I Don’t Want My Kid To Be An Asshole

By: Lex Jacobson

I love kids. So much. Hence the fact that I’ve wanted my own since I was a kid myself. (I’m glad I didn’t want them *that* much when I was in high school, because my life would have worked out much differently… back when I had free access to sperm.)

I’m so excited to hold my own baby come January and watch it grow through all of the stages of childhood. I’ve been hanging around a lot of kids lately – whether they’re related or not – which has scared me a little. Because I’m realizing something.

Kids are assholes. Not always, but man, they can be assholes. Demanding disrespectful dickheads. I love my nieces and nephews, and all of my friends’ kids, but I don’t know what I’m going to do when my kid throws a tantrum in the middle of a dinner party or hits another kid while we’re playing at the beach or tells me they hate me in front of everyone. Because I know all three of these things will undoubtedly happen. And Devon and I are going to be as ashamed of ourselves as mothers as our friends are when their children do shit like this.

Though Devon and I were raised in extremely different environments (she in a single-mom-best-friend type relationship and I in a militant-tough-love environment), we do agree that the one most important thing for us is to have respectful children. Both of us were very respectful children (though my “respect” was more out of complete terror of my mother, not true respect) and we would like the same for our children (without the terror part).

But as we’re realizing with hanging out with numerous kids these days, we can only shape our own so much, and even though he or she may be an angel at home, undoubtedly at some really embarrassing point in the future – at a most inconvenient time – my child will be an asshole and I will feel like a horrible mother. And it will probably happen around my own mother, just to rub it in even deeper.

I can only hope that my kid’s core ethics are strong and clear and that the asshole moments are really just moments (perhaps most of his or her second year?) and that I will give myself credit for raising a generally decent child. Hell, I know lots of adults who are decent people who have asshole moments, so maybe I’m putting way too much pressure on my unborn child, and myself.

I think really we’re just a bit scared. It’s easy to hand over my asshole nephew to his mother and let her do the parenting, but knowing that’s up to us shortly is a little terrifying. All of this is a bit terrifying.


  1. says

    Don’t over think it, Lex. Kids are kids and moments that you mention happen. I was thrilled when my kids were so good for other people and little assholes to me. But shit happens and eventually they get it and you get it and it works out.

  2. Tom Adams says

    It’s the parents, not the kids. Parental incompetence is rampart. There is plenty of sound scientific research on what works, but parents are largely unaware of it. Most parenting books are full untested methods or even counter-productive methods.

    You can largely avoid behavior problems if you complete ignore bad behavior and lavish lots of positive attention for good behavior. But, praise the specific good behavior, not just “good kid”.

    Here is a good articles:


    Books founded in scientific research:
    Kazdin Method
    Power of Positive Parenting by Latham
    Incredible Years

    Also for general parenting issues “Parenting with Reason” is a great book to have now before the baby arrives since it covers some issues that are important to understand on day 1. You may need to order it from http://www.amazon.co.uk

  3. Tom Adams says

    One other think, those books work great for younger kids. But they may perhaps rely too much on only external motivators for older kids.

    The methods I pointed you too will work so well that you may get arrogant about it. Try not to override intrinsic motivators, if your kid has an natural inclination in one good direction, trying to bribe him down another path may be counter-productive.

    No verbal rewards can be counterproductive in older kids so don’t overuse them, but verbal praise directed at behavior and effort is always OK. Telling a kid he is smart tend to make him lazy and dumber. Praising a kid for hard work tends to make him smarter. “Mindset” is a good book I am reading now on this general topic.

  4. Tom Adams says

    Don’t worry about what others think, just read those books and get skills. If you get the skills early, you kids will behave well and you will not have to do a turnaround. And, if you have a behavior problem in public, just do the right thing to shape behavior in the direction your what and ignore everyone else,

    Once you get the skills, try them on the asshole nephew and they will work well on him in the moment, but you will probably not be able change his environment enough to change his habits. And, you will probably not be able to influence his parents unless they pick up on your success.

  5. says

    You’ll do perfectly fine. We all screw our children up to a certain extent. The great thing is that they are infinitely forgiving little creatures. :) By putting so much mental energy into it, you are already a step ahead of the parents of those “asshole children.”

  6. Diana says

    I don’t believe that humankind is intrinsically good, on the contrary. We have to be convinced and convince ourselves to be good and kind and positive. I hate it when parents say ‘Nowadays kids are different, they are like this and like that’. You are the parents and you made them that way! If your kids are disrespectful it’s completely your fault. Looks like nobody wants to take responsibility for anything nowadays, there’s always somebody else to blame, be it school, other children, or society. Well, we are society.
    Lex, if you are already thinking about this issues, you will certainly be a wonderful parent.

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