What You Can Learn from the Worst Parent on the Planet

by Alli Polin on August 22, 2017

I am a horrible parent. The kind that my children will definitely swap stories about when they go to college, and I’ll win an unofficial award for the cruel and unusual punishment that I put my kids through on a daily basis.

Some of the egregious offenses include:

Make my children read at home

Clean their room (hint: if you can’t see the floor, it’s time)

Go to school

See a tutor

Put their clothes in the laundry

Limit their iPad time

I even make them take their plates off the table after dinner and put them on the side of the sink.

I mean, I hear it all the time so it must be true: Worst. Mom. Ever. Life sucks.

It’s punishment, I know, to go on vacation and they don’t even get to choose where we go. To be forced to leave their tech at home when we go to a nice restaurant because they don’t need to be entertained 24/7. (Although, they don’t share that opinion.)

I’m awful, and according to at least one of them, I’m to blame for most bad things on the planet. (Now you know so it’s totally ok if you blame me too.)

Be grateful that you don’t have to worry if that’s you, the worst parent on the planet. It’s me. I’ve got you covered.

I offer to help with homework, and it’s as if I asked if I could post embarrassing pictures of them on Facebook. They’re repulsed.

When I suggest that they practice their math skills once in a while, they look at me as if I have 14 heads. Afraid that I do, I’m tempted to look in the mirror just to be sure I don’t.

I tell them that they’re good people, smart, kind and loving because they are. They hear something like, “If only you were a good person. Smart, loving, and kind would be great, but you’re not.”

I freak out. Adamant that I’m doing my best and they’re the ones who suck.

It doesn’t help. In fact, it hurts.

Nasty words become shrill screams and often tears. I wasn’t kidding about that worst parent thing.

My loving words are too damn annoying. I make them feel bad. It’s as if I’m forcing my super-mom-guilt on them simply by shining a light in their direction.

Thing is, if you ask my kids right now, this second, if I’m the worst they’ll say no, I’m not. I’m the best mom ever. Most of the time our life is more like puppies and rainbows than walking through a pile of shit. It’s just that when we step in it, it really stinks.

Here are the facts: Bad moments are a symptom of something broken that needs to be fixed before it’s too late. The story doesn’t have to end there.

Your turn.

Who do you love, that you’re trying to help with your unsolicited wisdom, and it’s doing nothing but hurt?

Should you stop?

Give up?

The answer’s not cut and dry. Maybe for now it’s time to give it a break. That doesn’t mean stop forever. It means that it’s time to find another path.

There are times people won’t want your help. That’s reality. They’ll resent all of your pointers and “painful” rules. Also true is that you’ll feel lost when it comes to repairing a relationship that you didn’t think was broken and will try to make it right anyway. You’ll get frustrated, resentful and angry long the way.

Let it go. Life is too short to write a story that’s dominated by bad feelings.

Bite your lip.

Let the piles on the floor grow a little more.

Give them a chance to notice and want to make a change.

Learn where their bar is, not only yours.

Stop talking.

Have discussions.

Share your wisdom but don’t be attached when they ignore you. There are some lessons people have to learn for themselves no matter how much you just want to protect them from all of the bad stuff in life. 

Mostly, do not let one person’s bad day or bad moment color your entire relationship. Ask them what they need from you; how you can help. Meet people where they are instead of where you want them to be.


They’ll learn and grow; you’ll learn and grow.

For now, my children love me, and I love them. A lot. Despite my worst parent ever moments. We all have bad moments and good moments. This worst parent ever knows that the good moments make all of my mom-ways worth it.

When they show up on my side of the bed at three in the morning and want to get in for the rest of the night, I let them. I’d rather have bad night’s sleep with a child who knows that they’re loved than a good night’s sleep because they don’t want to get near me anymore. They want to be there. Maybe I’m not the worst parent ever after all.

I show them what can be, open the door, and they need to step through it (no matter how tempted I am to kick them in the butt and force them through it.)

We humans are naturally drawn to the dark side and too often miss the light.

Look for the light. It’s there. If you can’t find it, shine it.

If you want to shine that light, check out the Parent’s Guide to Leadership. 

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Gruber August 22, 2017 at 8:00 am

OK, Alli. First off you have balanced the “worst ever” with the “best ever” and there you have it. We all have those moments as parents and if you don’t ever get criticized for being the worst mom ever, you are probably not doing a good job of being a parent. It’s that part of the job no one really likes very much. It is the correcting, guiding, directing, limiting, even demanding at times, all under the heading of this is what I expect you to be and to do in order for you to grow up to be a responsible, loving, kind, helpful adult. Of course they don’t get it, they’re kids. Parents would do well to worry more about creating happy 35-year olds than getting through the next meal or the next crisis. We now have the distinct pleasure of watching our kids with their kids, making the same “mistakes” that we did, smiling and even laughing at times because we know how it all comes out. We do much the same as leaders, guiding and directing, because we’ve done it enough to know what the results are when we apply our best and what we know to be effective. I would love to interview your kids sometime because I have a hunch they know you’re doing what, in the end, is the best for them, even when they complain, disagree and resist. We have even worked with people like that in our organizations, basically kids, who don’t understand why we do what we do. As long as we know clearly, it’s all OK. Thanks!


