The problem with manipulating your kids is that they’ll manipulate you back. And in an Ask Reddit thread, thousands of people shared stories of parental lessons that backfired. They all teach their own lessons, mostly that kids will surprise you every time.
Berthejew taught their daughter to “always compliment people who insulted you”. Well, one day the family was out shopping and a woman said something rude to Berthejew’s mother.
My daughter caught on that my mother was agitated. She squeezed out behind me and told the woman,
“Your teeth are such a pretty yellow!”
LearnedButt learned about perverse incentives:
My youngest niece [made a fake call to 911], and the cops were cool about it... They had a long talk with her, explaining to her that calling 911 should only be for an emergency, like when people are hurt. Once she seemed to understand, they gave her a sticker of a police badge and left.
Her interpretation: Call 911, get sticker.
Turtelbob learned another 911 lesson:
My parents taught me to call 911 when I saw somebody doing something illegal. I called the cops on the Wiggles movie I was watching when I was 5 because a clown stole a cake.
Shanisasha learned about apologetics:
Told my children they should always have a good reason for what they want to do, as a way to curb impulsive behaviour.
Am hearing about ALL THE REASONS constantly.
If I have to hear all the reasons for going out in the rain to rescue a butterfly with a broken wing any more (three days post) I may tear my ears off.
One common lesson in the thread is that you should never give your kids a choice if you aren’t actually OK with them making the “wrong” choice. Wisteriahaze shares:
2yr 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. “Where are you going?” “Car.”
MisterCrispy puts a finer point on it:
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.
Children are the absolute masters of malicious compliance.
Nash_Rambler learned Newton’s Third Law:
Taught my young toddler son how to go up stairs. I did not realise that going down stairs is in fact a completely different, and far more dangerous, skill set. Lucky for us, the kid seems to have finally grasped the finer points of head-protection.
After that, redditors collectively decided that the slogan for parenting is “You’ll have a whole different problem.”
Catastrophichysteria’s dad had a whole different problem:
My dad tried to implement the whole you MUST eat ALL the food on your plate [rule]. One day my sibling had 2-3 bites of food left on their plate and was very clear that they were absolutely full and couldn’t eat another bite. Dad wasn’t having it and insisted they could not leave the table until all the food on their plate was gone. My sibling finished the last few bites and then proceeded to vomit on the table and our dad.
Miseleigh taught her kids that “life isn’t fair”. And 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.”
Backfiring happens to siblings too, like frozennie:
As a child I noticed my sister was writing her name on the walls when she was drawing on them with crayon. Taking on the role of Helpful Big Sister, I informed her if she was going to graffiti things she shouldn’t write her name and give herself away.
A few weeks later, she was carving patterns into the wooden desk in the study and carved my name into it instead.
Around age three, forever_monstro’s son was getting too spoiled, so monstro showed him a photography project of children around the world posing with their favourite possessions. Many of the children owned very little. Monstro’s son stared at a boy holding his only belonging, a beat-up stuffed monkey. You know what’s coming.
After a long bit of silence, he finally looked up at me, gave me a sweet smile and said, “I want that monkey.”
A lot of stories revolve around paying kids for chores, and kids quitting the chores as soon as they’ve bought something they wanted. But with thatsunshinegal’s fiancé, this happened a lot earlier:
He was resistant to potty training, and they eventually got him to start using the potty by telling him that he had to be out of pull-ups before a family trip to Disney World, because “Mickey Mouse only sees big boys and girls.”
It went great, they had a great trip... and the day after they got back, he took a shit in the living room. When asked, he said “I don’t gotta use the potty cause I already saw Mickey Mouse.” They very firmly told him that if he was old enough to use logic, he was far too old for diapers, and that was the end of that.
Instead of telling their son not to lie, punkwalrus would simply move onto the solution. When he ate all the brownies and lied about it with the chocolate all over his mouth, punkwalrus would just tell him to bake a new batch of brownies.
He never really got very good at lying. But he keeps trying, which is the part I didn’t expect. He’s 28 now, and just so terrible at it because he doesn’t understand how people can so easily figure it out.
