52 of the Worst Parenting Tips Parents Get

Parenting is definitely not one size fits all, but some pieces of advice are downright wrong. Our experts name the troublesome tips you can feel free to ignore.

"Boys will be boys"

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"When young boys, bite, kick, or hurt other kids, the behavior needs to be addressed and not tossed into the pile of 'boys will be boys.' Children, both boys and girls, need to know about personal boundaries and which behaviors are and are not acceptable." —Danielle Lindner, MS in teaching and elementary education and the founder and CEO of The London Day School (Here's how to deal with the worst bratty behaviors.)

"Don't worry, she'll grow out of it"

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"Hurting friends, grabbing their toys, throwing things, or destroying property is not something that all kids do, nor is it something that should be let go in the hopes that a child will 'grow out of it.' Teaching the acceptable way to behave around others will help the child build positive long-lasting relationships with their peers, their teachers, and their parents." —Danielle Lindner

"Stop praising your kids so much"

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"Kids do need praise and should be told when they have done something well. Catching a child doing something good, like sharing or helping another child down the slide, should be positively reinforced with praise. When children feel that the good things that they are do are being noticed it gives them a sense of pride and builds self-esteem. Children who have a high sense of self-esteem are much less likely to grow up to be schoolyard bullies, as they don't need to make someone else feel bad to build themselves up." —Danielle Lindner (Here are more tricks for building self-esteem in your kids.)

"Everyone should get a trophy as long as they show up"

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"Teaching kids that just showing up to an event or game is worthy of a trophy is not doing that child any favors. Instead, teach them that in addition to being present, they need to participate to the best of their ability. The focus should be on teaching teamwork, being ready and prepared for the game, being okay with either winning or losing, and how to exhibit good sportsmanship. These skills will help with everything children do throughout their entire educational career and into adulthood." —Danielle Lindner (Check out this useful and funny advice on parenting from your favorite comedians.)

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"Leave them alone, they'll figure it out"

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"While space is an essential part of every healthy relationship, giving kids too much space can backfire. Growing kids need to be reassured every once in a while, and just letting your kid handle his concerns on his own at a young age can be counterproductive. It's best to let him try on his own for a little while but be ready to help when he asks." —Enozia Vakil, certified child psychologist and hypnotherapist

"Kids need strict rules"

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"You do need to set the ground rules when it comes to day-to-day activities and other crucial aspects of your home life, but being extra strict can have a major negative impact on your relationship with your child. Be the parent but in a super approachable way, so your child feels like he or she can come to you." —Enozia Vakil

"Don't punish your kid"

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"In an attempt to establish a happy parent-child relationship, you may be tempted never to punish your children and let them learn from their own mistakes, but that's not something a good parent should do. Establishing a middle ground between being easy and strict is the way to go." —Enozia Vakil

"Kids should do their homework on their own—after all, it's their assignment"

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"I've found that high-performing students have parents who are highly involved in supporting their children as they do homework. That doesn't mean that parents do the homework for their children. Rather, it means that parents are looking over the assignments the child has in their assignment book, checking that the child has done all the work assigned to them, finding out what happened to any missing pieces of work, ensuring that the child has a quiet place to work and is on task (this often involves sitting with or near the child while she does homework), and helping the child to neatly put the homework in the appropriate folder and pack up the school bag." —Heather Miller, Ed.M., director of LePage-Miller, a K–12 instructional design firm based in New York City (Here's what your kid's teacher wishes you knew about homework.)

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"Let your child determine what activities to do"

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"Children are not the best judges of what things will benefit them. Most famous ballerinas, athletes, and pianists will tell you that they wanted to quit at many points throughout their childhood. When parents encourage children to persist in spite of challenge, boredom, or even failure, children get the chance to take their skills to the next level. Over time, as their skills develop, children begin to appreciate the activity that they've spent time on, and it becomes a cherished part of their identity. And what if your child never becomes a professional at the activity? He or she will still have learned persistence, which will help in every aspect of their lives for as long as they live. Not a bad trade-off for tolerating your child's grumbling about soccer practice!" —Heather Miller

