What are the signs of bad parenting? If you’re reading this, it most likely means you’re not a bad parent. The fact that you care to know you aren’t doing things to psychologically damage your child is a good sign. But most parents aren’t perfect — that’s why it’s important to understand what things you might be doing or saying that could emotionally affect your kids in a negative way.

signs of bad parenting

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What is bad parenting?

No parent is perfect

We all fail in life: We fail at saving money, being a good friend, taking care of ourselves. We fail at loving our spouses well, and very often, most of us fail at parenting. But the important thing to remember is that you are human, and failure is apart of life. It’s what you do with failure that will determine the outcome.

This article is not to shame you as a parent in ANY way. We are all in this together, and part of that means we hold one another to a higher standard.

Allow yourself grace, but strive for betterment.

As a parent, I believe one of the most important responsibilities I have is to self reflect on my actions, sometimes daily.

That means I am continuously asking myself if I am projecting my struggles on my kids or if my anger is seeping through as I discipline them.

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about parenting. Here are some other popular parenting articles that might help you.

One important thing I’ve learned in parenting is not to expect immediate results from my kids, and not find my identity in them either.

Let’s go deeper into what that means, and how you might be unintentionally, and unwittingly doing this as a parent.

If you’re looking for a way to connect with your kids on a deeper level, check out this incredible dinner talk card game – OUR MOMENTS. Conversation starters that will resonate with your kids for emotional bonding and a great neutral way for them to open up to you. With questions like “If you were a superhero, who would you be?” you will find yourself laughing and connecting as a family in a unique way.

Harmful things we do and say to our kids

bad parenting

1. You find your identity IN your kids instead of identifying WITH your kids

There is a great book I read by Paul Tripp called Parenting. He talks a lot in his book about the dangers of finding your identity in your kids.

That doesn’t only mean you live vicariously through your kids as far as wanting them to be successful in x,y, or z because you weren’t, but also addresses the more unconscious things we do throughout the day.

Let’s say your family went to a new friends house for dinner.

Their kids are so well behaved, eating their veggies, talking to one another kindly. They have respect for their parents, and leave you feeling inadequate as a parent because your kids are the polar opposite.

You look over to your kids hitting one another at the dinner table and you start gritting your teeth, hoping they stop embarrassing you as you give them the evil eye, a shove under the table, and a “don’t you dare say that” look.

The evening ends and as soon as you drive away and are no longer in view from your friend’s house, you let your kids have it, and tell them how much they embarrassed YOU.

Yes, those are your kids. The ones that leave you feeling ashamed and guilty because “WHAT will other people think of ME!?”

Here’s where I tell you, you’re not a bad parent for thinking or saying that.

But therein might lie the issue. Your kids embarrassed YOU.

When we tell our kids that their behavior embarrassed us, made us angry, or put us out in some way or another, we are coercing them to behave better to please us, not because it’s the right thing to do.

Realizing they have let you down once again, they feel ashamed, unworthy, and like they can never live up to what you want from them.

This issue is subtle. And popular parenting techniques like Love and Logic are well-meant, but teach parents how to get obedience through manipulation, or getting your kids to please YOU.

Well, what does this do?

It causes you to find your worth as a parent in your child’s behavior, while at the same time causes your child to find their worth in your response.

Does that make sense? Your children will respond one of two ways — become a great little actor, or hate themselves for not being perfect.

So what can we do about it?

Well, here is quite possibly the best advice you will ever receive as a parent.

Expect your child to be disobedient, don’t expect them to be adults, and acknowledge that they are sinners just like you.

Identify WITH your kids, instead of finding your identity IN your kids.

This will free you up to be gracious, patient, and recognize the big picture — they are being molded and shaped by God JUST like you.

signs of bad parenting

2. You don’t monitor what they are being exposed to

First of all, I want to make this clear. In today’s culture, your kids WILL be exposed to age-inappropriate content. There is no way around it. So along with doing your best to monitor what they see and hear (which is what I discuss further down), teach them WHAT to do with something they shouldn’t have seen or heard.

