Parents From Around the World Share the Lessons They Tried to Teach Their Children That Totally Backfired

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Every parent dreams of passing wisdom to the next generation. Whether the advice begins with “In my day” or “Do this or suffer the consequences,” Mom and Dad have a treasure trove of life lessons to share.

But here’s the thing. While some parental advice works well and some goes in one ear and out the other, some lessons backfire completely. There is cold comfort in knowing this happens to everyone. Read on to see how dozens of parents taught lessons that had completely unintentional results.

Hired Help Is Allowed to Quit

I wanted to teach my son the value of money and work ethic because he kept wanting Robux… I decided it would be a great teaching moment and a win-win opportunity as he was just getting to the age in which I think he should start doing chores around the house. He really wanted to buy some skin or something, so I created a chore chart and gave each chore a value. We established a schedule and everything. It was working out majestically; every day without asking he was doing dishes, cleaning his room, picking up the dog poop, it was epic. Then one day, I came home and nothing had been done. I asked him, “Hey man, what’s up with the dishes? Oh and go pick up the dog poop too.” He simply replied, “Nah.” Fighting back rage, I simply said, “Excuse me?” He said that he’d made enough money over the last x days that he bought his skin and he was good now. It was hard to argue.

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When a 3 Year Old Can Memorize Three Numbers

Saw a clip on local news about a toddler saving her mom’s life by calling 911 when she collapsed. Figured it was a good idea to teach my toddler 911. Had two cops at my door 5 minutes later.

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Rewards Are Done, and So Is the Good Behavior

My mother in law promised my daughter a Hello Kitty house playset for learning to use the potty. So after one week of using the potty every time she had to go, my mother in law gave my daughter the Hello Kitty house. Next day she started wetting herself again because she got the house, so what was the point in still using the potty?! I explained she still had to use the potty to be a big girl and made a sticker chart. No more promising toys for things the child HAS to do. But a sticker chart seems to work wonders in my house.

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Be Careful What You Audition For

When my daughter was 10, she wanted to try out for a community theater version of Beauty and the Beast. She got nervous though, and almost backed out because she was so sure she wasn’t going to make it.

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My husband, who did some acting in high school, stepped in and said that he would also audition, even though he knew he was never going to make it. He wanted to demonstrate to her that it’s okay to audition for something that you don’t think you’re going to make.

She ended up not only just making it, but she got the part of Chip. My husband got the part of Maurice, Belle’s father. He didn’t even want to be in a stupid play.

If All He Has Is a Monkey, I Want That

When my older son was about three or four years old, we realized he was starting to act very spoiled and materialistic. We always tried to make him see how lucky he already had it, but he constantly begged us for every toy, candy, and treat he saw anywhere and everywhere.

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Around that time, I came across a great photo spread that involved the photographer traveling around the world and snapping photos of different children with their most prized possessions. Of course, the kids in the US, Canada, and Europe were mostly photographed in rooms filled with stuff. But there were also photos of children from impoverished nations, usually showing the child with only one old, dirty stuffed animal.

I thought I was going to accomplish this brilliant parenting move by sitting him down and going through the photos with him. I’d explain how the kids with rooms like his were beyond lucky and he should feel more than satisfied with all of the great stuff that he had. Then I would show him the other photos and he would finally understand that there are so many other children in the world with far less than he had.

We looked through the photos and talked about each one. We finally got to one with a little boy standing on his cot with his one possession, a well-loved, dingy-looking stuffed monkey. My son looked at if for a long time. I could see his wheels spinning. “Success!” I thought. After a long bit of silence, he finally looked up at me, gave me a sweet smile and said, “I want that monkey.”

That’s Mister Daddy to You

My aunt and uncle were trying to teach my cousin manners and wanted him to address people as Mr. and Mrs. They used each other as examples, and consequently were known as Mr. and Mrs. Lannuccilli for around 2 months. One of the funniest moments of my life was hearing my uncle describe how in the middle of the night instead of ‘dad’ he started hearing ‘Mr. Lannuccilli!’ Cracks me up every time.

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It’s All Fun Until… Well, It’s All Fun

My youngest boy would never listen, and he was always totally fearless. He was also always really lucky. About near every time either of us told him “don’t do that, you’re going to get hurt,” he would do it and then not get hurt. So we ended up teaching him that when we said not to do something, that probably meant it was a fun thing to do.