"Your child will learn to read at school, don't worry about it at home"

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"Learning to read is a very complex task that can take a long time for a child to master. The children who are star readers at school are almost always those whose parents saw it as their duty to teach their children to read rather than leaving it all to the teachers. While teachers at school do a wonderful job, parents should see themselves as part of the teaching team, practicing one on one with their children. This is how so-called 'gifted' or 'natural readers' are created." —Heather Miller

"Make your child hug people, even if they don't want to"

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"Children, especially young girls, need to understand that they are in charge of their bodies. When kisses and hugs are forced, even with friends or relatives, it is not building internal control and shows them that people in authority can tell them to do things with their body that they feel uncomfortable with. Instead, offer alternatives like 'Do you want to hug Uncle Phil or give him a high five?' Showing love to those around you is important, so feel free to hug or kiss Uncle Phil to demonstrate, but don't force your kids to do the same." —Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC, author of five books including Mental Wellness Parenting: A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier

"Put your child in time out alone"

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"We've all had times when our kids have lost control. Parents often deal with this by sending the child into time out or, even worse, to isolation in their bedroom. Our job as parents is not to stop and isolate a behavior, but to teach our children how to control themselves. So you need to teach your child how to calm down during neutral times, then help them remember those skills when they are having a tantrum." —Joseph R. Sanok

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"Go Mama Bear when your child his hurt"

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"Parents naturally want to help reduce pain in their kids, so when they get a bad grade, get bullied, or experience social issues, parents naturally want to fix it. But this tells a child that they have little control over their life and can also lead to feelings of entitlement. Children should not expect parents to fix and solve all their problems, and they need to experience some natural pain in life so they learn how to bounce back. Of course, there are times when parents should step in, but delaying that reaction will help kids build their own confidence and sense of control." —Joseph R. Sanok

"Kids need lots of activities"

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"Kids need down time to play, read, and re-group. If parents cart them around to different activities every day of the week they don't get enough opportunity to do homework or have family time. In families that have split custodial arrangements it's even more important to make sure there are family meals and time to talk about the day and check homework. Those moments determine your child's future work ethic. After all, school is their first job." —Amy L. Stark, PhD, child psychologist

"Your kid should be able to decide which parent they live with"

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"The majority of divorced families have split-custody parenting plans. When parents do not promote the relationship with the other parent, it is harmful for their child. Telling their children that when they turn some magical age they can decide not to have a relationship with the other parent is harmful to them in every possible way. Each parent plays an important role in upbringing, and children are a part of each parent. Don't leave your child feeling that some part of them is unacceptable because you feel the other parent is unacceptable." —Amy L. Stark

"Smart phone games make kids smarter"

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"I see many kids who are given their parent's cell phone to play on or are put in front of TVs, computers, or other electronic devices. People think that playing games is fine as long as they're educational, but there are many downsides to too much screen time. Recently in a restaurant I saw a family sitting at a nearby table and they were all using an electronic device while they ate. No one spoke to each other until they were ready to leave the restaurant. This erodes the family unit and devalues interpersonal contact. If you have a bored child, a better option is a book. Everything needs to be done in moderation." —Amy L. Stark (Try these tricks to get your kids off their phones without any bribery.)

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"Family always comes first"

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"Of course our families are an important priority but it should never be at the expense of your own mental health. Being a good parent means that you are taking care of your emotions so you can be a healthy role model for your children. Your mental health has huge implications for your children, and it's critical in determining your child's academic success, forming positive relationships, and attaining physical and psychological well-being." —Denise Daniels, PhD, a parenting and child development expert and creator of The Moodsters

"Avoid conflict at all costs"

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"If you're like me, you hate conflict. But conflict can be an important opportunity for us to show kids how to handle powerful feelings and demonstrate positive problem solving. As parents we can help our kids think things through and find constructive solutions when problems arise. We can help support children by validating their feelings and showing them our displeasure with their behavior while not letting it interfere with the love we have for them. Staying calm during conflict teaches our kids that strong feelings can be managed. Handling conflict and problem solving takes lots of practice but it's well worth the effort!" —Denise Daniels (Steal these parenting habits from Denmark, the happiest country in the world.)

