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Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Kids First

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Society tells you that you should put your kids first. Parents who don’t are considered selfish, even negligent.

If you want to raise your children to be capable adults with healthy relationships, you need to re-evaluate the example you set by putting them ahead of yourself and your marriage. My parenting advice to you is – Don’t put your kids first.

a toddler trying to get his mom's attention while she's on the phone with title text reading Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Kids First

What Happens When You Put Your Kids First

By doting on your child, all their physical needs will certainly be met. But are you really helping their emotional and psychological needs? Let’s consider the effects of putting them first.

It Throws Off the Balance of Authority

When you put your children’s wants and needs before yours, you create an authority imbalance. Once you establish a pattern of putting your children first, they become the leaders and you become the follower.

Children lack the experience, wisdom, and capacity to live independently. Why then, would you put them in charge of our household? Your job is to teach them how to become responsible adults. The best way to do this is leading by example. They will only follow your example, if they regard you as a leader.

It Creates Unrealistic Expectations in Your Children

Outside of your home, how many people will treat your children like they are the center of the universe? Not many.

When your kids get to run the show at home, they often struggle with adjusting to social situations outside the home where they aren’t automatically highly regarded. Sometimes they will learn to adjust their behavior, but other times they become outcasts, or bullies, or they battle depression because the world doesn’t meet their expectations.

It Threatens Their Future Relationships

In a home where mom is constantly putting her own needs behind everyone else’s in the family, children are raised with the belief that sacrifice is a mother’s duty. Do you want to raise daughters who will seek out relationships where they are undervalued? Do you want your sons to seek wives who they can control?

Ideally, your children will pursue relationships that lift them up and are mutually rewarding. To do this, they must seek partners with whom they share mutual respect and admiration. They should be equals, not a superior and a devotee.

What To Do Instead

When I say that you shouldn’t put your kids first, I don’t mean that you shouldn’t tend to their needs at all. THAT would be bad parenting. Your children should still be a priority, just not the TOP priority.

Take Care of Yourself

Make your physical, mental, and emotional health a priority. Not only will this put you in better shape to be a great wife and mother, it will set a good example for your children.

Your children will learn to take care of themselves without waiting for someone else to do it. They’ll also learn to value themselves.

Nurture Your Marriage

The single best way to ensure your children’s current and future happiness is to nurture your relationship with your spouse. Your home environment will be happier and you’ll be setting a wonderful example of healthy relationships for your children.

Notice that I used the term “nurture your marriage” NOT “take care of your spouse.” Putting your spouse’s needs and desires ahead of your own creates many of the same problems that putting your children first does. Instead, show your children what a relationship of mutual respect, commitment, and affection looks like.

Care for Your Children

You can lovingly care for your children and provide for their needs without letting them run your life. Provide for their needs and make time for them so that they know they are loved and valued.

If you’re confused about the difference between caring for your children and putting them first, consider these examples:

  • At mealtime, a caring mother makes sure she provides a healthy meal for her family. A mother who puts her children first, caters the meal to their demands.
  • At chore time, a caring mother assigns chores and checks on family members to ensure they are done well. A mother who puts her children first, either doesn’t assign chores (since it’s “her job” to do them) or let’s the kids get away with doing them poorly.
  • When a child forgets his assignment at home, the mother who puts her child first cancels her plans and rushes the assignment to school while the caring mother let’s her child bear the consequences for his mistake.

What is right for one family isn’t always right for another family. This article isn’t intended to shame any parent or condone your behavior. Instead, I hope it opens your eyes to the possibility that your actions might have different results than you expect.


30 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Kids First”

  1. You want a perfect example of how on point this article is, look up Diana Ross as a mom. That woman had a full fledged career and was fabulous and her kids turned out incredible. Look it up do the research. She the type of mom you want to model. I watched a video from a mom blog and this mom was boasting about how her kids were her life. It was very unhealthy to hear. I don’t think mother realize that you are there to guide your child through like not monopolize it because of your own neediness. They actually think that is healthy. Balance is very important. Stop smothering your children. They have a right to have their own space to grow and develop.

