5 Ways to Mess Up Your Kids

MessMost parents I know love their children and want to do a good job with them.  Many of these people will do most anything to give their children a head start in life.  Some will go to extraordinary lengths to give their children an advantage.

Yet, it is possible to parent in such a way as to make it difficult for them to grow up, mature, and live as Christ-followers.

The following are some ways to mess up your kids:

1.  Model before them a self-centered life.  Focus on yourself, your pleasures, your desires, and your preferences.  Teach them by way of your example that life is all about “me.”

I was in a conversation with a woman who was abandoning her husband and children in order live her own life.  She wanted to believe that her leaving would have no long term impact on her children.

The reality is that our self-centered behaviors really do impact others.  They certainly impact our children.

2.  Show little respect for your spouse, parents, and in-laws.  Model before your children that you will talk to your spouse, your mom, or your father-in-law in the manner you wish–regardless! Consequently if you feel like being condescending toward your wife, you do that.  If you are angry with your mother, you might talk with her in a manner that is demeaning and disrespectful.  (After all, you don’t like what she said to you!)

Children who witness this kind of behavior are impacted.  If they see their parents talk with their family in a manner that is smart aleck and insulting, we should not be surprised if they mimic this behavior.

3.  Undermine your spouse.  One way to mess up a child is for her mom and dad to constantly be undermining one another.  Mom says “You can’t ride your bike until you do your homework.”  Five minutes later, dad says “Go ahead and ride your bike but you will have to do your homework afterwards.”  Confusing?  It certainly is for a child!

As the child grows older, these parents continue to undermine one another.  Dad picks up a son from school.  They stop at Starbucks on the way home.  They get their drinks and Dad says he needs to talk with a woman who is sitting by herself at a table.  She smiles.  He suggests that you go on to the car. Dad and this woman talk for about ten minutes.  When Dad gets in the car, he says “Don’t tell your mother about that woman.  That was just someone from work.”

Meanwhile, Mom goes shopping with her two daughters.  They buy a number of items.  She says “Don’t tell your dad how much we spent.  I have a credit card he knows nothing about.”

These behaviors are confusing to a child who grows up with parents who lie, manipulate, and deceive one another.

4.  Raise your children with a strong sense of entitlement.  You can really mess up your children by convincing them that they are entitled to what they want.  Consequently, they may believe they are entitled to good grades and to make the starting roster on a team.  They get a job believing they are entitled to a salary that took others 15 years to earn.  They get married and believe they are entitled to a certain lifestyle.

It is far better to teach them that they have a significant purpose in life and they need to consider how to live out of their purpose instead of believing they are entitled.

5.  Be more concerned about being their friend than being their parent.  Yes, I know.  There is a sense in which our children when they grow up, can relate to us as friends.  However, my children will have many friends in life.  They will have one dad and mom.


Unfortunately, a mom or dad can be more concerned with being a really cool parent instead of being what their children need.  Mom may dress like a twenty year old trying to fit in with her daughter’s friends.  Or a father can be crude and foul mouthed hoping that his son’s friends will think he is cool.

Children, even grown children, need their parents to be parents.



What parental behaviors have you seen that can serve to hamper a child’s growth and maturity?












1.  Focus on your freedom rather than what is right.

2.  Rarely (if ever) apologize.

3.  Show little  respect your spouse, your  parents, your in-laws.

4.  Spend.  Spend.  Spend.

5.  Be more  concerned about your  image rather than your character.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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11 thoughts on “5 Ways to Mess Up Your Kids

  1. One more thing is to not give a kid the day off from school work from August to May/June. There is a point where one needs a day off and without it, things get rough. Another is perpetual criticism which means that the kid just knows one thing, everything was done wrongly. Also, never giving a child any of your time means, to the child, that they aren’t worthy of it or have not earned it.

    I agree with you about being a parent over being a friend. However, there needs to be a little bit of a relationship where the child feels like he/she can talk to the parent without fear of being bashed or just lectured.

  2. I’d add (6) wear a facade of perfection and invulnerability. Children will eventually see through it and become cynical.

  3. Define faith and Christianity as being good or following the rules.. It can never be just that, and this type of attitude cuts children off from meaningful relationship with God, who bestows grace on those of us who make mistakes because it distorts his character

    • Amen. Rules-based Christianity is not pretty. It turns God into a mean diety who is waiting for you to make a mistake and then send you to hell for it. I never heard about grace or forgiveness until I was out of college.

      • Perhaps what is especially tragic, Mark, is that there is just no life in this (certainly not the life found in Jesus). Thanks.