"Your child doesn't need a car seat if you're just going a short distance"

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"Well-meaning friends and family members may tell you that you don't need to buckle baby in a car seat because you're just going down the street. But statistics show that most car crashes happen close to home. Taking chances with anyone unbuckled in a vehicle is never a good idea. The baby's car seat should be installed properly and the harness tightened properly every time you travel, whether it's just across the street or across the country. While you're at it, set a good example and always wear your own seat belt. Buckle everyone in the car correctly and the chances of surviving a crash increase tenfold." —Allana Pinkerton, a Certified Child Passenger Safety Instructor and Global Safety Advocate for Diono (These are dangerous mistakes even smart parents make sometimes.)

"Save money and buy a used car seat"

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"Used car seats from garage sales or consignment shops have an unknown history. Car seats should be replaced after a collision and you would have no way of knowing if it's ever been in a crash. Does it have all the labels still attached and can you determine if it's been recalled for something serious that may cause injury and not protect your baby adequately? How would you know if all the parts and pieces are still with the car seat? Buy a new one, the safety is worth it." —Allana Pinkerton

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"Your baby can face front in the car as soon as he weighs 20 pounds"

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"This used to be the guideline but times have changed. Experts now say to keep kids rear-facing until they are at least two years old. Believe it or not, many pediatricians still give out the old information, telling parents to turn their children around too soon. Doctors may be well trained in medicine, diagnosing, and treating ailments, but they are not car seat experts and may not know the latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Babies and toddlers are five times safer when rear-facing because the car seat protects the head, neck, and spinal column in a frontal crash." —Allana Pinkerton

"It's probably nothing"

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"Parents of children who are experiencing difficulties are often talked out of their worries, which leads them to doubt themselves and wait until they're at their wits end to seek help. There is plenty of credible information available on child development, milestones, and early warning signs of trouble, yet we often ignore it because we don't want to believe anything is wrong with our child. But if there's a bigger problem brewing, early intervention is key and waiting only allows the problem to get worse." —Aisha Pope, LCSW, program manager of FFAST (Foster Family Agency Stabilization and Treatment) for the San Diego Center for Children

"They know better, don't let them get away with that"

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"The truth is that what children know when they're rational, they often forget when they're under stress—they don't actually 'know better.' So when young children do things that are impulsive, throw tantrums, talk back, or break a rule, some will suggest we punish them harshly to show them that 'they can't get away with that.' Rather than punishing them, work with them when they're calm on how to better control their behavior in the future. This doesn't mean you can't hold them accountable. Just recognize that planning for the future is more helpful than punishing for the past." —Aisha Pope

"Children should do as they're told, no questions asked"

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"Many parents are looking for blind obedience from their children. While that may make life easier at home, the problem is that blind obedience is only useful when all of the available leaders are leading in the right direction. Kids who aren't taught to make their own decisions and even (respectfully) challenge leadership can easily succumb to peer pressure or find themselves following any available leader, whether they're in the right or not. Rather than teaching children to blindly follow directions, teach them your family's values and let them in on your process for making decisions based on those values so that you can trust their decision making in the future." —Aisha Pope

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"Don't pick up your baby every time he cries"

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"Not being responsive to your child's cries can make them feel anxious or like they're doing something wrong. It's important to soothe your baby as best you can, every time." —Cherie Corso, parenting expert and author of Word on the Street

"Ban sweets"

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"Many parents ban all cupcakes, cookies, or sweets thinking it will make their children healthier. In reality it's better to teach them everything in moderation. I see these kids gorge themselves on treats at school because they were not allowed sweets in the home and don't know how to eat moderately." —Cherie Corso

"Want a kid to learn to swim? Throw 'em in the pool"

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"This is not just wrong, it's dangerous. Even if you're right there, a child can drown in mere seconds." —Cherie Corso

"Don't fight in front of your kids"

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"Kids need to learn conflict resolution and how to handle arguments in a healthy way. And the way they learn that is by watching you and your partner settle disagreements in positive way." —Cherie Corso

