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Are you unintentionally instilling behaviors that will cause your child to fail?  The damaging parenting habits that we start out of love, to help our children or make them happy, often end up being our biggest parent fail.
We think we are being “good parents” by doing things for our children NOW to make life easier and keep everyone happy, but often, these things only set them up for failure in the future.

10 Ways Parents Set Their Children Up For Failure

Parenting is hard, and sometimes our best intentions don’t have the results we expected.  It’s a constant self-check…

Ten Ways To Set Your Child Up For Failure

1. When We Buy Them Everything They Want

When we buy our children whatever they want (when they want it), it only sets them up to expect to get what they want without working for it. You can’t buy their happiness.

I’m the first to say that I love surprising our kids with gifts, but I also know how important it is to teach them how to work and save for what they want. Think of it in the long term: I am raising a future adult… and that’s a hard, but important thing to remember.

The yearning for something greater and the desire to work hard to achieve it— these are the lessons we must teach our children.  Fulfilling their every want will never teach them to be grateful for what they have. It will only lead us to fail as parents by not preparing them for the future.

2. By Keeping Them Entertained 24/7

This is one I’ve had to work on a lot.  When it was just my first child, I thought I had to be with the entertainer constantly.  But when my 2nd was born, I was too busy to do that. At the time, you may feel like you are failing as a parent by not being able to keep them busy & happy, but you’ll quickly learn how much you are helping them.

I learned that it’s good for kids to entertain themselves.  To use their imagination.  To (gasp) be boredThey say, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” but I would argue it is boredom.

Set Your Child Up For Failure - parent fail by not letting them be bored

3. By Disrespecting YOUR Parents

If you think you can do this whole parenting thing perfectly and never make those “mistakes” that your parents made, get back to me in 20 years.  Because let me tell you, my friend, we are figuring things out as we go, just like your parents and their parents and their parents before them.  

Yes, we have lots of new and helpful knowledge. We can learn improved parenting skills by reading articles or talking to experts. We know a lot more about the makeup of a child, the importance of their mental health, the reason for a child’s behavior, how to respond to your child, and how to nurture them.  

Even with all of that… we still get it wrong on many occasions (at least I do!), and we can still feel like a failure on so many occasions. Yet, just like our parents, we keep at it. We do our best & in the end, we understand exactly where our parents were coming from.
Show your child that your parents deserve respect— be a model of that respect. Plus, one day, you’ll see it come back, full circle, when they treat you the way that you treated your parents.

4.  When Parents Nurture Your Children Over Your Marriage

“When I was about eight years old, I remember being SO angry with my mom because in response to my nagging question if she loved my Dad or me more, she finally explained that, in some ways, she loved my Dad more.  Because without the love for my dad, I wouldn’t be here.  It took me 22 more years before I finally got what she meant.” – Hillary Cole

It’s important to prioritize your marriage (check out these 25 ways to prioritize your marriage… and keep number 20 in mind when your kids are around.

5. By Not Teaching Them Personal Responsibility

“You didn’t finish your homework, did you? Well, that’s okay; you were tired.”  
“Did you push a child at school?  That’s okay; you didn’t feel well. today”  
Before long, it leads to things like... “You got drunk and drove a car?  That’s okay, the bartender gave you too many drinks.”
That’s when those little parent fails can turn into a big dose of parent failure. Do you see the problem here? It’s so important to teach children to do things (and take responsibility) for themselves.


teach child to be responsible.

6. Make Your Child Feel Like They Are The Center Of The World

Yes, it is important that we make our children feel special, unique, and valued In fact, that’s why we started this tradition. However, in the grand scheme of things, we are all just tiny specks in the universe.  We need to teach our children about how God created us to look beyond ourselves. Teach them about giving to others and taking care of the world around us. Teach them why it’s so important and talk about practical ways to help & give.

7. Don’t Have The Hard Conversations

I hesitated to talk about death with our children.  I was afraid that talking about it would bring up the fact that I would die someday, too, and I know losing a parent is a real fear for children (of any age).  The truth is that none of us are exempt. Many parents are afraid to talk about the hard things— the things that might make them uncomfortable. It can leave any parent feeling overwhelmed or nervous, but if we don’t have those hard conversations with them, someone else will.

If we as parents are uncomfortable with the hard topics, someone else will teach our kids about them – death, failure, sex, drugs, and alcohol.  Is that what you really want?

Yes, your child might get red in the cheeks, cry, or even laugh uncomfortably, but if you can remain calm and treat it like any other conversation, your child will soon be just as comfortable having these conversations as you will be.

The best part of this— In the future, they will come to you with the hard questions (instead of going to their friends or looking the answers up online.)

Tip: Try having these conversations at night when you’re child is more willing to open up & talk.

8. Treat Yourself Poorly

If you want your child to think poorly of themselves, just talk poorly about yourself. Talk about how fat you are, how you hate your hair or mention that you wish you didn’t have stretch marks.  

Oh- and don’t prioritize your health or practice self-care. This will ensure that your kids will follow suit.  If you show your kids that you aren’t of much value and they will learn those same traits – they are watching & listening.

9. Teach Them Intolerance

This is a brave new world we live in.  Every single day there is an opportunity to come in touch with someone who is different than you.  A different race. A different culture.  A different religion. A different sexual orientation. A different political view.
You can teach your child to judge others, or you can teach your child kindness. You can model intolerance, or you can model open-mindedness and understanding.

Now I’m not saying you have to agree or even accept everyone’s views as your own.  But we CAN teach tolerance…we can show our children that being different isn’t necessarily wrong. Remember— God loves everyone, regardless of if they love him back.

This leads me to number ten…

10 Ways Parents Set Their Children Up For Failure

10. Teach Your Child They Are Somehow Better Than Someone Else

My friend Hillary wrote, “I’ve been poor at times, and I’ve had money at times. I’ve driven a used Corolla and a Mercedes.  I’ve cut coupons and shopped sales out of necessity.  As a child, I’ve prayed to find enough money to buy a 59-cent loaf of bread. As a newlywed, we skipped a honeymoon because we didn’t have enough money.
I’ve been a HAVE, and a HAVE NOT.
And through it all – I was the same person.  Nothing inside of me changed.  Money didn’t define me.”

What we own, what we can or cannot afford to buy, and what kinds of clothes we wear don’t determine our worth. It’s why they say Money can’t buy happiness… and we can’t buy our children’s happiness.

The way I treated others, the way I treated myself, and the bond I had with my family are what defined and shaped me. It’s what’s made me who I am today.

When it comes right down to it, that’s the real way to set our children up for success.


A young boy sitting on the ground with his legs crossed and his head in his hands with text below him.
stop doing that for your kids

My friend, Hillary Cole, originally wrote today’s post several years ago— I contributed to it today & wanted to share it with you. I find that it still holds true today. ♥️

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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1 Comment

  1. One of the best articles I’ve read online in a long time. Too many parents are raising their kids (I’ve seen first hand) in the above ways and look what is happening to our society…division, hate, mass shootings, alarming rate of drug and alcohol abuse, intolerance (with race, religion, sexual orientation, and especially politics) and untreated mental illness. Admittedly, I am not a parent, but I did spend years finishing up raising my niece as a teenager after my sister pretty much gave up. My sister followed the ways to set your child up for failure to a T, making dealing with a teenager much more difficult for me and my wife. It doesn’t matter if you’re a couple or a single parent, if you raise your kids in the above ways they will suffer as adults. I couldn’t agree more with this article.