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I remember really hoping that he would fall and break an arm or something non-life-threatening or disabling like that so he would stop constantly giving us heart attacks, which is weird to say as a parent — but it never happened, so it doesn’t matter anyway. He never got anything worse than a small scrape or cut that could be cleaned and covered in five minutes before he was back at it again. Looking back I’m just glad this was before there was anything like stunt tv shows around to further encourage that stuff.

Now he’s a stunt man for movies. Can’t say I’m surprised.

A Powerful Lesson About Powerball

I always tell my children that the lottery is a tax on people that are bad at math. I let my 8 year old spend a few hard-earned dollars on a lotto ticket to prove it and he won $100.

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Go On, Sell It Mom

I told my children repeatedly that if I found any more mess/junk on their bedroom floor, I would be donating it to the thrift store. I told them they had 15 minutes to clean it up off the floor.

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Came back to find everything picked up, except they went into the kitchen cupboards and had put every food they didn’t like in a nice neat pile right in the middle of the floor.

She Probably Requests Time Out, Too

My two-year-old was refusing to wear her hat. It was hot. I told her if she didn’t put her hat on she would have to wait in the car. She started walking away from me, so I said, “Where are you going?”

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She responded: “The car.”

What a Wonderful Waste of Money, Son

Playing carnival/fair games is a waste of money. My son wanted to spend his $20 to win a Pikachu stuffed animal from his allowance that he saved up. We told him he would be wasting his money and he would not win. He spent $15.00 and won the biggest prize.

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So Much for the Benefits of Bidding Wars

I tried the whole “have your kids quote chores for pay and bid against one another.” It’s supposed to teach them about working for their money and not expecting handouts like an allowance.

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It turned into every time I asked them to do something I good with them responding, “How much will you pay me?”

Fairest of the Not Fair

I’ve been teaching my kids that life isn’t always fair. The tantrums when one is invited to a birthday party but not the other have been too much. It’s been helping, some.

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Then I was playing tic tac toe with my youngest. She covered up the column she wanted to use to win. When I told her that cheating isn’t fair and I didn’t want to play if she was going to cheat, she reminded me, “Life isn’t fair, Momma.” Touche, kiddo.

As It Turns Out, Toddler Privileges Aren’t That Great

I told my oldest no food downstairs. He had to eat at the table if he wanted to and not his playroom. When the second kid was born I would bring down his bottle and snacks so he could eat solid foods that helped his teething while we played. My older kid flipped out because there is no food downstairs that was like a basic rule of life to him. When I said it was ok because his brother is a baby and I was down there with him, my oldest took advantage of some shared snacks the kids had later. He would try to give his brother snacks that he liked so he could eat them downstairs too.

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So I saw him sitting in his play tent eating animal crackers and giving his brother one as they hid from me because he knows it’s technically wrong. But he eventually saw the reason why I made the rule because although the younger kid would eat 1-2 crackers, he would then mash the third into a paste and rub it over the toys.

Just Stick With the Stork Story Next Time

When my son was about 3 or 4 he started to ask about how babies are born. I sat him down and gave him a very simple, age appropriate explanation.

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He just looked at me, shook his head and said just said ‘No.’ Very calmly but in a ‘I can’t believe you think that’s how it works’ tone of voice like I’d told him fake news.

I was prepared for difficult questions and even prepared for the fact that he might ask me things that even I didn’t know, but I was completely unprepared for him to just simply not believe me when I told him the truth. I just sat there not knowing what to do while he went back to playing Lego.

Twin See, Twin Do

One of my 5-year-old twins was still having occasional accidents because she would get so caught up in playing/doing something else that she just wouldn’t go and would have an accident. To combat this we would give her a special prize of some variety when she wouldn’t have an accident. This, in turn, caused her twin sister to START having accidents so she could get prizes for not having accidents (even though she was fine on this front beforehand). We had to rethink our methods.

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A New Way to Halt Dinner Conversations

A coworker of mine was trying to teach her kid the “don’t talk with your mouth full” rule. Instead, the kid just spits out their food when they want to talk.

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Children are the absolute masters of malicious compliance.

As If We Have a Cliff in the Backyard

I read a book that suggested you ask your kid what an appropriate punishment for misbehaving would be and then carry it out. My 6-year-old son pinched his brother or something, so we asked what an appropriate punishment would be. He said, “Throw me over a cliff.” We didn’t follow through. And we stopped reading parenting books.