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"Those are just crocodile tears, ignore them"

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"Crying is one of the many ways in which children communicate, using it to relay pain, hunger, discomfort, fear, confusion, distress, sadness, or excitement, among other things. Responding to a crying child lets them know they are heard and builds trust in the relationship between caregiver and child. Children thrive when their needs are met by reliable, dependable, and responsive caregivers. Ignoring a child's attempts to communicate, including crying, may lead them to suffer from insecurity, anxiety, a lack of empathy, and in extreme cases, anger and relationship disruptions." —Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, psychotherapist and program coordinator at Providence Saint John's Child and Family Development Center in California, specializing in early childhood mental health

"Don't let him wear the pink sandals"

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"When parents reinforce gender concepts such as specific colors for girls and certain sports for boys, they promote stereotypes and biases that are not respectful or helpful. Young children need to learn about who they are in the world and build a strong foundation of behaviors that support that identity and how they function in society. When parents promote strong egalitarian gender values, they instill in children the knowledge needed later in life to make choices and decisions that support their individual gender identification." —Mayra Mendez

"You shouldn't live vicariously through your kid"

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"We see our kids as extensions of us and therefore we experience their successes or failures as our own. Because we feel so deeply for them, we might wrongly assume that every action we take is in their best interest only, when in reality we might also want something from and through them. We all live vicariously through our children in some way, psychologically and socially, and this isn't bad as long as we are conscious of it, own it, and can prepare ourselves to be disappointed. The greatest gift you can give your child is to not hold them solely responsible for your happiness." —David L. Henderson, MD, author of My Teenage Zombie

"You are the parent, therefore you are always right"

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"With teenagers the fight for independence is paramount. You are an obstacle to that independence, whether you realize it or not. Your teenagers will argue with you purely on principle, even if you both know you're right. It can be scary to feel backed into a corner as a parent when there are decisions to be made. We imagine that any sign of weakness can put us at risk of losing the battle, but remaining flexible as a parent allows you the ability to listen to a teenager's viewpoint and be empathetic, even if you come to a different conclusion in the end. The best phrase every parent of a teen needs to memorize is, 'I need some time to think about that.' Rigidity is the fastest way to lose credibility with your teenager so admit when you're not sure. Take your time. Your teenager will see that you are being intentional with your decisions and even if they don't want to admit it, they will respect you for it in the long run." —David L. Henderson

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"Don't worry, everything will work out fine in the end"

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"On the surface this sounds like good advice, instilling hope. However parents can feel like it is entirely their fault when things don't go well, unpredictable trauma arises, or their child chooses an unfavorable path. Each child has their own journey, even if it ends up being a difficult or even destructive one. Parents can only do their best to create a platform for success, and the rest is up to the child." —Iris Pachler, PhD, licensed psychologist and clinical director of New Harmony Psychological Associates in Fair Oaks, California

"Listen to me, I've been there"

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"Friends, family, and even professionals can offer helpful input and advice but at the end of the day, parents often know their kids and their needs best. Being assertive is not the same as being aggressive, and parents can advocate for their child's needs rather then following advice that is counter to what they believe will serve their child best." —Iris Pachler

"Babies need to stay home for the first two months"

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"Some parents are told that they should not take their newborn out of the house except for doctor visits for the first two months of life. Historically and in some cultures this is known as 'lying-in' or a period of confinement. But this is absolutely not necessary. There is no reason a mom or baby should be stuck in the house. As soon as a mother is feeling up to it physically, she can take her baby outside. It's great for moms and babies to get fresh air and to see other people, as it helps prevent feelings of isolation. I do recommend avoiding crowded and enclosed spaces with infants before the two-month mark to prevent little ones from getting sick. It's also important to keep your infant out of direct sunlight to prevent sunburns." —Deena Blanchard, MD, pediatrician and partner at Premier Pediatrics in New York

"Babies are always cold—put a hat and socks on him"