    • Growing up my mother sacrificed everything for my dad, my sister and I. She made home-cooked meals most of the time, kept an immaculate house…the picture perfect 50’s style wifedom. But she was freaking miserable!! She had no friends, no outside interests. She would even refuse to go to the doctor or dentist, wore hand me down ragged clothes, and my dad’s old glasses in order to see. But it was almost like it was worn as a badge of honor, the ‘look at what I gave up for you!’ The only time she was truly happy was when she worked outside the home, which she didn’t do – most of the time she was a hermit. It’s as if she had this unhealthy drive to care for others to the point of completely unending yourself.

      I have 2 teenage boys and feel a push and pull dynamic. The work I do now provides a living for us but I have no passion. I would love to be able to provide them with what they want (oldest wants a car – we share one for now) but in order to do that I would have to continue to work where the money is good but again, no passion. I have for over a year now beginning to shift my professional path as a nurse to a more holistic path, something I AM passionate about – but no promise of what this will look like financially. So what I am noticing is that my oldest has now began talking about getting a job over the summer so I can see a glimmer of responsibility beginning to bloom. In order to provide him with a car I would have to stay in a job that feels safe and boring and work MORE…I just cant do that. I will always provide their needs (housing, food, clothes, time, and attention) and will happily HELP them but not do it for them. I bought my first car at 18 and I remember how proud I was of myself, “I did that”. So what else can I do? I remember the first time I got an apartment all by myself. Again…look at what I did. Wouldn’t it be selfish of me to rob them of this experiences? I want to show them what is possible when you make a plan to move towards what lights them up rather than handing it to them. If you read my reply I appreciate you taking the time to do so. Enjoy your day!

      • Your story is the perfect example of all I talk about in the post. You are doing such a great job as a mom, and look at how your sons are responding! Thanks for commenting. I’m sure your story will encourage other moms.

      • Your example was so great. I related to it also. Thanks for sharing .

  2. I wish I would have seen this article 16 years ago man I’ve always put my kids before me. And they run all over me and they are adults now. Boy was my mom right I think I screwed up as a good parent I guess knowing is Hal the battle now how do I get it right

    • We will always be parents to our children, even when they’re adults. So, you can start now by doing the things under the heading, “What To Do Instead.” Although, your kids are grown, a lot of it still applies, just adjust the examples for your current situation.

      • You are completely missing the meaning of putting the child first. What you really need to do is think before you act. Today, many parents are still emotionally children themselves, taking away the possibility of doing what is best for the child. What that really means is keeping in mind what effect your actions will have on your child. Asking yourself if you are encouraging your child to think for him/herself. If you’re encouraging self discipline and the ability to confidently push through when things get tough.
        Good parenting is hard!! Every interaction an excellent parent has with a child needs to be with that child’s best interest at heart.
        Parents want kids to show off to their peers, but they’re usually too selfish and/or lazy to put the work in for the child’s sake. I could write a book here because parenting is complicated. So, get yourself a book or two or a dozen and read every word and follow the advice and you just might be a decent parent. Approach parenting as if you’re taking a test that will either make or break your future, because if you get it wrong everyones life will be miserable. I recommend P.E.T. By Dr. Thomas Gordan for starters.

        • While I wish you had chosen a kinder tact for making your points, I appreciate the insights you’ve shared in your comment. I love that as parents, we can share opinions, beliefs, and practices with one another so that we can each strive to be the best parent we’re capable of being in a way that works for us as individuals. You made several great points and I hope other readers take the time to consider all sides of the issue.

  3. Thank yu so much people I have leant quiet a lot from your comments. Putting children first really brings authority imbalance children will control you. On blended families please spouses do not put your children first it will destroy relationships. But if love starts first from yu two it will spread to the whole family.as spouses know how to balance Your love between Your children and your spouse otherwise if the love is too much on one side nothing will work out.