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Coal Seems Pretty Cool

Told kids that if they were bad they would get coal in their stockings on Christmas. “What’s coal?” they asked. I replied, “Well, it is a rock that you can light on fire.” They now want coal.

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No One Yells at Our Team, Not Even Our Parents

Due to a last-minute adoption, my wife and I went from one kid to two kids very quickly. They are close in age (18 months apart) so we tried reading books about how to avoid sibling rivalry and encourage a positive sibling relationship as they got older. One of the books said to teach the kids that they are a team. That’s what we did.

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It resulted in my daughter getting angry at me any time I would discipline her brother because he was her baby. I would try to explain that discipline is part of learning but she wasn’t having any of that. She agreed that she should be disciplined for bad behavior but not her baby brother. You have to stand up for your teammate, after all. That’s really the only time she would ever throw a full-blown screaming tantrum, so then I would have to deal with my son crying because he was being disciplined and my daughter crying because her brother was being disciplined.

She May Also Have a Crow Phone

My nephew mispronounced the name of a certain kitchen appliance, so my sister broke it into syllables very distinctly for him, saying “it’s mi-cro-wave.” My nephew nodded very seriously and replied: “It’s your crow wave!”

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At Least He Didn’t Pay Full Price for Those Tickets

Trying to keep my 4-year-old in bed. He gets up 4 or more times saying he has to go to the bathroom. Most of the time he doesn’t have to go and we send him back to bed. 5 minutes later, he does it again. He knows that he can get out of bed this way. My wife decided to make tickets. He could use the tickets if he got out of bed. Once the tickets were done, so was he. If he could stay in bed the rest of the night he got rewarded with stickers. The first night we tried it, he had an accident.

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A Different Kind of Parental Control

My teenage son was staying up super late on his laptop doing teenage internet things (mostly gaming I assume) and messing up in school, so we put parental controls on the router so that the internet would be turned off from 11 pm to 7 am.

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This, of course, impacted my wife and I, because we lost internet access during those hours too. Grumble, grumble stupid kids, etc.

Anyway, he was way more tech-savvy than we were, so he was able to bypass the parental controls, and stay online as late as he wanted. So the end result of the parental controls was that the parents didn’t have internet, but the teenager did.

Read Dad His Rights, Sweetie

Taught them to read early. My son could read by age 4, and my daughter by age 3. This leads to some unwanted conversations as they will read things over your shoulder when you aren’t expecting it. Or even just signs on the road. “You’re going to fast, Daddy. It says 55 mph and you’re going 70.”

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Now Let’s Whine for Liver for Dinner

Our 7-year-old twins are taught that if they whine or beg for something, they don’t get it. We went through a phase of them “whining” for things they didn’t want, like an earlier bed time.

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Is That Your Final Offer?

The negotiating tactic where you suggest something outrageous first and then what you really want seems reasonable. I told my daughter to do this for something going on at school and now she does it all the time. She’s 9.

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You Are What You Eat

My little brother refused to eat while my girlfriend and I were babysitting him. My girlfriend decided to explain the concept of food as an energy source to him. Which he then proceeds to use an excuse to not do anything. Anytime you told him to do something, he said he couldn’t because he would run out of energy and die.

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My Body Goes Where It Wants

my niece had been taught that no one is allowed to force her into giving hugs, etc. It’s her body, she has the right to say no.

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Well, she tries to use that as an excuse to misbehave from time to time. Like one time, Dad told her she couldn’t play in a certain space with this huge toy cart because there wasn’t enough room. She claimed her body has the right to be there if she says so. Her body. Her right. All three of us facepalmed that moment.

This Kid Will Hate the "Land Before Time" Movies

We live across from a cemetery. When my oldest was around 5, she had a lot of questions regarding funerals. We bought her an illustrated dinosaur book that explains death to kids in a secular way. Halfway through the book, she had a complete meltdown and became terrified of dying. My intent was to teach her about the reality of death at a young age so that she would have a healthy view of life/death. She is fine now, but she did have a lot of death anxiety for a couple of months.

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Did the Smartphone Stay Up Past Bedtime?

I was trying to teach my 4-year-old that it is important to go to sleep because our brains need to recharge. I compared it to my iPad needing to recharge after it dies.

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He said “okay…” and got really quiet. Then told me, “Mom, I need to go to sleep.” I agreed with him, but asked why he was suddenly tired. He started crying and said, “because I don’t want to die.”

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