Examples Of Bad Parenting & What To Do About It

Updated April 19, 2022 by ReGain Editorial Team

It's a question that runs through every parent's head, probably at least once a day: "Am I a bad parent?" The sad truth is that while some parents may need to improve their parenting styles, those who are truly "bad parents" probably never stop to think about it at all. So, if you're here because you're concerned about your parenting, you're already one important step ahead of them.

We may hear the term "bad parent" and jump to the idea of parents with substance use disorders who prioritize drugs over their kids. Or perhaps parents who let their kids scream at the grocery store. Or absentee parents who only see their kids on holidays…maybe. Bad styles of parenting, however, can evolve from the purest of intentions.

Healthy parenting is essential for the wellbeing of children, and it's also fundamental for childhood health, including issues such as illness, accidents, pregnancy, substance use disorder, school issues, unemployability, and mental health disorders.  Unfortunately, bad parenting may even have links to criminal behavior.

Here are some examples of what is considered to be "bad parenting." If you see yourself in one or more of these examples, don't feel bad. There's always time to change things and make life better for yourself and your children. The first step is to recognize there is a problem. The second step is to fix it, and going over the following should help you become a better parent. 

#1 You Don't Ease Up On Your Limits

Wondering What To Do To Avoid Becoming A Bad Parenting Example?

It is helpful to set limits and stick to them, but it is also important to expand children's limits as they grow. Become too restrictive of a parent, and you're likely to end up with a rebellious teen. Expanding your child's limits shows that you respect your child as a person and trust them to make the right decisions without constantly peering over their shoulder.

This doesn't mean that you need to abandon the idea of boundaries altogether. Your child could still use boundaries, and it's helpful to ensure that the lines of communication stay open between you. It's important to be open and honest with your child and vice versa. Your child will benefit from knowing that you trust them just as much as they trust you. You can also share your reasons for expanding your boundaries with your child so that they know exactly where you're coming from, and you can both be on the same page.

#2 You're A Pushover

No means no. Period. Giving in to temper tantrums often encourages children to yell until you finally turn your "no" into a "yes." Even if your child remains calm when asking you to do something for the millionth time when you've already said no, you should generally avoid saying yes when you've already said no.

The moment you give in to pressure from your child, that's usually the moment you slip out of your role as a parent and become your child's friend. While it may sound nice at first, becoming your child's friend may be unhealthy. As a friend, you're no longer acting as a guide, ushering them toward maturity. Instead, your child's respect for you plummets, and they may continue to hound you for things they know you'll eventually say yes to - even if at first you say no.

On some occasions, negotiation is okay. On others, however, parents will benefit by remaining consistent. When the child makes an outrageous demand, making clear to them that the answer is no is important because it shows them that the parent cannot be swayed and that the child needs to move on to something else. In addition to (eventually) avoiding a tantrum, this will also tend to eliminate the possibility of your child getting their hopes up only for you to disappoint them later.

#3 You Don't Give Your Child Enough Responsibilities

Many parents are frustrated with their teenagers, complaining that no matter how often they ask their children, they won't pick up their rooms or mow the lawn. We get used to doing everything for our kids when they're young - so much so that it becomes a habit that sticks around until long after children should have been doing things for themselves.

The truth is that you can start as early as preschool in giving children chores to do. Even a four-year-old can be trusted with smaller chores, like helping to put away clothes or cleaning up her smaller messes. Parents shouldn't feel like they're turning their children into hired help by making them do chores early. Instead, helping with the household duties (and making it a fun activity to do together) builds a child's self-esteem by giving them a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Chores also teach younger children how to feel part of a group, in this case, the family. This makes transitioning into a school situation easier when placed in situations where they must work to accomplish a task.

If your child often says they "forgot" to do a particular chore, install a chore chart somewhere in the home that they can follow. Younger children will look forward to placing a sticker on the appropriate chore once it has been completed. You can even reward the child with a small prize or a special dinner for accomplishing a week's worth of chores without missing a day.

#4 You Resort To Intimidating Behavior

We're all human, and we all lose our cool from time to time, especially with a child testing our patience. But while it may help you blow off steam in the short term, screaming at your child or wagging a finger does nothing but show your child that you've lost control of the situation and that you are acting on your emotions. This is, of course, exactly what we don't want our children to resort to when they're upset.

When you are rude to your child, communication understandably shuts down because they feel insulted that you act that way. They might stop talking, which angers you further and results in more yelling and finger-pointing.

When you feel your anger coming on, try to recognize it and stop for a second. Take a deep breath and try to relax the tension in your body. Counting can help, even just to 3 or 5. Then, sit and face your child so that you are at the same level. Towering over them can make them feel like you are still authoritative, even if this is not your intention. Rather than point a finger, shove your hands in your pockets or, even better, reach for your child's hands.

When talking to your child about the situation, focus on the problem at hand, not the child. For example, if they broke a glass, don't focus on how they are bad for breaking the glass, but how their actions resulted in the broken glass and how they can modify their behavior going forward so that something similar does not happen again. If your child gets too worked up, feel free to take a break, rather than force them to work through a situation they may not be ready to face just yet.

#5 You Encourage Your Child To Take On More Than They Can Handle

Is your child's schedule as busy as your own? Do they have more play dates, dance recitals, and sports practice than most other children their age? Sure, your child should have an active social life to form healthy relationships and use energy positively, but overdoing it can backfire due to the stress of an overactive schedule.

Some ways to know whether your child is overly stressed and overscheduled include:

  • Complaints about having a headache or stomachache
  • Forgetting or refusing to do homework or help with chores around the house
  • Loss of interest in an activity that used to be a favorite, like practicing an instrument or hanging out with friends
  • Performance in school drops

#6 You Don't Listen To Your Child

Wondering What To Do To Avoid Becoming A Bad Parenting Example?

Things are changing all the time, from the toys children play with to the issues they experience as teens. Saying "when I was a kid" and comparing your experiences to those of your children often doesn't add up. It's better not to compare your experiences to those of your children because they won't find that helpful.

Instead of telling children what they should do in a given situation, it is more effective to ask them what they want the outcome of a particular situation to be, then help them understand how they can achieve a said outcome. You can do this by listening to the options they present and then guiding them to the one that would effectively resolve the situation.

Try to pay close attention to emotions. Listen when they tell you about what they accomplish and the challenges they face every day when they come home from school. It's important as a parent to learn to listen, encourage your child, let her know they have your support, and ask questions if you feel you need more information to evaluate the situation properly.

The most important thing to remember is that children, situations, and the world are changing all the time—whether you're ready for them to change or not. What used to work when you were a kid may not work now. You must be open to changing needs and expectations and be able to adapt in kind. And above all, try not to stress about being a "bad parent." Your child will forgive you so long as you work on being a better parent and follow through on this important goal.

Do you feel like a bad parent? Are you often overwhelmed? Do you feel like you have no one to vent to about the daily struggles of parenthood? Reach out to a licensed counselor through ReGain for guidance or simply for a shoulder to lean on.

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