  4. It’s hard to come across a bigger load of crap that this article. If you are a parent and not putting your children first, then I would ask you why you are a parent in the first place. Both parents should be putting their children’s needs first. If you love your spouse and your children there is nothing you won’t do for them. You should be left at the end of the day with a feeling of inadequacy, a feeling of not being able to do enough for the people you love most. That’s how you know you love someone. A child’s father and mother are the two most important people in their lives. Your child is never going to care what you do for a living. All they are going to care about is if you are there for them when they need you. This entire article is written by a woman for other women so that other women can have an excuse to act selfish and tell themselves it’s not my fault.

    • It’s clear from your comment that you didn’t actually read the article but instead read the title, made assumptions and scrolled to the bottom to leave a disparaging comment. What you describe above is an uncaring parent which I specifically address in the article because there is a difference between being uncaring and not letting your children run your household. I pity that your definition of love means that all parties feel inadequate at the end of the day. I would argue that in healthy relationships, each party lifts the other up so that both end every day feeling secure, happy, and proud.

    • Of course, a parent should love their children. But, ultimately the parents’ job is the help the child develop as a person so they can grow to be a self-sufficient, and responsible adult. That means teaching them lessons, and providing advice an guidance; but also letting them learn from their own experience. And if a parent is doing everything for them that the parent can think to do, they are doing the child a disservice. What great person ever said “I am successful, because my parents did everything for me during my childhood, and I did as little as possible”?

    • You’re clearly bitter Mike. Are YOU sacrificing every component of your life for your kids? Or do you not even have any…just bitter resentment towards your parents who didn’t wipe your bottom until your senior year. With your self righteous judgment on full display, allow me to make an observation…you’re likely divorced.

    • I agree 💯
      This article was sent to me a single father raising 4 kids full time. It was sent to me by a female who can’t understand why I spend more time with my kids than I did her. My kids’ mother walked out on them 11 years ago and some people in the family have convinced my oldest son it’s because of him. I spend my time with my kids building them up and making them HELP with chores so they know the responsibility of running a house and functioning as a team when they get married!

      • In the article, it specifically mentions chore time, and how a caring parent assigns chores and checks on family members to ensure they are done well, instead of not assigning chores (since it’s “her job” to do them) or let’s the kids get away with doing them poorly. So, you are being a caring parent. Apparently the lady who sent you the article didn’t actually read it because it affirms how you’re raising your children, or maybe she realized you are doing a good job and this article is her way of telling you that.

      • Kevin,

        I’m a “stepmom” on the other end of the fence.
        I think it’s wonderful that you’re teaching your kids the value of responsibility and how to run a household.

        It’s a battle I fight every day with my partner to try and get him to stop babying the kids (their mother does more than enough of it) but your post was very encouraging to see so thank you!

    • “Your child is never going to care what you do for a living.” Exactly. They are never going to care if you are unemployed or unhappy at work, either. Only you are going to care, maybe your spouse. And if you neglect parts of yourself because you believe your child loves you unconditionally, wait until you’re too poor or unhappy to handle life, or until your child is a grumpy teenager or leaves the house, or until your spouse leaves you for somebody that still values themselves… That is precisely the reason why you should prioritize yourself and your relationship as well, not only your child.

    • Mike, Go back and read the article again. I am assuming you don’t have an actual structured life if you are forgetting how to take care of yourself first to nurture and care for your own kids. I think you are missing the bigger picture… You’re kids will not develop anything without being shown a better way then what you have become, so at this point and time kids are not a priority you have to understand that if you are not caring for yourself then your not caring for your kids any better by giving them something to look up to your look forward to in life without you.

    • In a nutshall:
      Spoil your kids, raise your grandkids.
      Raise your kids and spoil your grandkids!

