You knew it the first time you looked into that precious face – you would do anything for your child. Despite that powerful love, children do suffer because of bad parenting mistakes. All moms and dads experience those moments of doubt when they wonder, “Hey, does this make me a bad parent?”
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No parent is perfect, but some are bad, and some are downright awful. In fact, some should be arrested! If you’re wondering what qualifies someone as a truly bad parent, psychologists Dr. Lawrence Balter and Dr. Susan Newman have some good – or bad – news for you.
1. Parents who are all fun, all of the time
“Many parents categorize lax parenting as being free-spirited. It may be fun to be that way occasionally, but not all the time,” says Dr. Newman. “Kids need boundaries, rules and restrictions,” she adds. “Parents who let children do whatever they want are doing them a disservice.” Lax, bad parenting may also manifest as missed medical and dental check-ups or a chronically empty refrigerator.
Another telltale sign is a complete lack of routine, particularly at bedtime. “Some parents let their children dictate their bedtimes,” says Dr. Newman. “Children need lots of sleep to learn and function, but there are parents who let their child drop only when they’re tired. That’s lazy parenting.”
2. Parents who are no fun, any of the time
Discipline is necessary, but spanking the dickens out of them or yelling so loudly neighbors call the police is bad parenting. “When you are punitive, your kids learn to be deceptive or become fearful people,” says Dr. Balter, who’s not a fan of spanking and calls it “bad behavior on the part of the parent.”
Verbal abuse can be just as painful, Dr. Newman says. She recommends never calling your child stupid or other names and keeping your voice calm. “If you are a parent who yells constantly, your children will eventually tune you out like white noise,” she says.
“Discipline should be based on parental goals. Typically, the purpose is to teach kids how to self-discipline,” adds Dr. Balter. “Discipline is not meant to be punishment, it is a form of guidance that teaches children to have more self-control.”
3. Distracted parents
“Parents who are chronically hooked on electronics have poorly behaved kids who keep trying to get their parent’s attention,” says Dr. Newman. “Moms might say ‘this allows my children to become self-reliant,’ but it’s not always so.” Dr. Balter agrees, adding, “Constant distractions that turn you away from your child are not good. Of course, there are other demands on your time, but kids need to know they matter.” Both experts recommend turning off those cell phones during dinner!
4. And then there’s…
Who hasn’t gone to an R-rated movie and been appalled at oblivious parents with small children in tow? There are certain places kids just shouldn’t be and certain behaviors parents just shouldn’t display.
“You are your child’s first role model, so spending time in a bar will teach them to go to bars. If you’re putting your needs before your child’s consistently, that’s bad parenting,” says Dr. Balter. If you’re trying to decide if you’re a bad parent, ask yourself whether an action is in your own best interest or your child’s best interest. This pertains to behaviors like excessive alcohol or drug use.
“Parents who think giving children sips of alcohol or letting them smoke pot is cute, but it’s not. It’s a fallacy that introducing your child to alcohol at home means they won’t get drunk elsewhere,” adds Dr. Newman. Other indisputable bad parent behavior? Leaving small children home alone or posting compromising photos of them online.
Even good parents sometimes make bad choices. Love may not really conquer all, but it does conquer much! Having good intentions and recognizing bad parenting behavior is half the battle.
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