We recently covered a viral Reddit thread started by u/timdood3 that asked, "What did your parents teach you as a kid that you didn't realize was actually f**ked up until you were older?" BuzzFeed Community members had their own reactions to the post and shared the toxic lessons from their childhoods. Here are some of the most powerful responses:
Warning: post contains mention of eating disorders.
1."One of the worst was when my mom had 'the talk' with me. She told me that sex was really just for the man and that women are pretty much only there to fulfill men's needs. I was 12. I was also taught that if I had sex before marriage, basically no good, 'godly' man would ever want me because I would be impure and god would be disappointed in me. Hence why I cried for days and was wracked with debilitating guilt and shame when I did finally have sex. Gotta love religion."
2."My parents forbade me from standing up to my childhood bullies. It started in sixth grade, pretty much from day one. A former friend got her new group of friends to hurl insults at me whenever I walked past them, and her group was huge. It was a daily occurrence throughout middle school. About the same time, a group of boys started making fun of my size (I went through puberty early and was much taller and bigger-boned than my classmates). They’d yell 'dinosaur' or 'ghetto butt,' and make dinosaur sounds whenever they saw me. My parents said that talking back to them (aka standing up for myself) would only make things worse, and I can still hear them getting irritated whenever I mentioned how insecure the bullies made me feel."
"They kept saying I needed to let it go, but I was a kid. Of course I wanted other kids to like me. The bullying eased up a bit once I got to high school, but the constant need to be liked followed me into adulthood. I’m positive that if I could've stood up for myself, things would've been better."
3."'You can dream it and be anything you want to be...BUT...' Everything before the 'but' is BS. This was my parents. Have dreams, but we'll go ahead and clip your wings so you don't get too ahead. Cool. I wanted to cheer; they said it cost too much money. I wanted to go to college out of state; it was too much money. I wanted to take up this hobby or that hobby — too much money. So, I became a drugged-out punk instead and suddenly, 'HOW DARE I WASTE MY POTENTIAL?' that they never cultivated. Cool."
4."My dad told me everybody's always trying to cheat you. Obviously lots of other things were going on with him, so it's not just that, but I really don't trust anyone (except my dog)."
5."'Be the bigger person.' My supposed best friend in sixth grade, who I had spent almost every day with since third grade, had a birthday party and invited every single girl in our class but me. My mom made me go to the store, pick out a gift, then go to her house to give it to her while she was having the party. I’ve grown up to be a doormat and people pleaser, and I'm actively working to raise my daughter in the polar opposite way. My mother is a psychologist."
6."My dad would look at my report card and immediately point to the one grade that wasn't as high as the others. No praise, just, 'Oh, what happened there?' Also, when I cry in front of someone now, I always end up apologizing for being emotional. And finally, yeah, bullies don't go away when you ignore them. When it came to bullies, I got, 'Oh, they're just jealous of you!' which is HILARIOUS. Yes, they definitely made fun of me for my bushy hair, braces, and skeletal body because they were jealous. Right."
7."My mom made me weigh-in weekly to make sure I wasn't over 100 pounds. I also caught her putting less food on my plate. I was 98 pounds when I started college. As I gained weight, her first comments were always about my weight, hair, and clothes, then she'd say hi. I'm 39, and this still happens. She's Asian and thinks much of a woman's worth is based on her looks and what kind of man she attracts. The damage has been lifelong. We had a huge falling out, and I brought this up. We didn't speak for seven years."
8."'You shouldn't tell people your thoughts when they don't ask. Ask them questions instead.' My dad told me this in seventh grade when I was telling one of my teammates what my dream vacation was. It's good to be inquisitive and curious about others, but some people converse by exchanging stories instead of asking questions. It's taken me years to realize that. Probably should have realized it sooner when people would ask me why I never talked about myself."
9."When I was a little kid, for some reason my dad was in a hurry for me to grow up, so he discouraged me from doing normal little kid things, like watching cartoons and playing make-believe. He'd say things like, 'That show is for babies, and you want to be a big boy, don't you?' It caused a lot of confusion and frustration for me and impacted my friendships because I was judging my friends for watching GI Joe and Smurfs like normal little kids."
