affection with your spouse

older couple kissing, etiquette mistakes

Your kids might know, on a logical level, that you and your spouse get huggy and kissy with each other sometimes. Do it front of them, though, and they're likely to flee the room.

Telling them they should "know better"

mom and daughter on couch

Never is a parent more condescending than when they deride a child for misbehavior with, "You know better." If your kid knew better, they probably wouldn't have done it!

Kids hear this and take it to mean, "I thought you were smart, but apparently you're not." Of course that's going to rub them the wrong way.

Saying negative things about their friends

upset child

You don't have to like all of your kids' friends—that's a given. But your kid will hate it if you start trash-talking one of their BFFs, especially if you've never even met this person. Before you make any snap judgments based on what you've heard from other parents or your own assumptions, trust that your kid is a pretty good judge of character. And if you have real concerns, invite the friend over and find out for yourself.

Mentioning puberty

Tampon on string heart disease risk factors

Don't… even… go… there. A parent bringing up the topic of puberty, regardless of whether anybody else is in the room, is beyond mortifying. Of course, this is a subject they're going to have to get used to eventually. Just try to bring it up in the least traumatic way possible, OK?

Using slang you don't really understand


If you ask your kids to "spill the tea" because you're about to get "turnt" and you've got some "squad goals" but don't tell that to your "bae," they're not going to think, "Oh, cool, parents are just like us." They're going to avoid eye contact, try to look busy, and hope you move on and find somebody else to annoy.

Moving chips to the top shelf

kitchen cupboard

Do you think you're fooling anyone? Your kids know the chips are up there, and they know you deliberately put them just out of reach. Making junk food unattainable doesn't mean kids stop wanting it, and they're going to be resentful when they feel like you're hoarding all the good stuff.

Not keeping up with technology

woman holding cordless phone
Shutterstock/Helmut Seisenberger

It's a rite of passage that all children eventually have to teach technology to their parents. Listen, tech moves so fast these days, it can quickly get confusing. But your kids don't want to become 24/7 tech support.

Playing favorites with siblings

sibling rivalry between sisters

You're a good parent, so you'd never dream of saying you prefer one child over another. But kids are intuitive, and they can pick up on subtle signals. If you always seem to be singling out the accomplishments of one kid in particular, their sibling is going to feel slighted… and more than slightly annoyed.

Banning any movies not rated PG or G

Child Watching TV and Eating Popcorn Late at night

Is there anything more enticing to an underage kid than the prospect of seeing an R-rated film? What secrets to the universe are they missing out on because of some arbitrary rating, they wonder? Your movie restrictions might be sensible, but they only make your children more intrigued—and irritated.

Beginning any sentence with, "When I was your age…"

prants lecturing child

They get it, parents. Being a kid today is not the same as it was when you were growing up. That's not going to make your children any less annoyed when you start regaling them with tales of how different things were however many decades ago.

Getting the lyrics wrong

singing along

Whether it's belting out "We built this city on sausage rolls" while listening to Starship's "We Built This City," or brazenly shout-singing "Kicking your cat all over the place" whenever Queen's "We Will Rock You" comes on the radio, a parent's musical ignorance is enough to make any kid want to slide under the bed.

Getting a little too into the holidays

victorian christmas

If you're decorating your home for Christmas like you're trying to give Las Vegas a run for its money, you might not be making the holidays enjoyable for your kids. While you might think "the more festive, the better," your children could easily be put off by the intensity of it all.

Picking out their clothes

picking out kids clothes

We know you think you have impeccable taste in fashion. And sure, when your kids were babies and you dressed them in CBGB onesies, nobody was complaining. But now that they're a little older, they have their own opinions about what looks good and what feels comfortable, and they're not afraid to let you know.

Insisting that Brussels sprouts are good

brussels sprouts

To kids, Brussels sprouts are an affront to everything they hold dear. When they're older, they'll learn to appreciate them. But for now, how dare you try to tell them those smelly cruciferous veggies are good.

Setting non-negotiable bedtimes

father reading book to daughter holding teddy bear in bed

Too often kids assume that bedtimes are just a vague suggestion, and not something set in stone. They wouldn't have agreed to that 9 p.m. bedtime if they knew they were expected to be in pajamas and under the covers at 9.

Eating the last cupcake

black woman eating chocolate cupcake

You knew it was the last one, and you ate it anyway?! Ut oh. Your kid will forgive you eventually, but the anger they're feeling right now is very real. Don't pretend you can't relate. That'll only make it worse.

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