What Does Bad Parenting Look Like?

Bad parenting styles and behaviors harm kids. Get examples of what bad parenting looks like and learn the effects of bad parenting, on HealthyPlace.

Bad parenting looks like a mom or a dad of any ethnic and socioeconomic background treating their children very poorly, sometimes even abusively. A definition of bad parenting is straightforward: Bad parenting involves a consistent pattern of harmful actions inflicted on someone’s own children.

Of all the adults in a child’s life, parents are the most important. From birth through the end of high school and beyond, parents influence their kids’ development. Parenting has either a positive or negative impact on:

  • Goals and goal setting
  • Drive and capability
  • Values
  • Outlook
  • Perspective
  • Demeanor
  • Character
  • Attitude
  • Treatment of others
  • Actions
  • Self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Mental health

To fully conceptualize the damage done by poor parenting, it’s important to know just what bad parenting does to kids of all ages.

Effects of Bad Parenting: What Happens to Kids?

Kids can suffer in numerous ways because of bad parenting. One thing to keep in mind is that bad parenting is not the same as bad parenting moments. Bad parenting inflicts harm and lasting damage. In contrast, bad parenting moments are isolated events. No one is perfect, and good parents make harmless mistakes.

Among the effects of bad parenting are defiant behaviors, mental health problems, social and relationship difficulties, and negative thoughts and emotions. A sampling of bad parenting effects:

  • Poor growth and development
  • Poor health
  • Aggression
  • Violent behavior
  • Misbehavior
  • Delinquency
  • Criminal behavior
  • High-risk behaviors (such as having sex, substance use or abuse, recklessness, etc.)
  • Lack of impulse control
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Poor school performance
  • Lack of social skills
  • Withdrawal
  • Isolation
  • Risk of becoming a bully
  • Risk of being bullied
  • Low resilience
  • Inability to deal with problems
  • Poor overall mental health and functioning
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Hypervigilance
  • Chronic high stress
  • Low self-esteem, self-confidence
  • Self-harm
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Lack of empathy
  • Relationship problems
  • Poor coping skills

Bad parenting can do a great deal of damage that can be lifelong. What kind of parent does this to children?

How Bad Parenting Harms Kids

Bad parenting lacks essential elements that kids require for healthy development:

  • A positive parenting style
  • Affection
  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Patience
  • Consistent discipline

Not only do children miss these positive elements, but they also face serious deficits caused by bad parenting. Certain parenting styles and traits are harmful to kids. Authoritarian, permissive, neglectful, and overprotective parents risk injuring their children in lasting ways.

Authoritarian parents are controlling and strict to a fault. These moms and dads don’t allow their kids to make decisions or have choices. They don’t trust their kids to say or do things right, and they communicate their distrust to the kids. Rigid and inflexible, they bark orders and scold harshly for any mistake, no matter how small. Verbal and physical abuse can be part of authoritarian parenting. This parenting style is oppressive and punitive.  

Permissive parents are the opposite of authoritarian parents. They neither discipline their kids nor provide a sense of stability and safety. There is very little structure in such a household; rules, if there are any, are vague and lax. This type of parenting creates kids who can’t function well outside the home.

Neglectful parenting is hands-off parenting. Parents avoid their kids and fail to meet their basic needs. These parents provide poor supervision. Further, they’re unresponsive and fail to give love and affection. Even young children must fend for themselves. In addition to ignoring basic needs, parents also fail to teach important skills like social skills and coping skills. Neglectful parenting assumes kids can function in the same capacity as adults.

Overprotective parenting treats kids as if they are fragile, vulnerable, and incapable. Such parents pamper their kids excessively, catering to their every whim to avoid conflict. An overprotective parenting style leads parents to shelter kids from every danger, real or imagined. They are quick to fix problems so their kids don’t struggle. Overprotective parents become overinvolved parents. They make decisions and choices for kids, robbing them of critical thinking skills and independence.

Some bad parenting doesn’t fit into one of the above categories; they might fall into multiple categories or none of them. Parents in this category neither value nor respect their children. They’re dismissive of their children’s feelings and indifferent to their achievements. When kids are experiencing problems, parents show no support, yet they are quick to criticize in all situations and even in front of others. Public shaming is a common practice in bad parenting. Rather than listening and encouraging, parents give orders. The home environment is rife with conflict, partly because discipline is inconsistent.

Bad parenting comes in many forms. The common theme of all bad parenting is the long-lasting harm that comes to kids because of it. Knowing what parenting behaviors are harmful can help you avoid using them with your own kids.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2022, January 11). What Does Bad Parenting Look Like? , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Last Updated: January 16, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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