The Top Parenting Fails And How To Avoid Them

Updated March 7, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Parenting is something you'd imagine humans would be more evolved to do. We've spent billions of years raising our children, and yet we make mistakes all the time. Perhaps it's because our instincts aren't tailored to the modern world. Whatever the case, we make mistakes. Our hormones and emotions override the logical way to raise our kids. It happens. Here are some of the worst mistakes, failures, and examples of what not to do as a parent.

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Making empty threats

You have probably seen it in a store. A kid is misbehaving, and the parent responds by giving them empty threats. "I'm going to count to three; you better stop it before I reach three. One…. Two…" and then nothing. There is never a three.

If you keep giving a child empty threats, they're not going to take them seriously. We all know that person in real life who is all talk, no action. You laugh every time they threaten something because they don't follow through.

Your child will listen more if you follow through on your directives. Do not threaten to ground them. Ground them.

Living through your kids

We all make mistakes growing up. Maybe you did not go to college, and now you regret it. Perhaps you wanted to join a sports team, but you never had the encouragement. For some parents, having a child is a way to have another chance at life. Your kid can experience things you never got to do, and it's a way to bring closure.

But there is a limit to it. Your child isn't a clone of you; they have their interests, too. If you get upset because your child doesn't want to choose the same career or do the same hobbies as you, don't let it. Instead, try to fill the holes your way. It is never too late.

Not letting them do chores

There are a lot of young adults who are inept at doing chores. They are unable to do basic tasks such as laundry, cooking, or washing dishes. One of the reasons for this may be because their parents never asked them to do chores.

Perhaps it's because when the parents were kids, their parents treated them like miniature servants, and they didn't want their kids to live like that. But there is a balance you can achieve. You shouldn't make your child work like a dog around the house, but making them do chores on occasion, as well as letting them clean their room, can teach them valuable life skills.

Don't let your child grow up to be that person who can’t take care of their surroundings. Show them how to clean the kitchen after they are done cooking. Teach them how to fold their clothes and organize them. Make it fun, too!

Allowing the screen to raise them

When television became mainstream, it was almost a godsend for parents. TV shows can keep children entertained, letting the parents do whatever they need to do. The same applies to video game consoles, computers, tablets, and so on.

There's nothing wrong with your child watching a few shows or playing a few games. The problem is letting them do it all the time and making the screen more of a parent than you are. We all know the story of a parent who let the screen raise the child unsupervised, the child who saw something that wasn't appropriate for them, and then the parent who got mad at the program instead of at themselves for not watching the kid.

You don't have to supervise your child 24/7, but have a good idea of what they're watching, and have a conversation with them about it too if they see something inappropriate.

Losing control of your emotions

Parenting is stressful, especially if there are other factors in your life. If your kid is annoying you, and you have bills, job concerns, and other troubles to manage, as well, the stress and frustration can build up. You can't take your anger out on your boss or the electric guy for charging too much, but you can take your anger out on your child, right?


Don't. Being intimidating or yelling at your child is a sign you are not in control as a parent. Worst of all, it can negatively impact your child's life. It may sound therapeutic to yell at your child, blame them, and punish them, but it's not something you should do. They may get anger issues as a result or become intimidating as well.

When you feel the anger rising, stop, take a deep breath, and find a way to calm yourself down. A good authority figure will not be shouting at you to do something but instead will give directions in a cool, calm manner.

Being a helicopter parent

The hardest part about parenting is that it requires a balance. You shouldn't let your child run around and do whatever they want without any supervision, but at the same time, being too restricted is not good at all. Children of helicopter parents may go into the adult world with no life skills, or they might be so rebellious that they'll take so many risks and potentially ruin something great.

So, what is the balance? When should you let a kid play outside without you hovering around them to make sure they don't get a scrape? When should you let a teen be a teen, and when should you make them come home before curfew? We could write an entire article on this subject alone. If you feel like you're too overbearing, let your kid make a few risky decisions within reason. Obviously, they shouldn't venture into the woods unsupervised, but let them play with their friends outside for a while.

Setting a bad example

We all know of hypocritical parents. We've seen the mom who lights up a cigarette in front of their child and says, "Don't do this." We all know of parents who fight in front of their children. Everyone has their bad habits, but when a child sees their parent doing them, they will want to repeat it, regardless of if a parent tries to discourage them. If you smoke, hide it from your kids, or quit altogether. When you fight, don’t lock yourself in another room where you're still in earshot in front of your child. Consider what unappealing behaviors you engage in and how to keep your child from replicating them to the best of your abilities.

Picking favorites

If you have multiple kids or your friend has a child whose behavior is better, it's hard to resist comparing your child's sibling or friend to them. "Why can't you be more like your brother?" Adding competition to your child's life can be damaging. They may grow up feeling inferior and may resent their sibling for being a favorite. Instead, point out the good traits in all of them. Life may be competitive, but you should teach your child to strive for success, not put them down for being inferior (according to your own standards).

Not using positive reinforcement

Humans tend to showcase the negative and avoid the positive. When your child is misbehaving, you punish them. However, when your child does a good deed, you shrug it off. That is not something you should do. When your child does something desirable, reinforce that behavior, possibly by praising or rewarding them. Don't spoil them and buy them a toy every time, but give them a hug, a high-five, or something else they enjoy. Finding the good in life is a great lesson to teach your child.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
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Spoiling your children (or being stingy with money)

Again, parenting requires balance, and here is a case where two extremes can be detrimental to the child. We all know of the spoiled child. The one who cries for something, and they get their way instantly. This is obviously not an effective way to parent. The child may grow up unprepared for the real world and overly dependent on others.

However, never letting your child have a treat isn't that good either. Your child may grow up to be stingy themselves and never show compassion for another person. Reaching the balance is hard. Another thing you should teach your child is financial literacy. Explain to them that you cannot buy them everything they want because of money. Do not be afraid to talk to your kids about the real world and the differences between wants and needs.

Not seeking family therapy

For some parents, the idea of having a therapist handle a parenting situation is a sign of failure. However, you have to understand that it does take more than one or two people to raise a child, and a child psychologist or a family therapist will know more about how the child's mind works than you may and can provide solutions to help both the parent and child. And as we said, parenting is a balance, and a therapist can help you achieve said balance.

For busy families, online therapy may be an excellent resource. Online therapy platforms like Regain enable users to schedule appointments with a counselor at convenient times, and they can meet from any preferred location with a secure internet connection. This means that parents seeking therapy for parenting-related issues can do so discreetly, without having to take time off of work or parenting itself. If you’re struggling to be a reasonable parent in the moment, you can even text your therapist directly for advice or reminders.

Online parenting therapy has helped many people improve their parenting skills. In one recent trial, 12 parents participated in an online intervention designed to improve their mood and coping skills when taking part in parenting activities. By the end of the online therapy intervention, parents experienced increased psychological flexibility, emotional regulation, and coping skills. 


A person's childhood is a substantial influence on how they will be as an adult. There will likely be times when you catch yourself engaging in parenting behavior that you don’t support or that is not reflective of your values, and that is understandable. The key takeaway here is to do your best with what you’ve got. By raising your child properly, you can help them succeed, and when you’re ready to invite a caring, professional online therapist into your support network, you can reach out to Regain.

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