The themes of "My Parents Kept Me from Children Who Were Rough" by Stephen Spender include jealousy and resentment. Specifically, the author resents his parents for protecting him from what they perceived to be dangerous children. As a result, the author is jealous of the freedom of the other children in the poem.
Throughout the poem, Spender uses antithesis to compare and contrast the differences between him and the other children. For example, he describes the other children as having "muscles like iron" while the author suffered from a club foot that prevented him from being as strong as the other children. In addition, Spender writes about how the children "climbed cliffs" and "sprang out behind hedges." However, the author describes how he would simply look the other way when he became too jealous.
Spender also alludes to the fact that the children he was so envious of made fun of him. He specifically mentions the children copying his lisp and physically attacking him. Although he does not explicitly mention his parents, the title expresses his disdain for the way his parents raised him. The poem as a whole indicates that he would have been accepted by the other children had he been able to play with them.