Every parent exhibits some “bad parenting” at times. Whether you are stressed out, down to your last straw, or your kids are being really difficult, you may not make the best decisions, at all times. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad dad.
Parenting is an extremely stressful job that results in an adult you hope is well-adjusted. This article isn’t talking about the occasional burst of “bad parenting”, it’s discussing some persistent behaviors you may be exhibiting that are detrimental to your child. You love your child. By fighting these negative behaviors, you can show your love more often.
So, here are the five surprising ways you’ve become a bad dad, despite your best intentions.
#1 Your Home Is Full Of Fun And There Are No Rules
Surprisingly, being too carefree is a sign of bad parenting. Children are unable to properly police themselves. They need, and despite their complaining, want rules. Without boundaries, children may be forced to become their own boss and may feel like you don’t care enough about them to check in on their actions. If your child stays up late, wakes up whenever they please, and eats anything they can get their hands on, your home is lacking discipline. You may feel like children should have a fun home, and this is true, but, like all things, moderation is key. Your home should be full of fun and rules. A great metaphor to reach the proper amount of discipline is to be firm, like partially set jello. Aim for assertive parenting, not passive or aggressive.
Your child is a creative little human who needs boundaries and structure. When you do not set boundaries, your child may grow up and exhibit the following: extreme dislike for authority, zealous dependence on rules, a laid-back personality that hampers productivity, or, possibly, fear of expectations. Note these are only some of the possible outcomes. Always remember that you are not your child’s friend, you are their guide.
What you can do: Set rules and boundaries, and make sure your child stays within these lines. Establish a bedtime, eating time, game or TV time, and lay out the consequences and rewards for various behaviors. These rules you set will help your child learn right from wrong.
#2 Hitting Or Screaming At Your Children
This one, actually, isn’t surprising, but it must be added to this list, anyway. First, hitting is not necessary and always bad. Always. Second, even if you never raise a hand to your child, when you scream at your child, call them names, or guilt them, you are emotionally hitting them and the scars bury deep down in your child’s soul. Hitting or screaming at your child breaks their trust in you. They will fear and detest you. Your behavior will create a great divide in your relationship and will cause psychological issues in adulthood. As your child grows older, he/she may become aggressive or suffer from extremely low self-esteem, among other poor outcomes. An aggressive, fear-ridden relationship is not the one you want to build.
What you can do: Calm yourself, before reacting. Take deep breaths or leave the room. When you are calmer, talk to your child. Avoid blaming language. Ask open-ended questions and listen to your child’s perspective. This mature conversation with your child will produce a more positive outcome and model mature behavior for your child.
#3 Divided Attention
When you’re talking to someone, how do you feel when they’re looking at their phone and laughing at jokes you haven’t told? Irritated, angry, murderous. Okay, maybe not murderous, but dividing your attention between your phone, job, computer, newspaper, or television, and your child, tells your child that he/she is not important. Period. When your child wants your attention, or you are playing with your child, let nothing else occupy your mind. Like a light in a dark room, your child should be the only source of your attention. An excellent way to support your child’s future success is to be involved positively. Be the dad he/she runs and hugs, not the one he/she screams at because he isn’t listening.
What you can do: Put all distractions and thoughts away. If you are extremely busy, schedule your child in and during that time period, focus only on your child. Listen to his/her experiences, rambling stories, and play, with no distractions. Share your experiences and inject humor and fun. Undivided attention is like heaven to your child. In truth, it’s like heaven to everyone. We all want to be heard.
#4 Modeling Unhealthy Behaviors
Your child is watching everything you do. The way you speak, treat others in public and at home, handle frustration. Your child watches you lovingly hug your mom, make jokes with your brother, yell in slow traffic, bang your fist against the wall in anger, and disrespect his/her mom. When your child is around, he/she sees what you do and will imitate. What do you want your child to mimic? Before you respond to anything, always ask this question.
What you can do: Stop before reacting. Like an interview, you want to pitch your best self when around your child. Clean tie, pressed pants, unwrinkled resume. The first, and constant, impression you make on your child is much more important than an interview. The behavior you model is how your child will build themselves because they believe you know all. When your child is around, always have on your smile, suit, tie, and resume in hand.
#5 Being A Mosquito Dad
Have you ever watched a mosquito fly? It’s unpleasant. A mosquito hovers in a slow, sneaky, menacing way, looking for the perfect chance to suck your blood. Don’t be a mosquito dad. When you hover over your child’s every action, you are sucking all of your child’s self-belief from them. Not good parenting. If the insect metaphor doesn’t quite work for you, think of it this way, how do you feel when you’re micromanaged? Most likely, small, incompetent, and anxious about making mistakes. Your work may slow down because you fear the ever-present eye of your mosquito boss. These same feelings are placed in your child when you hover too closely. Overprotectiveness will affect them long into adulthood, making them dependent or full of doubt.
What you can do: Back up. As your child gets older, you must give them space to grow. Let them pick out their own clothes, select their own friends, negotiate their bedtime. Allow your child to try new things, fail, and then try again. Don’t rush in to fix everything. This will give them the confidence to go after what they want and fight until they succeed. Loving your child involves letting them become who they were meant to be.