Bad parenting

It’s a question we’ve probably all asked ourselves after a particularly rough day: “Am I a bad parent?”

It’s easy to feel like your parenting skills are below par in a moment when nothing seems to be going your way, and you’ve exhausted your patience completely.

But the fact that you’re concerned about whether you’re making the right parenting choices is a good sign that you’re not, in fact, a bad parent.

Sometimes it can feel like every choice we’re making is monumental and every mistake significant. We worry about the long-term effects of our choices, especially when it comes to negative interactions with our children.

We stress over whether we were too harsh when we yelled at them earlier, if we could have handled that tantrum better, or whether we doled out the appropriate consequences.

But every parent has those moments where they lose their cool. We’ve all made less-than-stellar parenting choices in a moment of frustration or confusion.

That’s why we asked two mental health experts to share tips on how to spot the signs of what we’ll call “bad parenting” and the effect it may have on a child — to help clarify what’s actually worth worrying about.

We’ve also got some tips on focusing on the positive when it comes to parenting — because when we’re in the trenches, it’s oh-so easy to dwell on the negative.

What is it?
Signs
Effects
How to stop it
Bottom line
Emily Mitchell/Offset Images
It’s a question we’ve probably all asked ourselves after a particularly rough day: “Am I a bad parent?”

It’s easy to feel like your parenting skills are below par in a moment when nothing seems to be going your way, and you’ve exhausted your patience completely.

But the fact that you’re concerned about whether you’re making the right parenting choices is a good sign that you’re not, in fact, a bad parent.

Sometimes it can feel like every choice we’re making is monumental and every mistake significant. We worry about the long-term effects of our choices, especially when it comes to negative interactions with our children.

We stress over whether we were too harsh when we yelled at them earlier, if we could have handled that tantrum better, or whether we doled out the appropriate consequences.

But every parent has those moments where they lose their cool. We’ve all made less-than-stellar parenting choices in a moment of frustration or confusion.

That’s why we asked two mental health experts to share tips on how to spot the signs of what we’ll call “bad parenting” and the effect it may have on a child — to help clarify what’s actually worth worrying about.

We’ve also got some tips on focusing on the positive when it comes to parenting — because when we’re in the trenches, it’s oh-so easy to dwell on the negative.

What is bad parenting?
There are some things that are generally considered “bad” by anyone.

Physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse are the most serious and damaging behavior traits that most of us equate with bad parenting. These are things that should be immediately addressed with professional help.

But beyond child abuse and neglect, there are also things that parents may do or say that can, even unintentionally, lead to adverse outcomes for a child. Recognizing whether you’re doing those things can help you to feel better about your parenting.

Taking an honest assessment of your parenting style isn’t always an easy task. That’s why it’s important to first separate the behavior from the person.

Calling yourself or someone else a “bad parent” isn’t something to jump to based on a difference in beliefs or parenting style. It’s also important to recognize there is a difference between having a bad moment and being a bad parent.

Losing your temper every once in a while is not the same as telling your child, “I’m smart, and you’re dumb” or “I’m right, you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Although some people disagree on what is “good” or “bad” parenting, most parents have both positive and negative parenting traits.

What are the signs of bad parenting?
It’s easy to see less than desirable parenting behaviors when you consider the extremes.

Over or under involvement
On one end, you have the uninvolved parent who is neglectful and fails to respond to their child’s needs beyond the basics of shelter, food, and clothing.

While not as damaging as a neglectful style, an over involved parent (aka helicopter parent) can also cause more harm than good by taking control of decisions and doing too much for their child, hindering them from learning by doing.

Little or no discipline
According to Sharron Frederick, LCSW, a psychotherapist at Clarity Health Solutions, children who have little or no discipline are left to fend for themselves, which can result in injuries and also creates a child who does not understand boundaries.

“Children look to parents to define what boundaries are and the consequences that can occur if the child crosses the boundaries,” she says.

Strict or rigid discipline
Unlike parents who enforce little to no discipline, Frederick says parents who practice strict or rigid discipline (aka authoritarian parenting) do not allow their child to explore their world, which often leads to a child who becomes fearful and anxious or rebellious.

Withdrawing affection and attention
“Ignoring a child is telling them that your love is conditional,” says Frederick. Withdrawing affection because a child does not do what they are told causes similar harm.

“These types of behaviors can cause a child to have low self-esteem and low confidence, which can result in a child not expressing their wants and needs,” she says.

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