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7 Common Parenting Myths We Have Believed For Generations

Raising kids is already a tough job. Unfortunately, parenting myths often add to the confusion. 

For first time parents, it can be frustrating listening to all the different philosophies in parenting.

To help new parents weed out misconceptions, here are some common parenting myths.

mother son and stranger question each other about good tips and effective parenting skills

The terrible-twos is a phase that’ll eventually pass

This is one of the most common parenting myths.

Turns out, the terrible-twos is not just a phase that will pass on its own.

The terrible-twos start when 2-year-old kids begin to develop curiosity and mobility. When adults interfere to protect them from danger, their frustrations manifest as tantrums​1​.

There are two common myths among parents: that this phase will pass on its own or that the lack of discipline in their toddlers may require harsh punishment to “nip it in the bud.”

Neither of them is true.

The reason toddlers throw tantrums is that they don’t know how to regulate their emotions. If we ignore it, children will need to find ways to calm themselves on their own. 

Some children deal with this by developing maladaptive solutions, such as suppressing their feelings, while others cannot come up with a constructive solution​2​.

Both cases can have long-term detrimental effects.

Maladaptive behaviors may lead to mental health issues.

Those who cannot regulate themselves at all may develop behavioral problems such as odd in kids (oppositional defiant disorder)​3​

Emotional regulation must be taught actively by parents during this period for toddlers to develop. It’s not “just a phase.”

Don’t spoil a baby

You can spoil a baby by being too responsive or holding then too much is a common myth.

You can never spoil a baby meeting their needs.

A spoiled child is one who behaves badly (e.g. hitting others) or makes inappropriate demands (e.g. “I want it now!”)

These are not things that babies can do.

Holding them and meeting their needs in a sensitive way won’t lead to these behaviors.

In fact, nurturing, responsive parents who consistently address their children’s needs have been shown to raise well-behaved kids​4​

Additionally, positive gentle touch is the best way to help your baby regulate and grow​5​. It even saved the life of a premature baby struggling to regulate her body.

Kids are resilient

Resilience is not an innate trait that babies are born with.

Resilience means doing reasonably well when exposed to threats or adversity. It depends on the extent of three different parts:

  1. The severity and nature of the child’s trauma
  2. Risk factors such as childhood traumatic experiences
  3. Protective factors such as the security provided by family, schools, peers, and the environment.

Resilient children are those whose protective factors outweigh the extent of trauma plus the risk factors​6​.

Most protective factors are external to the child. For example, warm, supportive parents, a stable environment, and positive experiences in a child’s life. So “kids are resilient” is not true if those protective factors are missing​7​.

“I turn out fine”

One of the biggest myths is the use of this statement to justify traditional parenting practices that are unsound.

Here is a good example illustrating the fallacy of this logic.

If I got hit by a car in childhood, I still turn out fine and even become very successful, then getting hit by a car must be good or at least not harmful to my child.

It sounds a little bit ridiculous, doesn’t it?

But that’s the exact logic when parents justify their parenting choices with “I turn out fine”, “It’s been done for generations”, or “the human species didn’t extinct.”​8​

Correlation does not imply causation.

Rather than simply following the status quo, aim to learn more science-based parenting information.

Kids need punishment to learn

Punishing is not the only way to teach.

Using punishment to discipline is one of the worst methods in the teaching repertoire​9​.

There are many better ways to help children learn.

Besides biological needs such as food or air, humans are intrinsically motivated by autonomy, competence, and relationship​10​.

Having a strong relationship is one of the most powerful ways to meet kids’ needs and motivate them to learn.

Strict parents who use punishment may affect their children’s behavior in the short term, but sooner or later, the bad behavior returns because they are not motivated to behave better. 

Love motivates.

When your child is close to you, they are more likely to adopt your values. So if you value good behavior, they are more likely to do that willingly, without the need for punishment. 

There is a time and place for imposed consequences.

But giving punitive consequences regularly damages your parent-child relationship.

Building a healthy parent-child relationship is the most important thing in disciplining children.

Some kids need tough love

Every child is different. But at the end of the day, all kids need love and nurturing.