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"Many moms have been stopped by a well-intentioned (or possibly nosy) stranger on the street telling them their baby needs a hat even though it's 90 degrees outside. The myth that babies need to be wrapped up in multiple layers at all times is false and can actually be dangerous. Babies can overheat quickly, and it's especially important to not overbundle your baby for bed (infants should not sleep in hats). Generally, I recommend that babies be put in one light layer more than what you as a parent are wearing." —Deena Blanchard

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"Letting your baby sleep on their stomach reduces fussiness"

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"As a pediatrician and a mom, I often hear from patients or friends that their baby just sleeps better on their stomach. Or they say they slept on their stomachs as babies and they survived. But the research clearly shows that sleeping on their backs is the safest sleep position for babies and is important in the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)." —Deena Blanchard

"Breastfeeding is always best"

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"The breast versus bottle battle is a hot button for many new mothers and there is far too much mom shaming and judgement that happens because of it. While there are many benefits of breastfeeding for baby and for mom, this feeding regimen does not always work best for every family. Some women simply do not want to breastfeed or don't feel comfortable with breast feeding their baby, and they need not feel any shame about that decision. Some women attempt to breastfeed but for a variety of reasons, it doesn't work. The last thing any mother should feel is that she somehow 'failed' her baby or is less than a mother who breastfeeds." —Julie Burton, MS, author of the recently published book The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother's Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being

"Trust your instincts, you know best"

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"On paper this sounds like great advice and often it is. However, from the moment a couple becomes parents, they are inundated with decisions from choosing a brand of baby food (or deciding to make their own) to whether or not they are going to let their 14-year-old go to a concert with his buddies without parental supervision. Parental decisions can be confusing, overwhelming, scary, and downright daunting at times. Sometimes you will know and other times you may not be able to decipher your instinct because it is blocked by fear, anxiety, your own past experiences, and other people's input. It's totally fine to ask for help from your partner or someone you trust. Or know that you can try one plan of action and if it doesn't work, you can always try something else." —Julie Burton

"Don't parent other people's children"

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"I fully subscribe to the 'it takes a village to raise a child' belief. While I am confident that I have instilled good values in my children, I am grateful for the lessons they have learned from other adults in their lives, like a teacher, a coach, family member, or a friend. Similarly, if one of my child's friends is at my house and breaks a rule, there is no question that I will 'parent' that child and explain to him or her the importance of being respectful to others. As hard as parents try to be objective in their views of their children, they cannot possibly see their children from every single angle, so other parents' opinions can be of great help." —Julie Burton

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"If your child bites, bite them back so they know how it feels"

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"Yikes! This is terrible parenting advice and not likely to lead to very much learning on your child's part. This advice essentially suggests that kids learn not to hit or bite (or use any aggressive behavior) as a function of understanding how it feels when it happens to them. However, this doesn't work in real life. First, kids who do hit or bite often do so because they lack the skills to communicate in more appropriate ways. Second, hitting them back doesn't take away the original cause of the frustration or teach them different skills for managing that negative emotion in the future. Instead, the parent ends up modeling the exact behavior they want the child to avoid." —Yamalis Diaz, PhD, clinical associate professor in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone's Child Study Center

"Don't rely on rules; let kids figure it out themselves"

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"While it's true that kids don't need rules for everything and being overly strict can lead to negative behavior, kids absolutely do need rules and limits. Kids feel more secure and sure of the world around them when they know what to expect and what's expected of them. Through rules, they learn to understand the difference between right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, allowed and not allowed, respectful and not respectful. Letting kids figure it out on their own is likely to lead to a lot of bumps in the road that may be hard or nearly impossible to smooth out later when the young adult is faced with a society that has lots of rules." —Yamalis Diaz

"If your child won't share, make them"

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"Children are not developmentally capable of putting their own feelings aside for another's feelings until at least age five. And the bigger the feelings, the longer that is going to take to come on line. This means you have to be sensitive to whether or not sharing is a realistic expectation. I always tell parents that if your child has a very special toy, put it away before a playdate. For other toys, have an adult nearby to help the kids navigate sharing as needed." —Vanessa Lapointe, PhD, psychologist, parenting expert, mother, and author of Discipline Without Damage: How To Get Your Kids To Behave Without Messing Them Up

