Poor Parenting Examples & the Impact on Kids + Solutions

Almost all parents strive to do a good job. But some just never quite cut it. So I wondered what some of the most extreme poor parenting examples were.

The worst parenting styles are authoritarian, neglectful & permissive. An authoritarian parenting example would be a drill sergeant barking orders to get blind obedience. Neglectful parents put their own needs consistently ahead of the child’s. Permissive parents set few boundaries & allow age-inappropriate behavior.

But that only scratches the surface.

So, below we’re going to review the most common parenting styles we hear about. We’ll define each one; the good, the bad and the ugly. Then we’ll take a look at all the different parenting styles and how they differ

Most importantly we’ll learn to shift our parenting styles if we decide they aren’t in our kid’s best interests! Why parenting styles matter is that how we raise our kids determines the kind of adults they will become.

They learn by watching how we interact with them as well as others.  They mimic our behavior.  Our errors in judgment often become theirs.

Also, know too that it’s more than possible to fall into more than one parenting style category.  Even truer is that both parents likely don’t parent exactly the same.

What is bad parenting?

Make no mistake. Most parents want to be good parents and do what’s best for their kids.

But the sad reality is that a large number of parents, don’t consistently measure up in the parenting department. So what makes a bad parent?

A bad parent can take many forms, but here are some of the most common parenting failures:

  • Consistently putting your own needs ahead of your child’s
  • Not setting clear boundaries, guidelines, and structure
  • Using anger and fear to control your child
  • Thinking that having your child like you is more important than the child’s growth
  • Doing inappropriate things in front of the child (drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, etc)
  • Lacking age-appropriate awareness (letting your 8-year-old watch R-rated movies)

Why do some parents fail in the parenting department?

Parenting isn’t taught in school, and most parents don’t get a degree in teaching. So all that’s left is to mirror our own upbringing.

But that doesn’t always work.

For starters, our culture has changed a lot over the last 50 years. I still remember my principal in 3rd grade having a paddle to administer spankings to misbehaving students. Now, in most schools and states, that would be considered child abuse.

For another, if a parent today didn’t have good parents of their own, they risk passing on bad parenting skills from generation to generation.

Even if the parent is astute enough to recognize that their own parents weren’t good, just because we recognize something as bad, doesn’t mean we instinctively know the right way to do it.

How does poor parenting affect a child?

As they say, garbage in, garbage out.

In other words, our kids will do what they see and hear us do. If we routinely rip into waiters in the restaurants because the chef is out of our favorite dish, guess what?

We’re teaching our kids it’s OK to be mean, condescending and rude to people. Or that it’s OK to treat someone as less than human if we’re paying them.

A recent study by The Center for Parenting Education confirmed that “children often grow up to mimic the behavior, beliefs, and attitudes of their parents”.

Their study went on to specify that:

  • Kids of parents who smoke are far more likely to smoke too
  • Kids raised by a parent who commits domestic violence are far more likely to grow up to be an abuser themselves or a victim of domestic violence
  • When parents abuse drugs or alcohol, their kids are far more to also
  • Adults who were verbally, physically, or sexually abused as a child are more likely to abuse their own kids

In a recent article, I detail 25 of the worst bad parenting statistics. What was really surprising was how many more children from single-parent homes commit violent crimes compared to kids from 2 parent homes.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Does parenting affect child development?

Yes, absolutely!

Every parenting style has a different impact on children’s development.

Of course, ALL parents make mistakes. So don’t beat yourself up because you made one. The trick, however, is to try to not repeat them, and to learn from them.

Think of it this way.

Our kids are watching our every move when they are younger. They see how we behave and treat others. They are learning exponentially. While they will learn at school, and from their friends, we, the parents, are their biggest influence.

So what we say and do matters!

If they see us verbally abusing our spouse, guess what we’re programming them to do as an adult? Even if it makes them mad and they hate us for it, there’s a much higher likelihood of them doing it too when they are older.

Of, if let them have their way every time they throw a tantrum, we’re literally programming them to misbehave to get what they want.

Those kids grow up to be entitled, lazy, spoiled brats who think the universe owes them something. The world isn’t kind to people like that. So as parents, we’re doing them a HUGE disservice by not setting clear boundaries and have consequences for poor behavior.

But one thing you might be curious about is what parenting style is preferred by child psychologists.

In a recent article, I examine just that. I look at several different well-known child psychologists and their beliefs about parenting styles.

While they don’t all agree, there are some great takeaways. What I found really surprising was Freud’s take on parenting styles (yes, he was a child psychologist).

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What are the most common parenting styles?