Decades of research have confirmed that sensitive and responsive parenting leads to secure attachment. A secure child’s behaviors and outcomes tend to be better​11​.

An authoritarian parent who uses tough parenting is more likely to raise kids with worse outcomes, including lower academic performance, more mental health issues, less life satisfaction, and poorer wellbeing​12​.

Either-or mindset

Some parents are caught in the either-or parenting mindset

“You either take full control, or they’ll walk all over you.” 

“You either punish them or they’ll never learn.”

“They either obey authorities or end up in jail.”

Using the fear of one extreme, these statements scare parents into believing the other extreme offers a better option.

Parenting issues often have more than two solutions. Many different child-rearing approaches can be used to resolve a problem. Extreme options, like those found in either-or statements, are rarely good.

Better solutions usually exist.

Those who are willing to look for them will find them. 

Parenting doesn’t matter

While parenting isn’t the only factor that can influence a child’s outcomes, it does matter a lot.

Nature versus nurture is an age-old question. Recent research looking at 14.5 million pairs of twins from almost every twin study ever conducted in the past 50 years has found conclusive evidence to settle this debate.

Genes and environment both affect a person’s behavior and character traits roughly the same amount.

Considering that parenting is one of the most important aspects of the environment a child grows up in, it is not hard to conclude that parenting matters​13​.

Those who insist parenting doesn’t matter probably don’t want to take responsibility for what their children will become. A parent plays an important role in their child’s life. Putting their heads in the sand will not change the fact that their actions will affect children’s future.

Final thoughts on parenting myths

Parenting is undoubtedly difficult. Parenting advice based on these myths usually helps parents feel better, but they often do children a disservice.

The purpose of debunking them is not to criticize or make parents feel guilty. By empowering you with accurate information, you will be able to make good choices for your kids.

The key to good parenting is not about trying to be a perfect parent. It’s about making a conscious effort to balance good information with the limits in your circumstances.


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    POTEGAL M, DAVIDSON RJ. Temper Tantrums in Young Children: 1. Behavioral Composition. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. Published online June 2003:140-147. doi:10.1097/00004703-200306000-00002
  2. 2.
    LAVIGNE JV, CICCHETTI C, GIBBONS RD, BINNS HJ, LARSEN L, DEVITO C. Oppositional Defiant Disorder With Onset in Preschool Years: Longitudinal Stability and Pathways to Other Disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Published online December 2001:1393-1400. doi:10.1097/00004583-200112000-00009
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    Kazdin AE. Problem-solving skills training and parent management training for oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder. In: Evidence-Based Psychotherapies for Children and Adolescents. The Guilford Press; 2010:211–226.
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    Kumpfer KL. Factors and Processes Contributing to Resilience. Longitudinal Research in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Interdisciplinary Series.:179-224. doi:10.1007/0-306-47167-1_9
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    Masten A, Barnes A. Resilience in Children: Developmental Perspectives. Children. Published online July 17, 2018:98. doi:10.3390/children5070098
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    Bauman LJ, Friedman SB. CORPORAL PUNISHMENT. Pediatric Clinics of North America. Published online April 1998:403-414. doi:10.1016/s0031-3955(05)70015-8
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    Dubanoski RA, Inaba M, Gerkewicz K. Corporal punishment in schools: Myths, problems and alternatives. Child Abuse & Neglect. Published online January 1983:271-278. doi:10.1016/0145-2134(83)90004-2
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    Ryan RM, Deci EL. Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist. Published online 2000:68-78. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.55.1.68
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    Cabral de Mello M. Responsive parenting: interventions and outcomes. Bull World Health Organ. Published online December 1, 2006:991-998. doi:10.2471/blt.06.030163
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    Rezai Niaraki F, Rahimi H. The impact of authoritative, permissive and authoritarian behavior of parents on self-concept, psychological health and life quality. European Online Journal of Natural and Social Sciences. 2013;2(1):78.
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    Polderman TJC, Benyamin B, de Leeuw CA, et al. Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies. Nat Genet. Published online May 18, 2015:702-709. doi:10.1038/ng.3285


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