  5. This is so true you are so right mother of 4 here I’m the last to eat to shower and to fall a sleep but on the other hand I have son who has aulisum but have 2 older girls who could but won’t do anything I ask so everything is up to me my partner starts work early 5am till nearly 7pm so I have kinda do everything I wish it was that simple really

  6. I got divorced 18 months ago after being separated for a year and have been seeing someone for nearly a year now. He lives in another city and I’d like to move there but I’m staying because my daughter doesn’t want to go to a new school. She is 15. I’m nearly 50…do I put my plans on hold for her?

    • Hi Lucy, I can’t tell you what is best for your family since all families are different. What I will say is that if it were me, I would try to do what was best for my family. If it were me, I wouldn’t uproot my family until I was sure I was moving us towards stability. If I believed the life we’d be moving to would be a more stable and better life for us as a family, I would then do everything I could to ensure that was what happened.

  7. I read your post and it’s very intriguing. Now what advice would you give to a single mother? For example I’m a guy my girlfriend and I have been going out for a little while now but she’s always letting her children run her life and it’s kind of dragging me down because I hardly get to see her by her doing this. Her children are very rude and walk all over her and I see it and hear it second hand all the time. Her and I do not live together at the moment it’s my decision to take things slow and make sure we’re all ready for that kind of a change. But in your advice how should I address this matter to her? I don’t want to start any arguments with her but after reading your post and makes a lot of sense.

    • Let me preface my response with the confession that I’ve never been in the position of a single mother so I’ll answer you as a woman to give you a female perspective. I won’t assume to understand the unique challenges of a single mom navigating a developing relationship. Also, I’m not a professional relationship counselor so I can only offer you my opinion.

      In general, I get defensive when I feel attacked. My husband does a good job of broaching potentially contentious subjects with me by complimenting me first or acknowledging my effort in an area, then he states his observations of something that confuses or troubles and asks me for my perception. Sometimes I’m completely unaware of the problem until he brings it up, other times I’m aware and struggling with it already. Either way, I’m always glad he brings them up because they give us an opportunity to work on the solution together. For the problems I didn’t know were problems, we work to find a way to ease his concerns. For the problems I’m aware of but struggling with, he helps work through them. Maybe your girlfriend doesn’t notice how they are treating her or she doesn’t know what to do about it and will appreciate your insights and support.

      Honestly, sometimes some thing will bother my husband that doesn’t bother me at all and I don’t want to change what I’m doing. Then, it comes down to how much does it bother him and how unwilling am I to change? Not all of our discussions end win-win. Sometimes one of us has to concede. I don’t mention this to discourage you, but to emphasize the point that if you do bring up this topic with your girlfriend, you should be prepared for the possibility the outcome might be that one of you will have to compromise to make the other happy. Whatever you decide, I hope you and your girlfriend find happiness.

  8. Just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to write this post. It is very helpful to a fellow mother out here in cyberspace!

    • Thank you! And it’s nice to electronically meet you. 🙂

  9. So true, and something I need a reminder of often to keep my priorities straight.

    • I’ve been reading this with tears streaming down my face.

      My partner (male, aged 34) has a son (age 7 in 2 months) who spends every weekend apart from every 6th weekend with us, plus my partner sees his son 2 – 3 afternoon/evenings per week (in his son’s home town).

      My partner had a difficult marriage with his sons’s mother; she was alcoholic, abusive and controlling to my partner.

      This Sunday my partner and I spent about an hour gardening together while his son was also in the garden with his radio controlled car, needing a lot of encouragement to play by himself and not keep wanting his Dad to go and play with him instead.

      My partner said to me “do you know this is the first time in our whole relationship (just over 2 years) that we have done something together – just us when (son’s name) is here?”