AUTHORITATIVE High expectations with consistent and fair discipline mixed with flexibility Fosters creativity, independence, and accountability The flexibility with rules could create confusion for the child
AUTHORITARIAN Top-down, dictatorial command and control parenting style An easy way to garner blind compliance Damages self-esteem, replaces love with fear
ATTACHMENT Focuses on providing kids with not just basic necessities but also instinctual physical contact (most often with the mother) including breastfeeding & co-sleeping Sometimes used in conjunction with authoritative parenting, can lead to improved confidence, sensitivity, empathy and development Possible to become overly dependent on the mother and develop insecurities when away from the mother
PERMISSIVE Being more of a friend than a parent, putting aside rules, boundaries and age appropriateness for the sake of being able to say “yes” more often An easy way to be with your child and (initially) have them see you as “cool” Children often lack clear boundaries and don’t learn the consequences of poor choices.  Can lead to irresponsible choices and a high sense of entitlement
NEGLECTFUL Parents focus more on themselves than the child, setting fewer boundaries and have a general lack of responsiveness for the child’s needs, safety & well-being The child can learn to be self-sufficient at a younger age They often grow up fearing being dependent on others, making relationships difficult. Tend to be emotionally withdrawn and more prone to substance abuse
CONSCIOUS Focuses more on social-emotional learning and a set of values instead of rules.  High level of flexibility and asking questions of the child more than making statements Nurturing, empowering, loving and focuses on helping the child become the person they want to be Can sometimes lead to a lack of clear boundaries and children may later have trouble being in a world where they are held accountable to their actions or expected to perform compared to others
HELICOPTER Over-protecting/smothering kids out of a hyper sense of fear for their safety (possibly driven by a parent’s low self-esteem and desire to feel needed) Can prevent some accidents and issues Often kids don’t learn life lessons on their own and end up learning them later in life the hard way

Need some recommendations on parenting styles books?

These are my personal all-time favorite parenting books!

poor-parenting-examples-meeker-sons-book-middle-class-dad  poor-parenting-examples-meeker-daughter-book-middle-class-dad  poor-parenting-examples-life-kido-book-middle-class-dad

The first 2 books, by Dr. Meg Meeker really explore the relationships between the father & daughter and the mother and son respectively.

Just click those links or images to see them on Amazon.

They look at the importance those roles have on the child and the adult they become.  While they are gender-specific I still think they would be excellent reads for gay and lesbian parents.

Life Ki-do Parenting (click to see current price on Amazon) is the parenting book written by my bosses in my 9 to 5; Jonathan and Lana Hewitt.

If you haven’t heard me talk about where I work, I run the business end of a large martial arts school called Life Ki-do Martial Arts.

Their parenting book takes the life skills we utilize in class, removing the martial component and focusing on how those tools can help us be better parents.

Trust me; I would not be the husband and father I am today without the tools I’ve learned there which are beautifully outlined in this award-winning book.

How to identify your parenting style

If you aren’t sure which category you fit into, let’s dig in.

Sometimes we don’t see ourselves the way others do.  Ego, pride and fear may also inhibit our ability to see ourselves the way others do. Thus we may sometimes portray some poor parenting examples without even realizing it.

Sometimes, as they say, de Nile isn’t just a river in Egypt.

♠  Do you hover around your kids to protect them such that they never get even a scrape? You might hear the faint sound of helicopters

♠  If your child comes to you to admit a mistake & you thank them for their honesty and get their input on the appropriate consequence, You sound like an authoritative parent

♠  Is your 6-year old telling their first-grade class how great Deadpool is? You may need to be a little less permissive

♠  Are your kids afraid to tell you when they’ve made a mistake? You might be a little authoritarian

♠  Do your elementary-age kids regularly have to make their own dinner since you’re out at the bar with friends?  You need to be less neglectful

Want to take a moment and look at a very humorous take on the “Conscious Parenting” style? Check out this video from JP Sears.

Who came up with the different types of parenting styles?


Diana Baumrind is an author and clinical psychologist at the Institute of Human Development at UC Berkeley.  She is widely recognized for championing the authoritative parenting style in favor of the more permissive style that was dominant at the time of her research in the 1960s.

Her book, Parenting for Character (click to see on Amazon), is STILL a ground-breaking parenting book well-worth reading.

At that time, she identified the 3 most common parenting styles as being:

  • Authoritative
  • Permissive
  • Authoritarian

Her work was later expanded on by Professor Eleanor Maccoby of Stanford University and John A. Martin, Ph.D.  In their studies, they expanded beyond the 3 parenting styles to also include:

  • Indulgent
  • Neglective

In a recent article, I break down Diana Baumrind’s work and go deep into each of the parenting styles. I even cover the 1 thing guaranteed to mess your kids up in adulthood that she warned against.

Just click the link to read that on my site.

What are the most destructive parenting styles out there?

According to Diana Baumrind, the authoritarian style tops the list of poor parenting examples.

The strict, unbending style of the authoritarian parent often leaves little room for a child’s personality or preferences.  It keeps the child safe but at a high cost to the child.

