Why I Refuse to Be My Child’s Worst Nightmare

Every now and then a parenting quote floats through my Facebook feed which causes my heart to skip a beat. So many people seem to love it, but I don’t. It makes me feel very sad. It goes like this…

I am not your friend
I am your parent
I will stalk you
I will flip out on you
Drive you insane
Be your worst nightmare and
Hunt you down when needed
Because I love you.
The quote always receives thousands of ‘likes’, and plenty of comments where parents encourage each other to be tough. It’s not easy to be a child’s worst nightmare but it’s our duty. It will all be worth it in the end. Won’t our kids thank us because they’ll know we cared? Won’t they know they were loved?
Somehow this way of parenting feels wrong to me.
I don’t want to drive my kids insane. I have no desire to be their worst nightmare. Does this mean I don’t love them?
This is the way I see it…
Why shouldn’t we treat our kids like we do our friends? We wouldn’t dare speak to our friends the way we sometimes speak to our children. (Not if we want to retain their friendship.) We respect them. We are polite. We enjoy their company.
But we have no authority over our friends. We can’t tell them what to do. We can’t stalk them, flip out on them, lecture them… I don’t think we should do that with our children either. Won’t that damage the relationship between a parent and a child?
To me, everything flows from a good relationship. 
I won’t stalk my children. I will trust them.
I won’t flip out on them. I will talk to them.
I won’t lecture. I will listen.
I won’t drive them insane. I will be there for them, guiding and helping and supporting them.
I won’t be their worst nightmare. I will provide a safe haven, a place of unconditional love.
I hope there will never be a need to hunt them down, because I will try not to drive them away.
I will do all this because I love them. 
I could make my children do what I want. I could control them with rules and threats and punishments, by flipping out and lecturing and hunting them down. But it seems to me that my children will be more inclined to listen to me and do what is right, if we have a good relationship, with mutual trust and respect.
I think of how popular this parenting quote is. Somehow I don’t think most people would agree with my opinions. They might say I’m too easy on my kids, that I am irresponsible, too soft, that I don’t care enough. I guess I could try explaining, but I don’t think they would understand. 
Be my child’s worst nightmare? Why wouldn’t I do what sounds so reasonable? Don’t I love?

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  1. Reply

    I love this post! Double "Like" buttons for your post here, if I can! 🙂 It seems that most people, myself included, struggle with the balancing act of being loving and instilling a sense of self-discipline on our children. I feel that most people don't want to be looked upon as permissive parents who let their children run wild, so they would rather err on the side of being strict disciplinarians. Giving and gaining trust is a delicate balance, one that requires attentive and long-term commitment to our chidlren for it (the trust) to develop. I don't know that anyone has a foolproof formula for anyone else to follow, but the original quote at the beginning of your post made my heart sink, so I suppose that indicates that that isn't how I'd like to be as a parent. 🙂

    1. Reply


      I am glad you understood what I was trying to say! Yes, I agree that most parents would rather err on the side of seeming too strict rather than permissive. Actually I've come across people who are proud of how tough they are.

      " Giving and gaining trust is a delicate balance, one that requires attentive and long-term commitment to our children for it (the trust) to develop." Oh yes, it's not an easy option. In some ways it's far easier to set ourselves up against our children – I am the parent and you are the child – rather than work on instilling mutual trust. It's not a case of not caring or being permissive at all. Perhaps it's a bit like your post 'In and Out of the Twilight Zone'. Some things are instantly understood by some people. Others don't understand at all.

      Thank you for your comment!

  2. Reply

    Thank you for such a wonderful post. ' I AM your friend' seems like the first thing a child should hear and feel and know to be absolutely true about his parent. Not in the sense of 'I'm your peer and I will never correct you.' But in the sense of 'if there's anyone on earth that you can always count on, forever, it is me.' The first line in this 'popular' quote sets up an immediate wall.

    1. Reply


      Oh yes, I like what you said about how a parent can be a friend. We can be both.

