Five of the Worst Pieces of Advice You Can Ever Give to Your Children

Unfortunately the voice of experience isn't always accurate. Here, we talk about some tips that parents often give to their children. However, in many cases, this advice doesn't help much.
Five of the Worst Pieces of Advice You Can Ever Give to Your Children

Last update: 13 October, 2021

As a parent, you seek and want the best for your children. You want them to be happy, successful, and achieve their goals. However, in relation to achieving goals and obtaining “success”, what could be the worst advice that you might give to your children?

We’ll discover what this might be from Emma Seppälä, professor at the Yale School of Management and director of the leadership program for women at the same school. Emma, when researching for writing a book, discovered that many of the popularly accepted schemes or premises about what it takes to be successful can backfire. In fact, they can have the exact opposite to the desired effect.

These are specific theories and ideas that may produce good results in the short term, but are bad in the long term.

The worst advice you can give to your children

The intention of this article isn’t to judge or criticize certain comments that you might make to your children. In fact, it’s focused on encouraging you to reflect. To this end, we looked at some of the worst advice parents give to their children when it comes to “success,” according to the Ph.D. student, Emma Seppälä.

Father talking to his son

1. Focus on the future

Perhaps one of the worst pieces of advice you can give to your children is this: ” focus on the future.” That’s because behind this strategy lies the concept of success as a goal, as a milestone to be achieved, and not as a path to follow.

By doing this, you pressure your children to only see the present as a means of trying to be in a certain place in the future. Perhaps it’d be better to tell them to live in the present and to work on being happy there.

2. Stress is inevitable, don’t stop trying

At this point, it would be good to reflect on the difference between eustress and distress. Eustress is the kind of stress that positively affects you, while distress has a negative effect.

In order to overcome some obstacles, a certain level of tension is both inevitable and necessary. In fact, too low activation levels damage performance. On the other hand, knowing how to quit is also an art. Indeed, ending or postponing an initiative can improve well-being. It involves possessing intelligence in decision-making and good emotional self-regulation.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to promote values such as effort, but don’t forget to add that, without other elements, its only effect is wear.

3. Stay busy

It’s okay to keep busy, have aspirations, motivations, and dreams. However, is it really necessary to always be busy?

Always being busy creates stress and more pressure. Therefore, why don’t you try and tell your children that they have the right to rest, to “do nothing” or even to be bored?

4. Take advantage of your strengths

Generally, you usually enjoy the kinds of activities that allow you to develop facets in which you’re more skilled. Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to be that way. As a matter of fact, there’s a long list of parents who’ve managed to stop their children from enjoying an activity by turning it into a lesson.

An activity that they’re not very good at means they learn from their mistakes. In addition, they feel that they’re capable of evolving and progressing. Furthermore, a multidisciplinary world needs multidisciplinary people, who are capable of performing in various areas.

5. It’s a jungle out there, so be careful with certain people

Finally, according to Emma, another piece of bad advice that parents give their children is the following: “ it’s a jungle out there, so be careful with certain people.”

Instead, you could encourage them to increase their compassion for others. After all, everyone deserves a chance. On the other hand, it’s also okay to encourage critical thinking and self-respect.

Mother talking to her daughter

Instead of advising… show them

It’s better, instead of advising your children, to show and teach them by example.

Obviously, there’s no magic educational manual to tell you how you should educate your children. There’s also no real right or wrong actions. You just need the desire to educate them in the best possible way, through learning, mistakes, and experience.

Perhaps the key is to find your own criteria. Nevertheless, it should certainly always start from love and respect and take into account your children’s specific needs.

Educate them to be happy, not successful

In this article, we’ve seen some of the worst advice you might give your children about achieving success. However, the paradox is that many of them can become positive, as long as they don’t become mantras or absolutes.

Perhaps it isn’t so much about raising children to be successful, but rather to be happy. It’s also worth remembering that all the examples given in this article can be applied to education in general, not only the kind that’s focused on achieving objectives.

Finally, it’s important to encourage children to enjoy the present, to know their strengths, but also to learn to accept frustration or resignation. Let them feel that they have the right to falter, to make mistakes, and to be bored!


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Von Hildebrand, D. (2004). La importancia del respeto en la educación. Educación y educadores, 7.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.