18 Things That People Think Are Clear Signs Of Bad Parenting

It's often said that parenting is the hardest job in the world, and as any parent will tell you, it can be extremely stressful and challenging at times. To add to the pressure, you want to do everything right for your child, but, of course, there is no manual on how to do things right.

A family playing at home, with a parent lifting a laughing toddler in the air while another child and parent watch
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However, sometimes parents unintentionally or carelessly do things that are actually terrible for their kids (both in the short and long term). Recently, I came across this Reddit thread where user AdditionalPlan69 wanted to know about just that when they asked: "What screams 'I’m a bad parent'?"

Child in car seat looks distressed by adult smoking in front, message on secondhand smoke dangers
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The thread got hundreds of responses from people giving their opinions on what they think is bad parenting or behavior that could negatively affect kids. Below are some of the top and best comments:

1."Never saying sorry to the kid when the parents make a mistake."


"I honestly never got this. I apologize to my kid all the time. Why should they when I won't?"


2."Your own children being afraid of you. No child should be afraid of the person that looks after them nearly 24/7."


"Also, when a parent purposely makes their kid afraid of them and is then proud of it. It’s one thing for your kid to be afraid of you for being loud, yelling a lot, parents arguing a lot, but a whole other thing when it’s deliberate as some sort of disciplinary tactic."—faithle97

3."Ironically, never thinking you're a bad parent."


"What is WRONG with our son?! It can’t be us, we’re awesome!"


Two adults and a child sit on a couch with a toy truck on the table in a home setting
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4."Mothers who see their own daughters as competition."


"Same with mothers who see their son’s wife as competition."


5."Having extremely unreasonable, unrealistic expectations for your child, i.e., maintaining a 5.0 GPA from pre-K to college, somehow getting married at 25 and having 6 kids by 30, getting a six-figure job right after college, taking care of the entire family on their own dime, etc."


6."Trying to be your child’s friend and not setting structure or expectations or disciplining them."


"'We don’t say no in this household.' The idea and sentiment behind that phrase I can understand, but the way the majority of parents put this in practice is just always saying, 'Yes.'I’ve been in numerous 504 meetings where the behavioral issue can be mitigated by boundaries."


Two teenagers using electronic devices on a sofa in a messy living room as an adult stands in the foreground
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7."Using children as pawns in divorces or separations."


"Alternatively, using the kid as a pawn to keep the marriage together."


8."Treating your kid as your therapist."


"My mom isn’t a bad mom but she used to confide in me a lot about my dad. I finally had to tell her, it hurts me too because I was hearing about my parents fighting — I was an adult then too. They had just hit a rough patch and it was really hard on my mom. I think it can be hard once your children become adults to remember boundaries like that."


9."Zero interest in the kid. Doesn’t care what they do or what happens to them as long as they don’t inconvenience them."


Woman looking at phone with bored expression, child in background on swing. They are outdoors, likely at a park
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10."As someone who works with elementary-aged kids, being too controlling about everything. Not just when with your kid but trying to control what your kid is around when you aren’t there. There are several parents who have tried to get books taken out of our school library, freaked out that teachers put on movies during indoor recess, or even that we give out cookies for after-school snacks. (We are a Catholic private school owned by the archdiocese and there are so many restrictions.)"


11."Giving your kid everything they want."


"I had permissive parents and am beyond f'd up now."


12."Constantly yelling and losing it on your kids. How are they going to learn about stability and communication with parents like that?"


Adult scolding a child, both appear frustrated. The setting is indoors, possibly a dining area
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13."When the older kids have no life or time of their own as they're too busy raising their siblings."


"That was my brother to me and then me to my sister. He had to raise me and made a lot of mistakes. I learned from them. Then, I had to raise my little sister and I made less mistakes. My brother realized he didn't do a good job and that I was struggling a lot with mental health. He ended up unhoused and addicted to a bunch of stuff.

Now he's super toxic and a husk of who he once was. We all struggled with compliments. Giving them or receiving them. And I was too young to understand that he thought he f'd me up and that he was to blame. If I could go back I wish I'd be able to let him know he was my hero."


14."Not showing up for your kids. As someone who's worked up to three jobs at one time, I've never missed a concert, sporting event, or birthday. There are of course circumstances that can't be bypassed but if you miss more than you attend it's a you problem."


15."Blaming the teacher for bad grades."


Adult explaining to child, child blowing bubbles at table, indoors, educational environment
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16."Being on your phone while the kids are running rampant. I get people need breaks, but at a restaurant I don't really want kids coming over to my table and messing with food and screaming everywhere."


"I’ll also add, watching TV or on your phone all day and then complaining that kids nowadays don’t go outside anymore. You’re the adult, set the example. If your children see you thriving outdoors doing sports/activities somehow they’ll want to follow your lead."


17."Playing favorites when all kids should be equally loved (not my experience but my boyfriend's)."


"I believe you can't blame a parent for loving a child more than the others, we don't control that. But you sure as hell can blame them for treating the children differently based on that."


18.And lastly, "Sheltering children from uncomfortable feelings. You have to let your kids learn to process and handle those feelings. Don't assume something is too hard for them to understand, I promise they already know something is happening/wrong, so help them understand it."

"This also goes for punishments too. Nobody likes to make their kid mad or cry. It's not fun. Grounding kids for a messy room, not getting chores done, or lying but they need those life skills. You've only got a set amount of time to teach them to be good, thoughtful, respectful humans."


Two people sitting closely, embracing, looking out a window, conveying a sense of support and companionship
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You can read the original thread on Reddit.

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.