      2 years I’ve been sidelined by my partners son basically every weekend. Not only that, but during this time I have experienced severe ill-health now considered disabled with numerous conditions. So, spent many weekends alone in my bed feeling dreadful not being able to walk and not wanting to be alive, having only my meals and drinks dropped off by my partner (which I absolutely do appreciate) only for him to hurry back to his son.

      I don’t know what to do now. I feel so sad that this was how it has been for two years and I didn’t even realise. My partners son is so clingy and often controlling of his Dad, my partners son constantly talks and dominates every conversation or place where we go.

      I am just so sad now. My partner and I are trying to have a baby, but now I’m not sure this is a healthy relationship to even continue.

      • I’m sorry for the emotional struggle you’re experiencing! As someone who has struggled with depression, I urge you to find a way to cope with those feelings immediately. It’s so hard to make good decisions when we don’t feel confident, secure, and whole. It sounds like your partner is a wonderful man doing his best to be good to both you and his son. I can understand the guilt a parent has when they cannot shield their child from difficult situations and thus, we go overboard to try and make up for it. There is a multitude of research that highlight the negative outcomes of overindulging children — they’re less able to cope with stress and are at higher risk for dangerous behaviors later in life. Reading this research impacted my own parenting decisions dramatically. I don’t believe in trying to change other people, but I do believe in sharing information and good communication. Perhaps if you shared some of the research with your partner (either reputable articles or books) he might be more receptive to some of your concerns. I’m obviously not a professional in this area, just sharing my thoughts as a mom, partner, and friend. I hope whatever choices you make for your future lead you to happiness.

      • Dear Laura,
        I suggest you dissolve your partnership as red flags are evident for both of you. The fact that you wrote the blog and admitted to all these problems, and questioned your own self-reflection and judgement; “I’m not sure this is a healthy relationship to even continue” CLEARLY answers your own question! I would not want to have a baby with this person! There is high likelihood that his immaturity was front and center of the marriage and divorce.
        Trust in yourself! You know the right path! Focus on yourself and good health and stop wasting your life in a co-dependent relationship. One step at a time, one day at a time, and you will feel strength from within.
        His child needs him, and he isn’t equipped to equally care for both of you! His moral obligation is to his dependent child, and should be supported, and tolerated with patience. If he only sees his child infrequently, then the child is already at a disadvantage and missing vital parenting, which will probably affect him for the rest of his life. It’s no secret that children of divorce grow up to have life-long issues from these types of experiences.
        If you live together, then you should be willing to dedicate time for the child when he is there because you have all the non-custody time alone when the child is with his mother, otherwise, you are creating a barrier to the child’s sense security.
        You knew he had a child when you met him, so the child’s sense of security, well-being, and sense of family are now YOUR responsibility too. This was your choice, and remember, the child was given NO choices in the divorce, or in his father’s choice of partner, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that the child would not have chosen any of this! The 7 y/o didn’t sideline you for 2 years, that was your choice. YOU sidelined yourself and have invited these circumstances and you should own your poor judgement in partners.

        A 7 year old’s brain isn’t developed enough to be deliberately controlling. He’s just reacting (clingy) instinctively to the negativity towards his presence. He just needs his father, and needs not to feel threatened by his father’s lack of responsibility, but moreso, his father doesn’t need a high maintenance partner, who can’t care for herself whilst trying to bring another child into this unstable situation. I’ll be the voice for the child and state that you are controlling and clingy, which is the type of partner he is attracted to.
        Your partner is entirely ill-focused in his priorities, and obviously confused by the circumstances and his grandiose delusions of wearing a cape, and trying to live up to the expectations of providing artificial happiness in the form of a baby.

        A baby will not heal you or the relationship.
        A baby could increase stress in so many ways! You are only thinking of the “cute and fun stuff” but are not taking into account that the opposite could happen, and your baby is not born healthy. Are you prepared to sit at the hospital bed of a severely deformed child struggling to live? Nobody is prepared for it!
        New mothers are severely sleep-deprived even with a healthy baby!
        Focus on regaining your health only!


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