I Blame Your Shitty Kids On Your Shitty Parenting

This past Mother’s Day, a local radio station did a segment called “The Worst Mother’s Day Ever.”

In case that title isn’t descriptive enough for you, they basically asked mothers to call in and describe how horrible their Mother’s Day went. The mother with the worst story won a $700 pair of earrings!

Of all the calls that rolled in, one still stands out in my mind. This particular mother lamented how she has three grown sons, none of whom even bothered to call to wish her Happy Mother’s Day. She was most upset by her oldest son, who she explained is currently living out of his car. Every now and then, he still shows up unannounced and sleeps in her guest room. Furthermore, he “smells real bad,” according to this forlorn mother, so she always has to wash the sheets afterwards.

This poor mother was baffled how her own son, who imposes himself on her all the time, couldn’t even be bothered to call on Mother’s Day.

The radio DJ was sympathetic.

I rolled my eyes.

Sure, sure, it sounds like she has some pretty selfish sons. Especially the oldest one. Sure, sure.

But, here’s what I can’t help wondering: How the hell did the son end up like this? If he’s a grown man, why is he still living out of his car?

Most importantly, what kind of mother lets her child get to this point? That, to me, is the question she should be asking herself.

Having worked with “troubled youth” for seven years now, I can pretty much guarantee that if a kid puts himself down a “bad path,” the vast majority of the time, it’s due to the parents. Maybe it’s under-parenting: they’re negligent and don’t watch over their kid. Or maybe it’s over-parenting: they’re so smothering that the kid starts getting into nasty things just to rebel.

Either way, you can pin that hairy tail of responsibility on the parents’ misguided asses. You see, kids are essentially blank slates. And on these blank slates, parents get to paint the most beautiful works of art… or the vilest pieces of graffiti.

Yes, sometimes kids are born with certain conditions that may lead to certain behaviors. And yes, sometimes kids have friends who are “bad influences.” But ultimately, if a kid turns out to be a fuck-up of the living-out-of-his-car magnitude, it’s probably because of something the parents did—or failed to do.

Of course, I have to qualify everything I just said and admit that, yes, sometimes there are circumstances outside the parents’ control. And yes, sometimes parents do everything they’re supposed to do, but their kid still gets messed up somehow.

Yes, it can happen. Sometimes.

Just like how you can get struck by lightning. Sometimes.

Rarely is it the case, though. In my experience, if I have a student who’s the royal embodiment of dysfunction, and I wonder what could’ve happened to this kid, and I call his parents and sit down with all of them… well, seeing just a few minutes of their interactions is usually enough to make me go, “Yup. That’s where it came from.”

Not once in seven years have I had a kid who’s just rotten, only to meet his (or her) parents and then be left wondering how two seemingly well-adjusted adults could’ve produced a monster of such ridiculous proportions.

This mother who called the radio station? She reeked of parenting red flags, not the least of which was how self-absorbed she seemed in her own woes.

So, the fact that this woman has three shitty kids? I’m pointing one gigantic judgmental finger at her shitty parenting.

Because that’s where the fucking up usually begins.

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  • I’m sure you’ll get a lot of “You’ll feel differently when you have kids of your own” bullshit for this. But I agree with you times a million. I know both kinds of parents, and as it turns out, the shitty ones have shitty kids. The good ones have good kids. Surprisingly enough.
    Thanks for saying what we’re all thinking.

  • You are one hundred percent correct. I have taught an enormous variety of students in my career, and the one universal truth is that the students are a product of the parenting. From Kindergarteners to Seniors, in the posh suburbs as well as the impoverished inner city, a student is only as disrespectful, manipulative, rude, or lazy as he or she has been taught is acceptable. And where do they learn this? Almost always, it is from the disrespectful, manipulative, rude, or lazy behavior of their parents.

    Of course, there are wonderful students who have wonderful parents everywhere as well. There are also some wonderful students who have excellent manners in spite of their parents’ behaviors. But the fastest route to a shitty kid is indeed shitty parenting.

  • I’m a parent, and Dennis, you rotten son of a… Just kidding, i also agree completely. I used to think people with more than 2 kids were insane, stupid and irresponsible, because at the time, everyone I knew with 3-4 kids were exactly that.

    Now I know a couple of families with 3-4 kids, where the parents are smart, well adjusted people, and all of their kids are lovely little humans.

    My own kid is a spaz and can talk for 20 minutes straight without taking a breath. She’s just like me. In one of the “crazy” families, the oldest son was dumber than dog shit and violently aggressive, the second was a whiny mamma’s boy. The mother would SHRIEK at the older one over anything, and coddled the second child like it’s pudgy little body would dissolve if he wasn’t catered to like a prince.

    They had her much-wanted daughter for a 3rd child just after I stopped talking to them. I imagine she is now neglecting the other two these days. My wife and I have bet money that the older child one day grows up to be a rapist, and it all appears to stem from mom’s behavior.

  • While I completely agree that “there’s no such thing as bad kids just bad parents” as a general rule (there are exceptions), I don’t believe it’s honest to say that kids are just blank slates. Babies are born with set temperaments: easygoing, angry, nervous etc. This is not at an excuse for parents with more “difficult” kids, but I think it bears recognising. The unfair truth is that some parents need to twice as hard to achieve the same results with their child as another set of parents may need to with theirs. This is also often the case with siblings. It’s being willing to do that can make all the difference.

    • Sorry, just to clarify, when I said “set temperaments” I didn’t mean completely immovable. Just that each kid brings their own temperament to the table for the parents to work with 🙂

  • And I thought your next article would be titled “How I Pissed Off a Bunch of Parents on the Internet” because goodness knows there is nothing us parents like more than being told how to parent by childless people but it looks like so far so good.
    However, while we were saying mom is a shitty mom I has another thought. Where is dad? Maybe his absence is the reason for the shiftless no good kids?

  • Granted, there gets to be a point in parenting, as in teaching, where you do have to say, the kid made his choices. He chose not to do his homework, he chose not to do his classwork. He chose to goof off during study hall and go on facebook instead of doing his internet research. You can give him time to do his work and give him feedback on his work, but you can’t, or rather shouldn’t, actually physically do the work for him. Same with parenting, you can send them to the best schools, get them tutors, pay for their college, but you can’t make them get a job. I firmly believe in children and students taking responsibility for their own actions.

  • so how do you explain..five kids, same parents – 3 turn out fine – 2 turn out shitty

  • Thank goodness someone finally puts this out there! I hear all of the time about the “bad influences” and the “sidewalk saints” — the parents who, when in public, put on their best faces, but whose children speak an entirely different story. I know a a couple who raised a son, took his kid from him, raised her, then took her child from her and they are all completely screwed up adults now. What do all three GENERATIONS have in common? The people who raised them! But people talk about them as though they’re just these poor people who somehow got struck by lightning 3 times! I live where pretending to be nice is the same as actually being nice, where LOOKING like a good parent when people walk by, while feigning sadness at how, by some incredible mystery, your love and affection and spectacular parenting just weren’t enough to make up for the “bad influences” that corrupted your kids outside your home is all that’s needed to qualify as parents of the year. Yeah, right. I’ve been in your home. I’ve seen what happens there. I’ve seen the outright abuse. I’ve seen the pernicious abuse. I’ve seen the lengths you go to to hobble, um, excuse me, I mean, “protect” your kid from talking to any one outside your house. The way you isolate, lie, and enlist anyone you can to prop up your house of cards. You think no one sees, but they do. And one day, you’ll answer for everything you did in secret. Stop telling your kids to stop blaming you. They can. They will. They should. And you should answer their charges when they do.

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