Alli Polin August 23, 2017 at 7:28 am


I love the idea of raising good 35-year-olds instead of fighting at every turn. They may argue (okay, we may argue) but little by little they’re building habits – not just caving into mom’s demands. That’s what matters.

I’m sure one day I’ll have the pleasure of watching my kids make the same mistakes I’m making and hopefully I’ll take my advice and bite my lip 🙂



Gary Gruber August 23, 2017 at 8:36 am

Yes, we learn to pick our battles a little more judiciously and let some things slide that just aren’t that important. In the whole scheme of things let’s come to terms with what really matters for the long haul, and, what doesn’t. Well done, my friend.


Terri Klass August 22, 2017 at 9:02 am

Your post made me laugh and relate at the same time, Alli! Being a parent is no slouchy job and can bring us both happiness and frustration. I would add that part of our job as a parent or a leader is knowing the personalities we are dealing with and trying our best to flex to their style. My two daughters were a study in contrasts. One needed 24/7 attention while the other needed way more space. It’s a balancing act and I am still doing it even today though my kids are older.

By the way you are an amazing parent empowering your two children to be the best global citizens!

Will share and laugh today!


Alli Polin August 23, 2017 at 7:30 am

I’m totally with you, Terri – flex to their style. It matters for parents, leaders, and colleagues. We all know how we like things but we need to meet people where they are to create relationships that work. Fascinating that your kids were so different – I definitely see that with mine too.

Thanks so much!



Chery Gegelman August 22, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Although I don’t have kids – I could write stories about being the worst teen ever! I wanted space – lots and lots of it. I didn’t think about the things my parents did for us that they didn’t have to – that other parents didn’t do. I just expected more.

Now when my friends share struggles with their teens expectations – I share stories about how awful I was – not because I wanted to be but because I just wasn’t trying to see it from another perspective.

Very thankful that you see the times you are appreciated and needed in the midst of it all.

Huge hugs to you!


Alli Polin August 23, 2017 at 7:33 am

What a great perspective, Chery! I was NOT an easy teen. My parents used to joke that they wished me on me when I had kids of my own. Not so funny. I try to remember what those years were like as I demand and tease and love them with all my heart. As teens, we never think about life from our parent’s side and at work, I’ll be most people don’t consider if things are hard for the boss or not – we all see the world through our own eyes and really need to cultivate the ability to flip that and see through another’s…

Thanks for such a great addition, Chery!



John Bennett August 22, 2017 at 1:55 pm

We’ve all been there … Worst / best parent for sure. And let’s add ‘worst / best son / daughter’ to our parents. AND our kids to us. How about to and from our friends, our customers, … The point: it’s all about the RELATIONSHIPS!!!

To me at least and to you as well I’m sure: We need to understand it’s impossible to EVER agree on everything. So we should stop trying and accept that differences – sometimes seemingly horrible (and horrifying) ones. BUT THAT IS NORMAL IF NOT OK!!!

Those relationships need to be trusting. Those involved, valuing the relationship, must CHOOSE to understand, accept, and discuss – the disagreements for sure but also the agreements. Yes, it would be super if changes occurred to reach an agreement on a “Third Alternative” as my ‘guru from afar’ Stephen Covey advocated. But, bottom line, we need to trust that things will be ok – because it’s a caring relationship.

I know this is how you see it … Just, somehow putting it into my words!!!


Alli Polin August 23, 2017 at 7:35 am

Yes, yes, yes!!

Both sides need to choose to step up and be IN the relationship. One sided never works for long. Well said, John!

We need to learn to disagree without ending the relationship. We need to hear other viewpoints that dissent from our own without negating every word. We need to remember that there are two sides (and probably more).




John Bennett August 23, 2017 at 8:22 am

Yes to more than two sides. That’s why I often talk about “The BETTER Alternative” – can’t be the third if more than two initially!!!


LaRae Quy August 22, 2017 at 9:47 pm

This post really had me smiling, Alli! You wrote so vividly about the things you are feeling, hearing, and seeing with your kids…thanks for the pearls of wisdom about not letting one person’s bad day or bad moment color our entire relationship. We really do need to work on meeting people where they are instead of where we want them to be.


Alli Polin August 23, 2017 at 7:37 am

It’s the hardest thing we need to learn as human beings. The way we operate won’t work for everyone. The sign of a leader is to figure out what people need, how they like to interact and work and start there.

Thanks, LaRae!



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