      We want our friends to like us. Maybe the author of this quote is saying to a child, "I don't care whether you like me or not… I am your parent…" Perhaps the quote is popular because no one wants to think of themselves as a parent who gives in to a child just because they want to be liked. If we treated our friends in certain ways only because we want them to like us, we wouldn't really be true friends. So I think the quote is still wrong. I like your definition of a friend much more. My thoughts are all muddled and this comment isn't making much sense so I'd better stop there!

  3. Reply

    SUCH a a wonderful, thought provoking post, Sue! Thank you!!
    I def agree with your line of thinking here, though I have "liked" that quote on FB in the past…YOUR take is so much more "real" and "human" though…let me tell you why I identify with the quote, tho I don't live it completely, ( but do, to a degree).
    This is an extreme, extreme situation…: A good number of years ago, a TV actor, here in America, well known for playing Archie Bunker on All in the Family in the 70s ( heard of it?) lost his son to a drug overdose….The actor made a series of PSAs about being vigilant around your child's activities, friends, whereabouts, curfews, etc I mean, he came out and said as much as…If I had asked questions and demanded answers, my son would be alive. Wow. frightening. (I should probably try to find one on You Tube. Curious NOW as a parent to see how I'd perceive the ads since I have not seen one in decades.They were very emotional and really shook me up )……I always think of him and his grief in those commercials when I see that quote floating round social media.
    Now, I know that's taking the whole parental supervision thing completely overboard, as in never giving your child ( or rarely anyway) freedom, privacy, etc….. But isn't it interesting how decades later a saying you read strikes a chord from the past. ….
    It's def a fine line this parenting thing….I mean we don't obviously want to be jail keepers…how awful is that and have our kids afraid of us. Yet, there does have to be a sense of respect and authority ( to a degree). I'm not sure here in our home we walk that line the "right way" as much as we should…and ours are only 13 and 11.
    Whatever you're doing Sue, with Andy…….unbelievable….just look at how wonderful your adult kids have turned out and how lovely your younger ones are
    I am definitely taking adapting a touch of your parenting style in this regard,…..it's just natural and makes sense. And I know you didn't mean this post to be :"advice," but the best thing about blogging is community and not just peeking at the crafts and recipes, but the real life important stuff, as you know…so thanks for the food for thought, Sue.:)
    Hope all else is great…
    We had kev's conf yesterday; I'm about to load some pics and try to get a post up. The boys have a concert with the orch today at a local nursing home ( which is always absolutely wonderful!) Selfishly, I am wishing it wasn't today so I could get back to a bit of a routine and attack some work after not doing much Mon and Tues in prep for the Big Day) Between the hour drive there and back, set up, tuning up and the concert itself…..I have a feeling not much algebra will get done today! But I do need to go with the flow….The conf BTW was beautiful, in many regards.

    Havea good day Sue~
    Take care Sue…."see" you again soon.

  4. Reply


    Oh it is always a treat to receive your long comments full of interesting points! You made me realise we often interpret the same words in different ways. Our emotions are also a factor in how we see things.

    We do indeed need to be vigilant with our kids. When I wrote the post, I was thinking that if we have a good relationship with our kids we should already know who their friends are, where they go etc. They will talk to us. There won't be any need to demand answers. They'll just share as a matter of course. I have found this to be true of my children. I do ask where they are going, not so I can approve or disapprove, but just in case they have an accident, the car breaks down etc. They are always willing to tell me. There have been a couple of occasions where I doubted the sense of what one of my children was going to do. Once one child wanted to drive miles in an old car with a group of friends over a weekend. We discussed the situation and he decided it wasn't sensible to do this… too expensive, not enough time, unreliable vehicle… The decision didn't make him popular with the friends who missed out on the weekend too but he still made it. I didn't have to lay down the law

    I am not saying my children are perfect though I do appreciate your kind words. They do make mistakes. They'll make more mistakes. I just hope they feel able to come to me and talk about things. They don't have to go to other people, get into the wrong company etc because they don't think I'll understand or forgive or help.

