You Could Be a Negligent Parent and Not Know It

5 minute read

By Christopher Brown

Welcome to 1000+ words detailing the terrible job you’re doing raising children. I kid. You’re actively looking for ways to improve — a sign of a great parent. Fortunately, you can learn about becoming an even better parent with a search online.

Let’s break down common missteps that some parents don’t even notice. Things like negative speech patterns, off-the-cuff criticism, or being flippant with your child’s emotions can lead to problems down the line.

Building a World Without Negativity

As a parent, your natural instinct is to keep your child safe from harm. You lock the front door so that they can’t run out into the street. You purchase healthy fruits and vegetables so that they can develop a healthy relationship with food. Your instinct to protect your child comes from a good place, but there is a line that you might not want to cross.

For instance, your child might hate the sound of the doorbell. Instinctively, you might buy a new one. One with a sound that your child approves of. Problem solved, right? Not so much. You see, by catering to your child’s every whim, and by earnestly eliminating everything that elicits a negative reaction from your child, your building a false sense of reality. Childhood is about fostering resilience through exploration. And, sometimes your kid might not like what she finds. Just roll with it.

Telling Them to Just Get Over It

Remember that time when you got dumped and everyone you knew told you to “just get over it”? How did that make you feel? Now, imagine how your child feels.

Telling your little boy or girl to “just get over it” can be very harmful. For one, it doesn’t make them feel better or actually get over it. If anything, it makes them feel worthless. It makes them feel like you don’t value their emotional state. And, it might prevent them from ever being open again. Just listen thoughtfully and maybe even give them a hug. Then, they may actually get over it.

Being Unorganized

Your child is going to grow up mirroring you and your life, warts and all. Nobody expects you to be perfect. Heck, a perfect man or woman has never been born. That said, being unorganized or consistently emotionally frantic can do irreparable damage to your child.

Always be aware of how you are being perceived by your child. If you’re upset, they’ll probably be upset too. If you encounter a stressful scenario in front of them, keep your composure and handle it with a calculated poise. Even if you’re freaking out on the inside. Not only will your calmness help you assess and deal with the problem at hand, but it’ll help develop healthy coping mechanisms in your child as well.

You Refuse to Let Them Be Independent

Kids get older. There’s no two ways about it. And, you can either embrace the ever-changing miracle that is childhood or you could fight it by “doing everything” all of the time. And sure, doing laundry, packing lunches, washing their car, and paying all of their bills may seem helpful, but trust me, it really isn’t.

Life is challenging. Allowing your child to confront and overcome those challenges helps prepare them for their life ahead. Minimizing their workload and, for lack of a better word, babying them, is counter-productive. Not only does it encourage dependence, but you run the risk of smothering and in turn, pushing your child away. Let them do the dishes. Let them make their own lunch. Let them live.

You Want to be BFFs

It’s always nice to get along with your kid, but it’s important to realize that, as a parent, you have some very real, very serious authoritative responsibilities. Dressing like your child, getting overly involved in your child’s life and developing a co-dependant relationship can be as unhealthy for the parent as it is for the child.

Granted, that’s not to say that a cold, military-style relationship is healthy either. Being a parent is not unlike managing a team of co-workers. You want them to like you. You want them to be open with you. But they also need to respect your authority, too. It can be a tough role to balance, but I believe in you!

You Criticize Yourself All of the Time

Negativity breeds more negativity. It’s contagious. And, even if it’s directed inward, it can dramatically affect your child’s development. Your child’s self-perception can often mirror your own. So, openly berating your weight, poor choices, or mistakes can and will rub off on your child.

Maybe you’re uncomfortable with your weight, or you’re not a great cook. That’s fine and pretty common. Just keep those feelings to yourself, and fill your child with positivity. Their 20-something-self will thank you for it later.

You Openly Compare Your Child to Other Children

This is never a good look. Children aren’t emotionally developed enough to handle constant comparisons to other children — especially from their Mom or Dad. As a parent, it’s your job to embrace your child’s quirks. Teach them about the importance of individuality, and varying levels of emotional and physical development. Progress of any nature can be slow, and it rarely runs on schedule. Your little boy may not be as athletically gifted as the neighbor’s kid. Your little girl might not be fluent in three languages like your in-laws’ kid. Being average isn’t something that should be punished.

You’re Constantly Negative

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Negativity breeds more negativity. Now, I’m not saying that, in order to be a good parent, you must always be happy 100% of the time. That’s unrealistic and a bit creepy. We’re human, and we have bad days. But, it’s important to be conscious of the affect that our negativity has on our kids. If you catch yourself saying something negative, correct it and move on.

Break the negativity cycle by actively thinking positive. Not only will it make for a happy child, but it just might make for a happy you, too.

You Criticize Their Friends

You may not agree with all of their decisions. You may not like every little boy or girl that they bring home for dinner. But letting your child make their own decisions, and mistakes is essential for healthy development.

Your child’s friends are a direct reflection of your child. In many respects, your child defines themselves by their social circle. Putting them down, being unkind to them, and generally disapproving of their relationship is unproductive and hurtful. Supporting your children’s right to make mistakes is just as important as celebrating their victories. Sure, you might have to sit through a few awkward family dinners, but that’s your job.

You’re Way Too Open

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. As a parent, it’s your job to protect your child from adult-problems, while also helping them navigate their own, smaller problems. Don’t cross them up by welcoming them in to the world of adult crises too early. They aren’t emotionally developed enough to process things like marital trouble, financial uncertainty, and global politics. If they ask about these issues, be honest. But, for the most part, keep your kids out of it!

You’re Close Minded

It’s safe to say that, having already consumed most of this article, you’re an open minded individual. Looking for tips, reading about parenting and seeking alternative strategies are telltale signs of an open minded parent. But, adding kids to the equation can cloud your judgement.

Always be willing to talk about your child with teachers, other parents, and other kids. Don’t take criticisms personally and maintain an open mind! Parenting is about more than watching your child grow. It’s about growing as a parent, too. So, forgive yourself for your mistakes, celebrate your victories, and never stop trying to improve.

Christopher Brown