"Kids need playdates or they'll grow up antisocial"

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"We can be really focused on playdates as a necessary part of healthy child development, but the truth is that far more than children need time with other children, they need time with their special adults: moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, uncles, aunts, and family friends. Natural multi-age clustering of children as would happen at family get-togethers and neighborhood BBQs is a wonderful way for children to navigate social interaction naturally." —Vanessa Lapointe

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"If you don't do preschool your kid will never be ready for kindergarten"

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"I absolutely do not feel that Pre-K or preschool is necessary. The more time children have with their primary caregivers in a stimulating environment the better. Of course, there are also several other things that often weigh into this consideration for families, including economics, two-working parent households, etc. But generally speaking, if kids are at home with a primary caregiver in an enriched environment, then that is a lovely place for them to stay, and they will learn plenty." —Vanessa Lapointe

"Safety always comes first—better safe than sorry"

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"We live in a world that warns us of danger at every turn, so many adults are safety obsessed, especially when it comes to our kids. Unfortunately, over-protecting has an adverse effect on them. It teaches them not to take risks and to be afraid of everything. Our failure to let them try risky things may explain why so many young adults still live at home or haven't started a career. We're creating scared children who grow into risk-averse, and therefore less independent, young adults."— Tim Elmore, PhD, president of Growing Leaders and author of Twelve Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid

"Sometimes you have to bribe kids to get them to do the right thing"

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"We have fallen into a behavioral trap as parents where we feel that every action our kids take must be either rewarded or punished, incentivizing good behavior. Parents often pay children money to get good grades, to do basic chores like feeding the dog, or for self-care like picking up dirty clothes. We need to be teaching children to do something because it is the right thing to do, not simply because they expect a reward for it." —Sara Villanueva, PhD, professor of psychology at St. Edward's University and author of The Angst of Adolescence: How to Parent Your Teen and Live to Laugh About It

"Failure is to be avoided at all costs"

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"A winning attitude will make your child more competitive, but while a healthy dose of competition and confidence in one's abilities is good, teaching your child that losing is not an option is simply setting them up for true failure. This is an unrealistic expectation. When—not if—the child fails at something, the failure will likely by internalized, and self-esteem, self-worth will suffer." —Sara Villanueva

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"It's okay for them to have TV in their bedrooms"

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"Children under five should not have televisions in their rooms, and really there is no benefit to having a TV in the bedroom at any age. Recent research supports limiting screen time of children under two, and we continue to support this with teenagers and older children. Sleep and learning are impacted when children have televisions in their rooms." —Stacy Haynes, EdD, LPC, ACS, psychologist, blogger, and author of Powerful Peaceful Parenting: Guiding Children, Changing Lives

"You should be best friends with your child"

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"What this generally creates is a hovering parent who is overly involved in every aspect of the child's daily life. While it is important to have a close, loving relationship with your child, it is equally important to give that child the necessary independence required to develop self-confidence and resilience to cope effectively. The parent and child are not on the same level. It is not an equal relationship, like most friendships. You need to remember that your child's well-being is more important than your child's opinion of you. In addition, oversharing with your children and/or establishing dependence on them to meet your social needs can have significant negative effects on them." —Mary Beth Somich, LPCA, licensed child and family therapist in North Carolina

"Give them a taste of their own medicine"

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"It is part of your job as the adult to model the behaviors and attitudes that you wish your child to emulate, to the best of your ability. Young children do not understand the concept of 'getting back at them.' They are simply confused that their parent is being mean, even cruel. It is more important to praise and reward positive behaviors and point out when the child does something that makes you proud. Children actually learn faster from positive reinforcement than they do from punishment." —Mary Beth Somich

"It is your job to make sure your child gets good grades"

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"It is the job of the parents to raise healthy children into kind, happy, and productive adults. Everyone has different strengths, and parents need to accept and respect their child for the person they are and the potential they exhibit, even if that potential is not in the area of academic achievement. Overemphasizing academic success can lead a child to develop severe stress, anxiety, and issues with self-confidence." —Mary Beth Somich

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