    Maybe I didn't word my post very well. I could have said we need to have something to base our trust on. I don't think we can just distance ourselves from our children and say, "I trust they'll be okay." They probably won't be okay at all. That's irresponsible. No, trust comes from working hard at relationships. I always find it hard to explain such things in a short post. To be honest I'd find it hard to explain in a long post!

    I love discussing real life stuff when we blog too! It's good to think hard about such important things. I am grateful when people stop by to add to the conversation and stretch my initial thoughts. Thank you for doing that!

    Congratulations to Kev! I saw some photos on FB. What a great occasion for you all. I understand about all the rushing about. I too love some quiet time to do normal things after big events. I hope you're able to have a few relaxing days soon.

    Always great to chat with you, Chris. xx

    1. Reply


      Would you believe I had to look up TTYL? I am so behind with things like that! Anyway, I would love to talk to you properly. I was investigating Google Hangout interviews this morning. I think it would be fascinating to interview my fellow homeschooling friends and post the videos here on my blog. The only problem I can see is persuading someone to participate! I wonder if I can find some brave friends…

      Always good to chat. Thank you so much for returning to continue the conversation!

    2. Reply

      YES!! I too love it when friends ( and not-yet-friends too!) stop by and comment and in deep thoughtful ways! I so appreciate that ( and I find it amazing that something I've written actually encourages readers to leave comments for/against/or just heartfelt in general! This blogging community is full of such kind folks…but yes, I do love when someone stretches my initial thought…so thanks for mentioning that here…never really thought of the combox in that regard.
      Your kids just seem so downright sensible….good for you…you've a wonderful environment for them…really…..

      TTYS Sue!!

  5. Reply

    I loved this article because this is how I feel when I see these kind of "get tough" parenting quotes! I continue to circle back to what I call Parental Peer Pressure! I have done some parenting things when I was in the presence of other parents that I wouldn't have done had the problem arisen at home – all in the name of not being judged by strangers or acquaintances! Parental Peer Pressure is way worse than anything I ever experienced in school.

    Very refreshing to hear from other parents taking baby steps on the same Little Way journey. It is nice to be reminded I am not alone on the path.

    1. Reply


      Oh yes, parental peer pressure! It's so hard to resist. I have subjected my children to it in the past. Actually I wrote a couple of posts about these experiences. My poor children!

      Oh I do like connecting up with other parents who are thinking along the same lines as me. Thank you so much for stopping by. Often when I publish a post such as this one, I wonder if everyone will disagree with me and think I am strange (not that it matters). So nice to hear from you!

  6. Reply

    I love this post. Thank you for being you and sharing your kind and gentle way of parenting. Your children are very lucky(blessed!) Love and xoxo to you, friend.

    1. Reply


      So good to exchange a comment with you! Oh I think I am the blessed one, though you are kind to say my children are blessed. Children teach us so much as we try and parent them with love. Love to you too dear Ellie! xx

  7. Thank you for putting this so beautifully, Sue. I'm 100% in agreement with you. Whenever I catch myself speaking less respectfully to one of my children than I would to a friend, I try to apologise. (Of course, I don't always manage to catch myself! It is so easy to slip into being bossy.) Thank you for having the wisdom and courage to write posts like this.

    1. Reply


      Oh it is so easy to slip into less than respectful ways of talking to our children, isn't it? Years ago, I commented to a friend that most parents (me included) talked to their children as if they were pets (we had young children at the time). He said children only respond if they are spoken to like this. I don't think he was right.

      Wisdom and courage? I do hesitate before pressing 'publish' but it's always okay because I have so many beautiful friends who stop by to encourage me. Thank you!