Nurturing an environment in your home where your kids feel free to come to you will anything is not easy, but it’s possible. One of the most important things I’ve learned with this is not to expect them to be perfect. When they make mistakes, be gracious. If your child knows they will get in big trouble if they were to tell you something wrong they did, do you think they will feel free to come to you with everything in the future?

As there should be consequences to their mistakes, don’t make their consequences about your disappointment, but rather a choice they made. It’s because of their choice they get a consequence. Not because you’re disappointed with them.

But more often than not, my husband and I feel led to have grace in moments where we can see our son understands what he did wrong. This is why dealing with their heart becomes more important than dealing with their behavior.

More often than not, I am seeing parents allowing their kids to be on YouTube without and kind of parental control app or software — and that, my friends, is a parent fail.

Think of it this way. You wouldn’t let your child go roaming around in the middle of the night, knowing there are potential predators lurking, right? The same goes for our child’s internet and social media use.

With all the options out there now to keep kids safe online, parents no longer have an excuse. And since we don’t want to be hovering over their shoulder all the time, especially when they’re older, there is an incredible software that keeps tabs for you.

One that I’m currently using for my son’s iPad is Bark.

Bark is a parental control software that connects to your child’s device and gives you daily reports of their activity. You also limit their screen time by blocking out time frames, and keep them accountable with their social media apps, and also make sure they aren’t being cyber-bullied.

The important things here, though, is that you’re upfront and honest about how Bark works, and why you intend to use it on their device. The more transparent you are with them, explaining that everyone should have accountability with screens, no matter the age, then the more likely they can accept it.

In our home, we monitor ALL of our devices. We use Covenant Eyes on our computers and Bark on our smartphones and tablets. If you can get in the habit of this in your family, it will not only protect your kids but also your marriage.

Check out this short video to learn more. Use the code WORDBIRD to receive a 1 month free trial on me!

There are SO many resources to equip you as parents. You are not helpless, and God created you to be the perfect person for that exhausting job we call parenting. It takes knowledge and understanding to know what your kids are up against in the world.

One of the most caring things you can do for them, is to make sure their minds and hearts are being protected.

what is bad parenting?

3. You aren’t putting your personal growth or marriage before your kids

Everyone knows you can’t pour from an empty cup — this is common knowledge that has recently worn many masks — self-care, self-help, how not to have a mom burnout. But even after you have given yourself a mani/pedi, or taken a shopping day, why are you STILL exhausted?

Well, I know or myself that my self-care has more to do with my spiritual health and less to do with how good my nails look: When I am taking time for God, He is the one who fills my cup. When I spend time with Him, my marriage is better. When I have my quiet time, my anger subsides, and I can be a patient and caring mother.

Your personal growth in relationship to your spiritual life should be first on your list. Try not to neglect the fact that your relationships will benefit from a spiritually healthier YOU. Moms and dads, how can you parent well when you are not well? How can you parent well when your marriage isn’t healthy?

Before your kids, put one another first — that is the backbone of a healthy family, and healthy parenting.

Positive parenting tools for every parent 

Screen Time Protection and Teaching Moderation

I’ve recently partnered with Bark, a software to supervise, manage, and protect your child’s device use on the go. Use the code WORDBIRD at checkout to get an additional 1-month free trial after your first initial 7-day trial!

Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids – FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below. 

Book List for Kids and Parents

Check out my recommended books for parenting

Book list to teach kids about racial diversity. 

Journaling for Kids

When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves in a free and comfortable way. Check out our Kid’s Printable Journals — created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination. 

Chores for Kids

Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge

Implementing chores and structure in your child’s daily life is a VERY helpful tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their own progress, and keep you from having to constantly remind them of their daily tasks. 

If you’re looking for something a bit more simple, this is also a good option. 

Chore Chart Printable – Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer

If you’re looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly “missions.”

Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids

Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL, and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to feel free to share their questions and emotions, all without judgment. 

We even offer an “Exemption Time” for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences. 

Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!

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Hillary Gruener is a wife, mother, writer, and musician. If she's not at her desk writing content on family life, she's adventuring the world with her husband and two boys.

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