Confessions: Things I Accidentally Taught my Kids

Sometimes I teach my kids things that I did not intend to teach them. Sometimes this is an extra bonus, like when I accidentally taught my oldest child to be extremely bossy. I pretend to hate this, but really it’s like getting a third parent for free.

I’m half-heartedly retraining him to be a child.

It is completely not working.

I usually leave him with confusing instructions like, “Don’t boss your sisters and brothers around…except if they’re, you know, doing something crazy.”

And here’s the problem people: they are always doing things that are crazy. Malachi and I are almost always confused by the levels of crazy in this house. We’re just two firstborns saving lives and putting the kibosh on excessive glue stick usage. What would they do without us, I mean really?

Scout at our family photo shoot…the mud was calling. Marianne Wiest Photography

Here is a list of other things I have accidentally taught my kids:

1. Never EVER say the word “fat”.

 I tell my kids a lot of things. I am constantly talking at them. It’s probably not a great parenting strategy. It’s like throwing handfuls of darts at a time and hoping some of them stick. All I know is that “shut the door” and “take your elbows off the table” bounced off and are lost under the basement couch, while “fat is not a nice word to say” was a bullseye.

I knew this when my five year old son said, “Mom, I was reading a book, and it said the word…”(his voice suddenly dropping to a barely audible whisper) “fat”.

He looked at me intently and shook his head, “So, don’t worry, I took that book and I threw it against the wall. I’ll never read that again.”

I’m really glad I taught them this.

This may be the only legacy I leave with my children.

2. To be TERRIFIED of puppies.

I don’t know if this is due to under-exposure, or if we introduced Sandlot too early. Somehow, fluffy, slobber-filled, bundles of joy, have become the Johnston children apocalypse.

An example of “a puppy”

This has been an incredible breech of good parenting.

If you have walked by our house over the last month you may have seen one (or two) little girls running and screaming in terror while our neighbor’s tiny puppy bounds after them. Meanwhile, all the adults are following close behind trying to save both the children and Molly, the terrier.

At one point when Haven’s feet gave way, she succumbed to rolling across the grass shrieking while the pup pounced after her, happily attempting to lick her to death.

So scary really.

The good news is, they will try and ride your pit bull if you will let them. (As long as it is not a puppy). We are a very educated family in that way.

3. To pee in public.

I did teach them this, I just didn’t expect the ramifications. I have a thing with public restrooms. That thing is called: they are disgusting. When I bring all four kids in there it’s like they think they are at a petting zoo.  Before I can stop them, they are stroking the toilet seat and sticking their hand in the small tampon trashcan, “Mom, what’s in here???”

It is more than my heart can handle.

So, I took to parking in discreet corners and letting them pee outside before doing my errands. This worked beautifully until we were taking a tour of a university campus, and in the middle of their immaculate green lawn, my littlest dropped her drawers in perfect confidence.

The offender. Captured by Marianne Wiest Photography.

It was the longest pee of my life you guys. You just can’t stop it once it’s started. We casually smiled and nodded to passersby. “Hey students in the prime of your youth, we are here to show you your future. MUCH to look forward to. You’re welcome.”

Graham was all, “Haven, WHERE did you LEARN that???” and I was all,

“Up top!”🖐

He was not totally impressed.

To say sorry. 

I am very good at making mistakes. As a recovering perfectionist, I have a hard time with the fact that I continually fail at being the “ideal” mother.

I apologize all the time to my kids, and I have carried some shame about that to be honest.

It’s usually something like:

“I’m sorry for talking to you like that, I have a bad attitude. I will work on it.” (Pours large cup of coffee).

I realized that my worst flaws were actually an unintended success when I overheard Scout talking to Oaklee in the other room.

“Oaklee, NO, don’t do that!! Move OVER!” .

I was about to intervene, when after a brief pause  his voice became calm and kind,  “I’m sorry Oaklee, I shouldn’t have talked to you like that. ”

Flawed parenting for the WIN.


We are all professional mistakers up in here. I am probably accidentally teaching them far more things than I am purposely teaching them.

What’s the weirdest thing you ever accidentally taught your kids?

Next time, we should talk about how my kids are convinced that underwear are only for babies.

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11 responses to “Confessions: Things I Accidentally Taught my Kids”

  1. HA! Thanks for the laugh! I logged in to WP and this post was right on top. I have often said that I have kids simply act as birth control for others. See my kids? Unless you want this to happen to you, abstinence is best. One thing I’m proud to have taught mine is that automatic doors make it look like you’re using the force. Peeing outside is one we have in common. He was 4 at time and sitting in the living room when he felt the urge to pee. He was too lazy to walk up the stairs to the bathroom so he walked out the front door to pee on the tree in the front yard. We have many neighbors.

  2. Great post! Glad I am not the only parent who has accidentally taught her kid to pee outside. Good news is when a store doesn’t have a restroom (we are currently potty training) he will gladly walk around to the back or side of the store and pee in the parking lot….

    I also hope that my apologizing when I am in a bad mood, talk badly, etc. becomes a passed on lesson. What a sweet moment to have overheard with your kiddos! Thanks for posting!

  3. You’re amazing! 🙂 I laughed and could relate to so much of this post! 🙂

  4. This was so good, funny, yet REAL. I can relate to every single thing! I accidentally taught my kids to say quit tripping’.

  5. When the kid was six, and I was groaning with menstrual cramps, I explained to her why women are blessed with the monthly visit from hell.
    The next day, the kindergarten teacher tells me “your daughter says you are not pregnant because you got your periods”, without so much as batting an eyelid. Do you know of the spontaneous hole that formed on the ground in India? That was for me to sink in.

  6. OMG…love this and can so relate. Wonderful post!

  7. […] This cool post by Jess at Wonderoak got me thinking about the things I’ve taught my own daughter without meaning to. […]

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