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What Is the Worst Parenting Advice You Ever Received?

Lifehacker logo Lifehacker 4 days ago Meghan Moravcik Walbert

a man wearing glasses: She’s judging you. © Photo: CREATISTA (Shutterstock) She’s judging you.

There is a lot of good parenting advice out there—helpful, supportive, researched-based tips to help us raise children to grow up to be happy, healthy, kind adults. And then there is some truly awful advice, tactics that seem to make perfect sense at one time but eventually reveal themselves as the misguided notions they always were.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of Terrible Parenting Advice. Sometimes it comes from an older relative who did things a little differently back in the day, e.g., “If they bite you, bite ‘em back so they know how it feels!” Bad advice comes at us from all directions—outdated parenting books, people who have forgotten what it is actually like to have young children, and people who don’t even have children, to start with.

Sometimes we even take this terrible advice because, well, the baby is teething, and we are tired, and there is screaming, and we feel like we have tried everything else. So, hell, if a little whisky on the gums was good enough for our parents and grandparents, it’s probably fine (it’s not a good idea). Other times, we don’t realize the advice was bad until time passes and we look back at the experience with perspective and context and think, “Huh. We probably shouldn’t have done that.

For example, when my son was an infant, we lived in Arizona, where childhood drowning rates are high and teaching kids how to swim at an early age is a common priority. My son was around six or seven months old when we took him to his first swim lesson. He was not a fan, and he made this perfectly clear for about 28 of the 30 minutes (the other two minutes, he was floating on his back, which he thought was excellent). At then end, however, noting my worried face, the instructor gave me a thumbs up and said, “Don’t worry, Mom; he’ll get used to it soon, just stick with it!”

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So we did because we figured he knew more about this than we did; but my kid hated the second lesson, and the third lesson, too. They kept encouraging us to stay the course, and we kept hoping each time that we were just one lesson away from it clicking into place. Guess what? He was a baby, and a giant pool of water confused the hell out of him, and he didn’t want to do it, and us forcing the issue was Bad Advice We Now Regret Taking.

(Now he’s 10 years old, loves any and all bodies of water, and is a stronger swimmer than I am—so luckily we didn’t ruin it for him, despite our apparent best efforts.)

Regale me with your bad advice stories: What is the worst parenting advice you’ve ever received? Did you take it or did you recognize it for the disaster it was? Or maybe you were the giver of the bad advice, before you had children of your own and saw the error of your ways. Tell us in the comments!

Join our Offspring Facebook parenting group for more discussions like these.


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