Children are punished for not following orders.  Punished for mistakes and errors in judgment.  These parents, as Baumrind says “are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation.”

They are also punished for voicing opinions and disagreeing.  In this instance, I’m not talking about backtalk or other rude behavior.  No; the child complies because they fear the parent and the repercussions.

Kids of authoritarian parents often feel ashamed and end up with significantly damaged self-esteem. Thus it’s no wonder that this is the worst of the poor parenting examples and the epitome of the bad parenting definition.

RELATED: Confidence Building Activities for Kids

How authoritarian parenting affects the child

Researchers at Louisiana State University wrote a paper called The Influence of Parenting Styles on Children’s Cognitive Development.

In that, they found that children of authoritarian parents “have lower cognitive ability scores”.

But, in truth, the damage caused by authoritarian parenting goes much deeper.

Prof. Dr. Martin Pinquart, at Philipps University of Marburg, recently analyzed more than 1400 published studies on parenting styles. He was especially interested in the long-term effects of authoritarian parenting on children.

What he found was that authoritarian parenting was the largest predictor of children’s behavior getting worse over time. He found it led to an increase in defiant, disruptive, anti-social and aggressive behavior.

This even though the authoritarian parent believes that using strict control will curb those behaviors.

Yet another recent study by the European Institute of Studies on Prevention found that children of authoritarian parents were far more likely to be at risk of alcohol or substance abuse problems in adolescence into adulthood.

In a recent article, I break down the authoritarian parenting style.

I give some real-world examples. But I also share some proven long-term effects on children. What is really surprising is how this parenting style affects bullying (on both sides).

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the best parenting style?

In truth, there isn’t a consensus on 1 parenting style that everyone agrees is best.

That being said, a great many experts do believe the authoritative style is the best for a variety of reasons. While the authoritative parent, like the authoritarian one, holds children accountable and sets rules and boundaries, they also encourage freedom of expression.

So, the authoritative style may well represent the best balance between structure and creative expression and freedom.

In my experience both as a parent, but also as a leader in my past career, I have found that the “why” behind a request is key.

When you explain to someone why you want them to do something, a few key things happen.

For one, they have a much better chance of understanding the importance of the request.  They also will be more apt to follow the same patterns in the future rather than blindly awaiting your orders.

They also respect you more for taking the time to explain the situation.

But since most experts lean towards authoritative parenting, I go into great detail about it in a recent article.

I get into what it is specifically. But I also give a ton of examples of simple actions you can take to be more authoritative in your parenting. But even more importantly, I cover exactly how it differs from authoritarian parenting.

Just click that link to check it out on my site.

How do we change parenting styles?


Changing parenting styles is like changing anything else.

It has to be a conscious choice we make.  That choice needs to become a behavior pattern which in time will turn to habit.  It takes time to create a negative habit so changing it won’t happen overnight.

Often we hear the term “fake it till you make it”.

Sometimes we hear that in a negative light.  In my opinion, as it pertains to forging new habits, I think it’s perfectly applicable.

You see, a new habit is foreign.  It’s uncomfortable and doesn’t feel quite right.  Thus, consciously embarking on creating a new habit (or eliminating an old one) won’t feel natural at first.

That’s OK!  That’s where going through the motions (ie: faking it) starts to build the blocks that will form the new habit.

Every time you take this new action you’ll get a little better.  It will feel a little more natural and a little less uncomfortable. Eventually, you won’t be faking it at all; you’ll be living it!

It will be important though that your child and/or your spouse be allowed to respectfully let you know when you’re falling back on your old ways.  You undoubtedly will but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure!

Breaking a bad habit isn’t easy!

If it were, no one of the planet would smoke!  Let them know it’s OK to let you know if you’re falling back into old habits.

You, in turn, need to practice humility and be kind to yourself in acknowledging when you fall back.

The only shame is in giving up.

Different parenting styles between parents


Honestly, it would be a miracle if both parents parented exactly the same.

The phrase good cop/bad cop may have originated with police officers, but it applies to parents perfectly too.

Typically one parent leans more towards being the “fun” parent; goofy, silly and less strict.  Often the other parent over-compensates becoming no fun at all as they feel like they have to lay down the law for all concerned. So some poor parenting examples are the product of 2 parents who disagree.

In reality, it’s OK if both parents parent differently.

What’s important are the core values they share.  Things like:

  1. Spanking/discipline
  2. Age appropriateness of media
  3. Limits on technology
  4. Nutrition/health
  5. Manners

If 2 parents aren’t in agreement on these things, then that work needs to start now.

The parents have to decide how they want to raise their kids and the fundamentals need to be shared by both.  It’s OK if the parents don’t initially agree.  But you talk compromise and decide together how to move forward.

