What are the signs of bad parenting?

If you’re reading this, it most likely means you’re not a bad parent. Take a deep breath! 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.

What is Bad Parenting? 

Bad parenting isn’t only what you think it might be, like the obvious, verbal or physical abuse, or anything that would harm a child. It can be more subtle, but overall, can be summed up in one sentence. It’s when parents make their child feel unloved, unheard, unnoticed, misunderstood, unimportant, and incapable. 

Even the best of parents will at some point carry out some form of bad parenting that will negatively affect their child. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. We will yell, get angry and lose our temper. We will be a bad example. We will scold our children for being children. We will do unloving things and perhaps carry on some not so healthy habits, passed on from our very own parents that had a negative impact on us. But the important thing to remember is that you are human, and failure is a part of life. It’s what you do with that failure that determines the outcome. 

This article is not to shame you as a parent in ANY way. It’s to help you understand the subtleties of bad parenting so you can avoid them, and instead, implement good parenting so your kids will thrive. Your influence on your child is inevitable. It’s up to you as to what your influence will be – positive or negative. 

Allow yourself grace, but strive for betterment.

As a parent who desires to have healthy relationships with my family, 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 parentingparenting styles, and how to deeply connect emotionally with your child so you have a firm foundation of love and trust with them. Here are some other popular parenting articles from the blog that might help you.

One important thing I’ve learned over the years 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 what 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. Every time my son and I play this together, we talk for hours about deep and meaningful things. It’s absolutely incredible!

The Effects of Bad Parenting 

As a parenting educator and coach, I like to remind parents that their children have needs, just like them. Let’s think of their little hearts separated into two tanks. One side is their love tank, and the other is their trust tank. When you can continue to keep their hearts full of love and trust, then your children will thrive. But when their little tanks get low or empty, they will struggle. 

It’s our job as parents to make sure their little hearts remain full, because what happens when they don’t will affect them in negative ways, causing them emotional hurt – anxiety, depression, aggressiveness, mental health issues, lack of self-confidence, and so much more. 

I am a parenting coach and would LOVE to chat with you for a FREE 30 Minute session to discuss exactly HOW to fill your child’s love and trust tanks. 

Their childhood should be seen as one of the most important things you should protect emotionally, mentally, and physically. You are the MOST important example of EVERYTHING to them. So model the behavior you want to see in them. 

Teach them humility by putting them first. Teach them servanthood by serving them. Teach them respect by respecting them. Teach them to listen by listening to them. Teach them love by loving them unconditionally. Teach them trust by being trustworthy. You get the picture. 

Depending on the child and the family, the effects of bad parenting are many. So do your best to give your child what they truly deserve – an intentional parent who invests in the well-being of their child. 

Good Examples of Toxic Parenting and What it Does to Your Kids

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 friend’s 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 children 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 causing your child to find their worth in your response.

Your children will respond one of two ways — become a great little actor of perfection, or blame 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.

Make note of what they are succeeding in. Remeber that how you speak to them will influence their inner voice and how they speak to themselves; how you see them is how they see themselves. Your child’s self-esteem is often shaped by YOU. That can feel scary for most parents, but it’s important to make note of, and remember the next time you feel tempted to react in a unloving way toward your child. 

Again, perfection is not the goal. Your kids want an approachable parent, not a perfect on. So when you do make a mistake, own up to it! Apologize, and allow them to see that you aren’t perfect. In return, this will help them feel less obligated to be perfect in life. 

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 with 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 any 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 thing 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.

The Safest Phone for Kids 

I know parents sometimes feel overwhelmed when it comes to protecting their kids online, so I’ve made it one of my missions to educate you on how to best do that. We recently partnered with Pinwheel Phones. Check out the review I did and see if this phone would be right for your child! They partner with Bark so it makes parental control easier, and hassle-free!

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

You cannot be the parent you want to be until you do the work to become the person you want to be. 

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 for 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.

You are noticing their bad behavior more than their hearts intent

There is ALWAYS good to be found in your child. Make note of it. Tell them. Affirm them. I’ve learned that when I point out to my children what they’re doing right more than what they are doing wrong, they will not try and seek negative attention, but rather feel empowered in who they are.

Not that you should only affirm them in their performance. You should also affirm them in the person they are. Speak of their capabilities and characteristics. Find out what their love language is and fill up that love tank as I discussed earlier. 

When the overarching goal in parenting is to fill up those tanks, the long-term positive results in your child’s life will be incredible.

Don’t let your relationship be governed by poor parenting, but do the work to be the parent your child deserves! 

Mental health problems among young people are at staggeringly high numbers, and parents are on the frontlines. You have the choice to invest in your child’s well-being, and do the work to be there for them, not just physically, but emotionally. Your child doesn’t need more things, they need YOU. Your child doesn’t need a hero, they need an example. 

You aren’t acknowledging their most important needs

Every child is different, so their needs will be different. But there are some core needs that EVERY child has, and if not met, will affect them in a negative way.

Here are some of their most important needs.

  • Quality time spent with you doing something THEY want to do
  • Investing in understanding their love language and loving them the way they need to be loved
  • Enforcing boundaries and basic rules to build trust
  • Be approachable so they feel safe to share their heart with you – the good, the bad, and the ugly
  • Acceptance for who they are, not who you want them to be

Read my full article for more on meeting your child’s needs.

You have a lack of empathy towards them

Empathy is an incredible tool when used in parenting. Sometimes, your child just needs to feel that you’re there for them, no matter what. But make sure your empathy doesn’t turn into enabling. Parents were placed in their child’s life for a reason. You are more mature and capable than them, simply because you have been here longer, so it’s your job to TEACH them what to do with their big feelings.

As you are identifying with your child, putting yourself in their shoes, and doing your best to be understanding of their needs, go the extra step and help them get out of the pit they are in. 

An example of how this looks is as follows:

Let’s say your older child is feeling jealous of their younger sibling, so they act out and do something unloving towards them. 

Get down on their level and say, “I can see you’re not feeling yourself right now. Is there something you would like to talk about?”

Sometimes more mature kids recognize the feelings they are having and can identify the why, but often they can’t. It’s our job to help them identify what’s going on inside and help them process. 

If they open up, you can ask if they would like your advice. You can say, “Can I tell you about a time when I was jealous and what I did about it?” But make sure you listen to them first. You don’t want to just listen to respond, but rather listen to understand.

Showing them empathy is all about making sure they feel understood. But also help them see the problem and figure out a way to solve it together. 

Walk them through taking responsibility if they hurt someone in the meantime, but don’t force it. You want them to understand in their heart what they did wrong, not just perform an apology to make you happy. If they aren’t ready to take responsibility, then leave it. Visit the conversation later and address it again. Sometimes all they need is time. 

I offer parenting coaching!

Be sure to get your FREE 30-minute coaching session with me to receive personalized parenting skills that will help you get rid of some bad habits and become a better parent!

Here are some 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:

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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Author

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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