  8. Reply

    Wonderful. Amen! And a Happy Mother's Day to you, Sue <3

    1. Reply

      Happy Mother's Day to you too, Virginia Sue! I hope you had a special day with your family. We spent the day at the beach. It was cool and it rained but that didn't stop the girls splashing in the sea and playing on the sand. They said the rain turned the day into an adventure! At least we had the beach to ourselves. Everyone else was sensible and stayed inside where it was warm and dry!

  9. Reply

    You're right Sue. Jesus loves us in a way completely opposite of that Facebook post. Looking at the lives of St. Augustine or the Apostle Paul or many wayward children – it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. It certainly wasn't a parent from hell who helped. It's almost like that post shows how to perfectly parent out of fear and control. Ouch. LORD, help me to walk in Faith in Your sovereignty and Your ultimate good.

    1. Reply


      Love is so powerful! It really does make us want to be the best people possible. Much more effective than fear. And love is what we're meant to do regardless of what works best. Yes, love as Jesus does. Maybe a lot of people 'like' this quote because they don't take the time to think about it carefully. 'Ouch'… oh yes!

  10. Reply

    I'm sorry you feel I was judgemental and my words have caused you distress. I'm glad you stopped by to share your own experience.

    I am also sorry to hear your son has not had the carefree childhood mine are receiving. Yes, my children are very fortunate and maybe we don't take enough time to appreciate that. Drugs and alcohol and broken relationships have never been a part of our lives. We are not dealing with such influences. You are right: I cannot tell you not to stalk or hunt down your child. Of course, you do that because you love. We don't give up on our kids. We do whatever it takes.

    When I wrote this post, I was actually thinking of parents in similar situations to my own who think stalking and hunting down are just a natural part of parenting. I don't think it has to be that way. Having parented my first child with suspicion and lack of trust, I questioned whether this way of parenting was actually necessary. I concluded it did more harm than good. It took a long time for me to regain a good relationship with my daughter. I have parented my other children differently from my first and this is what I share in my posts. Yes, my goal is similar to yours: "a positive and respectful relationship and friendship with gentle trusting guidance."

    I see that it is impossible to write a concise list of dos and don'ts that will be relevant to everyone. We can never know the circumstances of other people's families, the different experiences, the different needs of their children. My words are about my own experience which some people share, but not all. Because of this, my post isn't perfect, but it does present different ideas from the original meme, ideas which we can discuss. By discussing and sharing our own experiences we can learn from each other. And that's what we've done today. It has been good to consider your words. I have learnt from them.

    Thank you for sharing your family with me. As I said, I'm glad you stopped by.

  11. Reply

    Concerning your rewriting, I think it's a balance of both. As a guardian of a 16 year old boy since he was 12, I tried the easygoing approach. It lead to him being in a lot of danger as he was with his drunk, drug-taking bio-parents when he was supposed to be at a friend's house. They lost their rights for a reason. So now I have to stalk him. If he says that wrestling practice ends at 5pm, I have to email the coach to confirm. Because before I did that, he was smoking after school. I looked up his GPS location on a whim which is how I discovered he was not where he was supposed to be. We took his phone and went through it and discovered a great many of things he was involved in that were not safe nor legal. So I have to stalk him. Are we his worst nightmare?

    If he tries to runaway to go live with those very unsafe people- my husband will hunt him down.

    And it is because we love him.

    And another thing, since we've been strict and always double checking and stalking and etc. Guess what? He respects us more. He hangs out with us even. His grades are up. I don't get e-mails from teachers about poor behavior anymore. He has gained a great amount of respect from many people I know with his turn around.

    Does he hate the rules? Yeah! He spent 12 years of his life without rules!

    But he *needs* them. and sometimes, he needs us to stop being a friend and stop fearing him "hating us" and put the foot down.

    So, I would not be so quick to judge.

    I also have a 3 year old and a 1 year old. And of course my primary goal with all 3 is a positive and respectful relationship and friendship with gentle trusting guidance. But that should never stop me from pursuing "tough love" when necessary. Sometimes it's the only way a kid will learn or respect you at all.

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