Then, and only then, can we loosen the reigns and let the parent’s personalities come into play.

The stricter parent will also likely find themselves to be less frustrated and exacerbated if the “fun” parent has their back on the basics.

How can you be a good parent?

The most important things with kids are boundaries, consequences, love, and honesty.

Kids are smarter than you think.  It’s OK to keep information age-appropriate, but don’t assume they are too young to understand life.

When my Mom was sneaking cigarettes all while telling us she had quit smoking, my brother and I knew she was lying.

How does it make kids feel when they know their parent is lying to them?  Certainly knowing your parent is lying is one of the worst poor parenting examples.

Tell them the truth.  If the truth about yourself is ugly, change yourself.

When we make mistakes as parents (and we will!) just own it!

Acknowledge it, apologize for it, accept it and help your child move on.  Above all don’t shirk blame by implying it was someone else’s fault (especially your kid’s fault).

When you say “I’m sorry I was late picking you up, but if your school got out at a reasonable time it wouldn’t have happened!”

That makes your kid somehow feel like it’s their fault.  Plus at the end of the day, you were late simply because you didn’t allow enough time to get there.

That’s not the end of the world, so just acknowledge it and don’t undermine the power of taking true ownership by shifting blame.

So what are the . . .

3 Poor Parenting Examples You Should Avoid at All Costs?

1. Authoritarian


The authoritarian parent parents out of a need for control.

They (falsely) believe that they can control their children and the world around them.  They tell themselves that they are using tough love to grow the child up to be responsible.

In reality, this parent can be more of a drill sergeant than a loving parent.  This can actually push the child towards more dangerous or inappropriate activities.

This parent has a specific idea of who they want the child to become.

The child’s own ideas about who they are as a person as not valued by the parent. The phrase “because I said so” is a common trait and it’s also likely that this parent is a “do as I say not as I do parent”.

The latter leading to the child to recognize the parent for the hypocrite they are.

The authoritarian parent tends to replace love with fear.

The child learns to be obedient because they fear reprisal; not because they love and respect the parent.  The child also eventually learns to hide misbehaviors.

They also have a greater tendency to engage in reckless behavior as they get older as they learn to behave defiantly.

Children of authoritarian parents often grow up fearing or challenging all forms of authority.

It goes without saying that their relationship with their parents is often strained or non-existent.  These children have a greater likelihood of having low self-esteem and higher instances of substance abuse.

2. Permissive


The permissive parent likes to believe their child will grow up to see them as their best friend.

Often this desire is driven out of the parent’s own need to feel loved and wanted due to impaired self-esteem. In reality, by trying to be more friends than a parent, a lack of boundaries, rules and consequences tend to fall in place.

This lack of parental structure often leads the child to behave inappropriately at school.

Permissive parenting can also cause the child to lack a clear sense of right and wrong.

This parenting style often leads to kids watching inappropriate movies or playing age-inappropriate video games.  This parent might allow and/or use excessive profanity or use drugs with/in front of them.

As the child ages into adulthood, they tend to not understand the rules society lives by.

The result of this is they may have a harder time finding a consistent job.  They may also have a high sense of entitlement since they grew up getting to have and do whatever they wanted with little to no consequences for their actions and choices.

3. Neglectful


The neglectful parent is selfish.

They put their own needs before the needs of their children.  I’m not talking occasionally, as we’re all guilty of that every once in a while.  I’m talking consistently putting the child’s needs second to their own.

The parent may tell themselves they are trying to help the child learn to fend for themselves.

But in reality, this behavior is driven by pure selfishness. Often the neglectful parent has issues with substance abuse, the byproduct of which both lead to this behavior and can put the child in harm’s way.

Children of neglectful parents grow up quick.

These kids miss the childhood and innocence most of us took for granted.  They grow up learning to not rely on anyone but themselves.

They learn to distrust and fear relationships and authority. It stunts their emotional growth and makes emotional intimacy very difficult.

This fear of deep, intimate relationships may lead to a series of non-committal relationships.  Children of neglectful parents also have a much higher rate of substance abuse due to a desire to medicate the pain away. Thus this style also showcases some of the worst poor parenting examples.


Did I cover everything you were looking for on poor parenting examples? 

In this article, we took a look at parenting styles.

We explored the who, what, when, where, and why behind the different styles. Then we looked at how some of them differ from each other and the impacts they can have on our kids. But we also looked at some solutions if we feel like we’re on the wrong path.

Ultimately, we looked at some poor parenting examples you should avoid at all costs.

Photo credits (that aren’t mine or which require attribution):

Cartoon angry army drill sergeant shouting by KoiQuestion is licensed under CC2.0
size_380_Homer_Simpson by Cozinhando Fantasias is licensed under CC2.0
Chevron & Darth Vader: “We Agree”Jonathan McIntosh is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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