10."I was badly bullied from ages 8 to 17. Whenever I FINALLY had the courage to reach out for help, I was immediately met with that exact same advice: 'Just ignore them.' REALLY? You don't think I have tried that for YEARS now? I am asking for help because I have NO other options. After getting physically beat up in seventh grade and hearing my guidance counselor tell me to 'just ignore him,' I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. That was the last time I ever asked an adult for help with bullying. Ignoring the bullies doesn't 'make them lose interest.' That's a lie that adults tell you because they can't be bothered to help you."
"Now, this has translated to me never being able to ask for help (because I assume that no one is going to actually help me thanks to the adults in my life who SHOULD have helped), and never being able to stand up for myself. Don't 'ignore the bullies.' Stand your ground, tell them firmly to back off, and keep your head held high."
11."The value of the sacrifice, not the achievement. 'Work in double to receive the half.' I know my father had good faith when he used to tell me this, and it wasn't exactly what he meant, but this is how the message was received."
12."My mum told me I was too old for hugs and cuddles. I was 9 at the time. I hated anyone trying to hug me for a long time after that. I had a good group of friends who helped me with that, and now I love hugs! My dad taught me that being fat meant that you're a loser and someone to avoid. Cue an eating disorder when I was 11, then him shaming me for being too thin and saying I was silly and daft for not eating enough. He still holds this view about people being overweight. He would mock my mum about her weight when I was a kid and get me to join in. Now, as an adult, we have a very strained relationship because of his attitude towards people and his own family."
13."'Refusing to hug a grown-up relative is wrong, and it will make this person sad.' No. When a child doesn't want a hug, they just don't want a hug. Grown-ups can get over it and children need to learn that consent matters."
14."Whenever I was going out or to a friend's house, my mom would tell me: 'Don't bother anyone. Be discreet.' I felt like I was bothering people/was a burden just for being around people up until my 30s."
15.“'Oh, they don’t really like you, they are just being nice.' 'They don't want you to spend time with them, they are lying.' My mother still tries to convince me that my best friend of 18 YEARS doesn’t like me."
16.“'Why do you always have to be the one to speak up or do something?' Way to squash leadership qualities, mom."
17."'There is no such thing as friends. People are fake and not trustworthy. You are better off alone.' That really ruined me for many years."
18."Me: 'Look at this thing I made at school! My teacher and classmates really liked it!' Parent: It’s actually terrible and I’m the only one who loves you enough to tell you the truth. The only reason they’re saying nice things is because they’re lying to manipulate you into liking them, but they’re probably laughing at you behind your back.'"
19.“'You’re depressed because you aren’t doing enough.' 'Don’t cry about it.' 'You’re just tired.'"
20."I was taught that love was earned through compliance. My mom had definite favorites and it was always whoever was the most compliant. My sister became a huge people-pleaser, and I just got stubborn. I still have a hard time accepting love and finding myself worthy of being loved. I’ve put up with a lot of abuse in my life because of this. First from my mom, and then in toxic jobs."
21."I struggle because my mom taught me to ignore a lot of basic needs. When I was a little kid and I needed to go pee but it was inconvenient, she would say, 'If you hold it long enough, you’ll forget you have to go.' Same thing with hunger."
22."Mine is a bit complicated. I was always told to be kind to EVERYONE. But, some people don’t deserve my kindness. Bad people exist. It’s something I go back and forth on."
23."'Other people in other countries have so much less than you do, so you should feel happy.'"
24.Finally: "I was taught that negativity was a bad thing and that negative emotions would be punished. I am a minor, whose brain has not fully developed, and I was really young and didn't know HOW to handle negative emotions. So, I was taught to never react or respond to negative feelings, and instead to bottle up my anger and release it when I'm alone. It backfired because I can't stand social interaction, and I turn into the angriest, most pessimistic person ever the moment I'm alone because it's the only time I feel like I can actually 'feel.' It screwed up how I process things."
Thank you to everyone who was so open and honest about their experiences. Sending you love and healing energy.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.