Seven Pieces of Bad Advice That We Give Kids

Like tour guides, adults guide children toward their adulthood, giving them answers and advice along the way. While most of the advice given to children is good, some of it is bad. This bad advice can often follow them into adulthood where they may struggle due to the advice that was given to them as children. To make matters worse, the advice often is passed down to the next generation of children, so it becomes a continuous cycle of bad advice. This poor advice can cause them to develop unhealthy habits, unhealthy attitudes, and expectations as well as cause unhealthy emotions.

When giving advice to children, adults often rely on their own childhood and experiences. This can be confusing for the child as the adult’s childhood was likely different than the child of today. Also, the advice may be outdated as scientists may have proven it incorrect. Repeating poor advice just causes the misinformation to spread further which continues the perpetual cycle of bad advice. As we grow more informed, we discover that old practices are outdated and instead new approaches to the topic are formed. It is important to learn the updated advice which should be given to children, so you know how to handle situations in a more informed way. The first step to correcting this poor advice pattern is to learn what not to say:

1. “He/she hit you because they like you.”

This piece of advice can do a lot of damage. Not only does it teach the child that it’s okay for others to hit them, but it also teaches them that it’s okay to hit others. It is never okay to hit someone, and this piece of advice tells the child that it’s okay if a person is attracted to them. This may inform the child that it’s okay for a boyfriend or girlfriend to hit them. Instead, address that the person hit them and find a solution. Contact the school if necessary and teach your child what to do if that situation arises again.

2. “Do as I say, not as I do.”

When given this advice, a child is told not to mimic the undesirable actions of the adult but instead, do what the adult tells them to do. This could be a father telling a child to not drink out of the milk carton but still drinking out of it himself or a mother striking her child as a result of them hitting someone else. This advice can be confusing as children naturally mimic the adults in their lives. It may start as a baby brushing their hair like mom, but eventually, the child will mimic the actions of the mother. This is the case with smoking cigarettes as kids with parents that smoke are more likely to be smokers when they grow up.

3. “Clear your plate.”

This bit of advice typically starts at a young age. Children are told to finish everything on their plate regardless of if they feel full or not. This attitude towards food can create an unhealthy relationship with eating. When told to eat everything on their plate, children stuff themselves far beyond when they are hungry. This not only teaches the child to ignore the signals of their body but it also causes the stomach to stretch which can contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Instead, teach your child about nutrition and encourage them to stop eating once they feel full. This will create a healthier relationship with food.

4. “We did it when I was a kid.”

As each generation grows into an adult, new techniques and methods are discovered. These new discoveries often make us healthier, happier and safer. One excellent example of this is the car seat. When cars first came out, young children and babies sat on their parent’s lap. Eventually, the car seat was invented, however, it was far from safe. Today, we know better, and car seats are now safer than ever. Old practices should stay in the past, and you should update yourself on today’s more informed approach.

5. “Kiss your aunt/grandma/cousin.”

Forcing your child to show affection can make everyone involved uncomfortable. While their relative may have traveled far, your child should not be compelled to show love. Forcing your child to hug or kiss someone teaches them that it’s okay to force others to show affection. It also tells them that they don’t have control over their own body. Instead, allow the child to have the choice of showing affection. Also, find other ways for them to show affection such as drawing a picture of the relative. This teaches the child that they have control over their own body and others do as well.

6. “Toughen up.”

While childhood can be fun, it can also be devastating as well. When a child gets their feelings hurt, they may cry or seek comfort. If they fall down or get hit, they will become sad and might cry as well. Dealing with upset feelings is part of childhood as we all experience loss and sadness. When you tell a child not to cry or be sad, you are teaching them to bottle up their emotions which can be just as harmful as acting on them. Instead, allow your child to show their feelings and coach them through healthily dealing with them. 

7. “It’s a dog eat dog world.”

While technically this is true in a way, it’s not something that should be taught to children. This advice shows the child to ignore others in pursuit of their own desires. We all rely on others throughout our lives, and others depend on us. Teaching your child to ignore others not only causes them to be selfish but it also may prevent them from functioning well in a team. Instead of trying to get them to be competitive in everything they do, show them how to help others as well as rely on others. Teaching them to work with other people will prepare them for college as well as their work in the future. 


As much as we want to believe we do, adults don’t know everything. Giving out poor advice is practically a tradition however education can stop it. Reading and doing research can help you become a better parent. Also, looking up new parenting techniques can be helpful, and this should be done periodically throughout their childhood to ensure that you have the most up to date information available. Giving good advice to children can prepare them for the future and help them handle situations in their childhood. Bad advice is still around, but we can all help combat it one household at a time.




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