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Unsplash | Alexander Dummer

Parents Share The Toughest Lessons They've Had To Learn Along The Way

Parenting is hard. No one can reasonably doubt this. There isn't one foolproof user manual to tell us how to do it, and oftentimes, parents have to make things up as they go along.

Nothing we can do will make it much easier, but at least we have the internet, a place where parents can commiserate together. This r/AskWomen thread on Reddit was full of good insights from experienced parents.

Teach them how to manage their own lives.

Hands carrying stack of folded laundry
Unsplash | Dan Gold

"My dad made me start being in charge of my own laundry when I entered Junior High school and it's a small thing I am so happy about.

It was one of many thing my parents did that slowly shifted control from my parents hands to mine so that when I left for college, I knew how to sustain myself so that I could focus on the rest of the college experience."

-u/wdeguenther

They might make you cringe at times.

Person dressed in goth attire
Unsplash | Elyas Pasban

"Your kids will not always be like you and that's okay! Let them go through that hip-hop, emo, country, cheerleading, nerd phase. Be there for them and let them identify themselves! They have their own personality after all!"

-u/Chuck2025

Be a cool parent, but not at the expense of being a parent.

Dad at the sink with daughter
Unsplash | CDC

"My kids and I goof off a lot, laugh together and apparently I am a ‘cool mom’ according to them. But I have told them several times that I’m their mama first. Sometimes they get super pissed off at me regarding a rule or something they have to do like chores, etc. but that is just fine with me. I like to think it actually means I’m doing my job."

-u/rhineisland

It isn't always easy to connect.

Mom sitting with child on a park bench
Unsplash | Benjamin Manley

"Their kids might not have anything in common with them or turn out differently than expected. I see a lot of parents who are surprised when they struggle to connect with their child or something hard pops up. So many small things can be huge stressors to kids and become gigantic, time consuming concerns for parents."

-u/[deleted]

Listen to their teachers.

A classroom full of children
Unsplash | National Cancer Institute

"I’m a parent so I empathize with the difficulty of parenting, but as a teacher I see too many kids with uninvolved parents just floundering. Some of those parents have legitimate reasons, but many are just not interested in doing the work of checking homework (to make sure it’s done, not for perfection), making sure kids are signing on for classes, and, I don’t know, responding when a teacher reaches out to you."

-u/cellists_wet_dream

Don't transfer your trauma.

Man sitting down while holding his face
Unsplash | Ben White

"I work in a school/was a teacher for five years and so often meeting the parents makes you go 'Ahhh yes. I see where this comes from.' Honestly I think its why some parents get so uncomfortable at parent's evening, a lot of times they will be hearing the same or similar things that were said to them as children."

-u/quellerosien

The work is never-ending.

Dad reading to his baby
Unsplash | Picsea

"Honestly the hardest lesson that we have learned is that your work day is never done. You do not have a day off as a parent. You are on 24/7. I relish the days when I had a career and looked forward to my day off. Granted my littles are 3 and under so I have more lessons down the road!"

-u/Prmourkidz

Help them grow.

Mother and daughter hugging
Unsplash | Eye for Ebony

"Please let your children grow up and be independent. Teach them life skills so they can go out into the world and be successful! They should know how to do laundry, clean up after themselves & have basic money management skills by high school. Do not guilt your children about growing up."

-u/lostinthewebagain

This one's pretty deep.

Dad sitting at kitchen table with his son
Unsplash | Jimmy Dean

"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday."

-u/crest8566

They need to make their own mistakes.

Mom crouching over to hold hands with child
Unsplash | Sai De Silva

"Best thing my parents ever did for me. The right time to learn to stumble, fall, and pick yourself back up is when there are parents there to dust you off.

I was an only child, and my parents couldn't have any more children. My mom always told me that the hardest thing for them to do was not clutch me close and over-protect me. I am eternally grateful for their strength and willingness to help me grow into a self-reliant human being."

-u/mosselyn

Sometimes they're not just being picky.

Toddler with a bowl of cereal
Unsplash | Providence Doucet

"Unless it's becoming a big problem and actually affecting their nutrition, it your kid doesn't like a specific vegetable, don't force them to eat it. I didn't like eggplant when I was little and I still don't, I wasn't being spoiled, just genuinely didn't like it."

-u/Con-Cosmique

Learn to pick your battles.

Parents pointing at laptop screen with daughter in the middle
Unsplash | sofatutor

"Does it really matter if your kid wears mismatched socks? Is it really a big deal if they wear a princess dress to go grocery shopping? Those are minor things that absolutely do not make a difference in the long run. Let it go and life is easier for you both."

-u/WasabiChickpea

They're unique, and that's okay.

Dad snuggling with daughter
Unsplash | Caroline Hernandez

"They are not you - now say it again 10 times. They may or may not like the things you do or did at their age. No amount of yelling, begging, forcing, or conjoling will make them just like you. They absolutely will not have the same life experience and they have a completely different perspective than you. Even if they're your 'mini me' they are absolutely their own person. You can even go as far to say that if they're truly a carbon copy of either parent, you've probably done something wrong as a parent."

-u/FlourFlavored

Use your influence wisely.

Child on dad's shoulders
Unsplash | Kelli McClintock

"I wouldn't want to control my child's actions, but it's a bit disheartening to see a parent be reasonable and understanding to their child, only for the child to end up knowing they can get away with behaving terribly around their parents because they know they won't see any consequence for it. It's going to be nuts trying to figure out how to be understanding without spoiling them."

-u/SpumpkinPice

Guide them, don't control them.

Parents holding a newborn
Unsplash | Kelly Sikkema

"Exactly, like I’m not even a parent (eldest sister here) and I feel like as much as I would want my younger siblings to learn some things I learnt, they’re each going to have a different experience so I can’t really teach them what I want and expect them to learn instantly. I need to accept the fact that they’re going to have to learn with my advice but their experiences."

-u/goodbyetwitter

It goes by quickly.

Paint silhouette of parent holding hands with child
Unsplash | Suzi Kim

"Hardest pill for me to swallow so far is that they are going to grow up. My kids are 8 and 12 now and I am already SO sad about them growing up and moving out etc. I do focus on the time we've got now, but when those thoughts pop into my head I get SUPER sad. We haven't reached the teen years yet though so check back in the next few years."

-u/hookedonfonicks

Telling lies is just part of growing up, don't freak out.

Toddler covering their mouth
Unsplash | Jelleke Vanooteghem

"Kids tell lies. They do. It’s part of their emotional and intellectual development. Don’t make it a big deal. Respond appropriately to the untruthfulness. Discuss it. Don’t take it personally."

-u/teachingzeus

Help contextualize life for them.

Mom showing a tablet to two children
Unsplash | Alexander Dummer

"Your purpose is not to pass down your own rules about life, but to put life itself in context for them.

(I'm not a parent tho, but I was surprised when someone said that that's how they parent their child and I thought it made sense)."

-u/strange_socks_

Your kid isn’t giving you a hard time. THEY are having a hard time.

Mom holding child
Unsplash | Jordan Whitt

"I wish more people would understand this when their children are having a tantrum. So many people write it off as bad behaviour, where in reality it is your child having an overwhelming amount of emotions and feelings and no clue as to how to deal with them."

-u/[deleted]

You have to parent the kid you have, not the one you want.

Dad holding toddler at the beach
Unsplash | Steven Van Loy

"I see so many comments on how a kid should be raised but lot of these comments don't even have children and the truth is, your idea how you may want to parent your kid may not work with that kid you have."

-u/diaperedwoman