I usually give advice on how to not quite ruin your child because that’s a bar that most parents can hope to clear. But not every parent is going to make it over. In fact, many overbearing helicopter parents are determined to run straight into the bar, concussing themselves and making their children absolutely miserable. Ironically, these are often the people who have read all the parenting books and know the advice back to front. Don’t worry. I’ll save you the trouble. If you want to go that route, I’m happy to report that you can ruin your kid’s childhood in no more than six easy steps.
Follow my approach and long-term resentment is absolutely guaranteed. Here’s how it’s done.
Make Everything About You.
Your life didn’t turn out how you wanted. Luckily, your kid is the ultimate do-over. Pressure them to achieve all your failed hopes and dreams. They won’t go far in life after that. They’ll be too weighed down by your emotional baggage.
Stress Out About Everything.
You’ve been agonizing over whether to stay home with your kid or send them to daycare, but after weeks of internal debate, you’re still undecided. Which one should you do? I don’t know the right answer, but the wrong answer is to freak out about every parenting decision that comes your way. Embrace the stress if you want your kid to have the worst childhood possible. Years later, your kid won’t recall which choices you made, but they’ll always remember if you were constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Way to create lasting memories.
Enroll Your Kid in Everything.
Free time is for happy children. Pass. You’re raising a mini-you. Sign up your kid for whatever sport you obsessed over as a child, along with 1,000 other activities you always meant to join yourself but never got around to. Whatever you do, don’t let your child drop out when they discover they hate something. Quitters never grow up to be overbearing parents like you.
Almost any career your child pursues as an adult will require them to use screens. So will all of their entertainment options. So why not put your kid at a competitive and cultural disadvantage by banning them from screens today? They’ll lack critical job skills and be unable to connect with their peers, who will bond over movies and TV shows your kid will never see. Social isolation for the win.
Obsess Over Grades.
As an adult, you know the things you stressed out about in school didn’t matter in the long run. Your life wouldn’t have turned out any differently if you got an A- instead of a B+ in health class. But your kid doesn’t know that. Act like every assignment your kid turns in is life-or-death. Check all their homework. Force them to study for tests in hours-long cram sessions. Argue with their teacher over wrong answers and beg for extra credit. That’s a guaranteed way to make your child flunk at life.
Make Discipline Public.
If your last attempt at discipline didn’t go viral, you’re not doing enough to ruin your child. Write your kid’s transgression on a sandwich board and make them wear it on a busy street corner. Then go on TV so everyone knows how hard you work to discipline your child, which is about half as hard as you work to promote yourself.
Regardless of which disciplinary method you use, if you do it privately, it might work. Bad move. If you want to ruin your child, stick to over-the-top punishments in places everybody can see them. You’ll be an internet sensation in no time, and your child will never be the same again.
Kids are more resilient than you think. That’s why, if you want to ruin one, you’ll have to work extra hard. With a little selfishness and a lot of self-imposed stress, you’re sure to wreck your kid’s life beyond repair. Good job, I guess.
But maybe ruining your child isn’t your thing. Perhaps, like most parents, you just want your kid to grow up to be a self-sufficient adult who isn’t a social deviant and doesn’t blame you for everything that goes wrong in their life. That’s why I wrote Bare Minimum Parenting: The Ultimate Guide to Not Quite Ruining Your Child. It started out as a joke, but by the end, I accidentally proved a point: Your child will be better off if you do less than if you do more.
Bare Minimum Parenting: The Ultimate Guide to Not Quite Ruining Your Child by James Breakwell and from BenBella Books is out now.