Ghode once got lost at Angel Stadium:
A crowd had gathered to watch as a police officer held me out at arms length while I screamed “call the police, this man is not my daddy” over and over again. My parents had taught me stranger danger, but forgot to teach me what police look like.
A lot of redditors remembered winning prizes when their parents were trying to teach them that gambling, or carnival games, or claw machines would just eat up their money. RedditPoster05 shares:
My sister tried to teach her kids not to gamble. She bought a few lottery tickets to show them that they were all going to be losers. She won $500.
Same goes for booze, of course. Drinkmoreshowerbeer says:
My parents did the thing where they gave 4-year-old me a sip of Budweiser under the impression that I could say that it was yucky and then turn it into some lesson about not drinking Mummy and Daddy drinks, or whatever. I instead took a sip and said “Mmm! Can I have one?”
The lesson that beer is good has lasted to adulthood.
Monfo’s dad ruined bedtime:
When I was around 12, my father... told me that I shouldn’t play my Game Boy Advance past bedtime, because I needed to rest. That’s when I realised I could play my Game Boy Advance past bedtime, and I’ve suffered from insomnia since then.
Frickin’ Fortnite. Your kids won’t stop playing it, and you’re fed up. What do you do? You could join one of the many parent support groups, or make a musical parody to vent your frustrations, or try locking the game consoles in the car and hiding the key (yes, this is really happening). Or you can play, too.
Partofbreakfast works in a school with a high percentage of students with learning disabilities.
One of the first lessons of the school year is “everybody needs different things to learn, and if somebody is getting something different from you it’s because that’s what they need to learn at school.” You know, a kid-friendly way of explaining accommodations.
Now, the usual accommodations we offer are special chairs/wiggle seats, extra breaks during the day, and extended testing time and tests taken in a quiet room. One kid, however, has decided to take the ‘everyone learns differently’ lesson to heart and now talks in a fake-British accent (I live in America btw) all day. Because ‘it helps him learn’.
Then all of the other kids started talking in fake accents.
MadMadGirl wanted her son to be true to himself, so she told him he could hang out with friends that she didn’t like:
His friends could act a certain way, but he could recognise that to be someone’s friend didn’t mean he needed to follow their behaviours.
Sounded good and accepting in my head... til he hung out with friends who he got in trouble with at school for weed. Whether you like weed or hate it, think it should be legal or not, it’s still illegal on school grounds and he got expelled.
Guess he didn’t heed my lesson, or maybe it was just a bad message. Now I tell him to avoid people who don’t care about his best interests. Be friendly, don’t be friends.
OK that was sad, here’s a funny one from chipdipper99:
When my daughter was 10, she wanted to try out for a community theatre 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.
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 goddamn play
Tsquaredp’s story is, uh, really more of a brag, but we love it. When he started giving his daughter an allowance, he explained that it was in exchange for all the help she did around the house.
Later that evening before I tucked her in to bed after reading to her, she goes to her money jar, pulls out $2 and hands it to me, and explains that it’s for being a good daddy.
One last backfire. It’s a long one, and it’s dirty, but it’s amazing. KicksButtson says:
My dad really fucked up trying to teach me about sex...
I don’t remember exactly how old I was (maybe 7), but he was giving my first sex talk. Not the one where you explain how to have sex, but the one where you explain to a young kid the physical differences between boys and girls to avoid any awkward curiosities later.
He sat me down and was explaining that boys have a “pee pee” and what it’s used for. Then he tries to tell me what girls have, but because he’s extremely nervous he almost says girls have a “pussy” but catches himself mid-word. So in his haste he says that girls have a “poo poo” because he stumbled when he said pussy and just stuttered the “P” sound twice. So suddenly I believe that female genitals are known as a “poo poo” thanks to my dad’s nervousness.
Did he ever correct that misconception? No way, he was just glad the talk was over. Flash forward a few years and I’m talking about girls with some of my friends and I say something about how awesome a girl’s “poo poo” looks, and they think I mean I like seeing a girl shit. They had a good laugh at me and I went home to my dad. I come in the door and see him and immediately I yell “how could you let me believe it’s called a poo poo”... and he just laughs and says “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”
Hoo boy. Go read hundreds more of these stories on Reddit, and share your own below.