4 Ways Parents Discourage Their Kids

4 ways parents discourage their kids_thumb


Most parents want to encourage their kids and motivate them to be the best they can be. But, in attempting to do so, well-intentioned parents sometimes end up discouraging their kids instead. Here are 4 ways you can discourage your child:

1. You offer too much help. So, your child wants to learn how to rollerblade. You wisely bundle him up in a helmet and pads and walk with him outside. At that point, he wants to try on his own. But you start shouting suggestions, walking along beside him and instinctively reach for him every time he falters. To you, this is just safety 101. To him, it’s you showing that you don’t think he can do it on his own.

The same thing can happen when your child is working on a paper for school, trying a new hairstyle, or learning a new skill. You see all of the ways to make their task easier and more efficient and you tell them all of your ideas. Unfortunately, your offer of help sends the message that you don’t believe in them. Your child will either say something like, “I can do it myself!” Or, they’ll give in to your suggestions, do it your way, and miss an opportunity to grow.

2. You compare them to others. Sure, you’re just trying to motivate them by pointing out the successes, or failures, of others. “Josh, I noticed that Caden stands with his feet a little further apart when he’s batting. You should try it, too.” Or, “Sophia, your sister had that project when she was in second grade. Let me find her old project for you to review.”

Again, your intentions are noble, but by comparing your child to someone else, you’re telling them that they are not good enough.

3. You always expect more. There is a time and place for everything. But, when your child tells you they got a B on a really hard test, it is not the time to say, “That’s great. Do you think you can make an A next time?”

Our children want us to praise them for their hard work and success, without having us always look for how to make their performance even better. So if your son tells you his coach thinks he’s really coming along with his football training, don’t jump in and suggest ways he can do even better. Let your child bask in the praise, minus any ideas for improvement you might have.

4. You minimize their victories. This can happen in a couple of ways. First, you just don’t realize what a big deal it is to them so you offer half-hearted comments. To prevent this from happening, really tune in. If your child is soft-spoken, you might need to really listen to see if something is important to him. If it is, lavish him with praise.

The other way parents minimize their children’s victories is by being too busy or distracted to fully join in the celebration. This one can be tough. You’ve just walked in the door when your daughter wants to show you her 10-page project with a million details. As much as you want to put her on hold, give her the praise she’s craving.

What are some other ways you find yourself discouraging your kids? Please share your thoughts with me.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Linda Mende

    WOW!  This hits home…now how do I make up for all the parenting mistakes I have made…

  • Bethheine

    Great list.  The one I always disliked is, That’s easy.  Meant to encourage but 1) it’s really competitive, isn’t it? And 2) I’m working on figuring it out and so it’s not easy for me.
    Thanks again.


  • Kyle

    Hello Mark,
    I have a quick question for you.  I am doing a school assembly tomorrow at an elementary school in our area and looking for materials on Responsibility.  Looking for video clips, skits,
    ect.  If you have any suggestions on where I might can find some materials like that, it would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks so much for all you do!!!

  • guest

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting this.  Jesus has been nudging me about this and I cannot thank you enough. It’s confirmation and a sort of “in writing” way for me to print out and keep nearby.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill


    Thanks for your comment. My wife has posted several resources on iMOM that may be helpful for you when discussing responsibility. I’ve given you the links below. Thanks for your support and words of encouragement!





  • David Moreno

    Sobering…refreshing. I can’t wait to tell me kids how happy i am to see them when they get off of school. Even if all my personal distractions beckon otherwise.

    Thank you Mark and FF team!

  • Kyle

    Thanks so much Mark.  What a blessing you are to so many. 
    Appreciate ya

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Thanks for sharing, Beth.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Guest…so pleased that you find it useful

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Go David!

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Kyle, really kind of you to say that.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Linda, we all make mistakes in parenting. We just pray, persevere and continue on the journey striving toward to goal of being the best we can be.

  • Les Ruth Sr.

    The info that you give is some amazing and very useful.

    Thanks again Mark,

  • that one kid

    This is great advice for parents! :) Thank you for posting it … because ….I swear…I harbor so much anger toward my parents because they constantly have to compare me with others. It’s one thing to criticize me and put me down for who I am, but to criticize me and point out why every other person is better than me is another thing. For example, my hand writing. I would be okay if my mom said, “your handwriting sucks. this and this and this is what is wrong” but instead she says “look at THIS person’s handwriting and THIS person’s and THIS person’s. They might be bad in this aspect but at least they are still better than yours in THIS aspect.” For some reason she thinks that that will encourage me but It does the opposite. It not only discourages me but also makes me angry and unwilling to even listen to her.

  • chrisclane@aol.com

    I know these things! But reading them makes me realize I need to DO THEM! thanks!

  • Kim

    One of the worse is comparing kids to son! Being in a pastor’s home my son finds church members scolding him saying ” you should know better you’re the Preacher’s son”. I hate that! Makes me work harder to relieve pressure off him to preform!

  • Maria

    Boy this came in the nick of time! Do you read minds? How did you know I needed this right now? Astonishing! This is great advise for all walks of life and in many situations. Many thanks!