What Makes a Person “a Bad Parent”? (Being Your Child’s Friend Instead of Their Parent, Setting No Expectations, Not Being Consistent)

We all recognize the phrase; so now I’m going to talk about it.

One of my favorite TV shows to zone out to is Wife Swap.  Yes, it’s extremely over-the-top, it’s purposely corny, and the families they find to be on the show are never the least bit normal.  But I guess what intrigues me most about the reality show is that typically by the end of the episode, there are mutual accusations from the parents to each other to the effect of: “You’re a horrible parent!”  Of course, the word “horrible” can be replaced by “lazy”, “tyrannical”, “unfit”, or any word that I can not quite make out because the censors have bleeped it out.

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about what makes a bad parent, whether it’s on the news, on a blog, or as a facebook comment.  It seems that in the likeness of someone “pulling the race card”, a trendy low-blow is for people to call each other a bad parent, sometimes finding a minor exception in another person’s otherwise “good parenting” record.  But sometimes it really is true- the person actually is a bad parent. So for the next venture for my accidental series What Makes a Person? , I asked for feedback from my facebook friends to try to help pinpoint what truly makes a person a bad parent. The actual feedback can be found underneath the picture of the Super Nanny at the very bottom of this post, but ultimately if I were to summarize it all, it amounts to this: “A bad parent is someone  who is not positively present in their child’s life, nor do they set expectations or follow through with discipline.”

Interestingly, most people didn’t bother mentioning child abuse, since that has nothing to do with parenting, but instead refers to a person who has psychological issues that need to be dealt with.  Obviously, abusing is not parenting. For most people I asked, it appears that when they think of “bad parenting”, what comes to mind is naturally “the lack of parenting”.  And a major part of defining the word “parenting” is discipline. So in order to explore the topic of bad parenting, it’s important for me to explore the evidently common occurrence of the lack of discipline in modern day parenting.

Recently I made a $10 bet with someone about how I will discipline my son when he is old enough to need it.  The bet is that I don’t have in it me to spank him, especially when he looks up at me with sad eyes and a quivering lip, knowing he deliberately disobeyed me.  But I do have it in me.  Call me old fashioned.  I take it as a compliment.

I have a large amount of experience in dealing with kids: I worked two summers as a camp counselor, two summers teaching English overseas in Thailand, and two years working in an after school program.  As much as I enjoyed it and found that I had a natural ability to mentor and teach children, when it came to disciplining students, this is what often went through my head, “Man, if that was my kid being disrespectful and acting out like that, they would be getting spanked by now.”

It’s becoming politically incorrect to spank your children; because of the extreme of actually abusing a child.  Super Nanny tries to lead by example in teaching us the new, trendy “time out” method.   So maybe I wasn’t raised politically correct because I was definitely spanked when I disobeyed as a kid; though not many times, because I got the point pretty quickly.  I’m old fashioned, so I take this verse in the Bible very seriously: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24).

I would imagine there are people out there who would say I am a bad parent for endorsing spanking instead of the much cooler “time out” method.  So to some people, I am a bad parent.  To others, I am being a good and responsible parent by carrying out discipline in the home.  And this divide of opinion shows how truly complicated the term “bad parent” is.

Children crave structure; no doubt about it.  They want to know what is expected of them.  They need to see discipline (whether it’s spanking, time-out, being grounded, etc.) actually carried out, not just simply used as a threat.  I am a good communicator.  Therefore, I will clearly communicate behavioral expectations I have for my kids; just as I will also clearly communicate my love for them and encourage their creativity, hobbies, and playtime.  I definitely understand the difference between being a kid’s parent, not their friend.

The way my parents raised me was very effective.  They were, and still are, ideal parents.  I want to duplicate the way they raised me.  And though they may have thought they didn’t know what they were doing at the time, they did indeed know what they were doing; they just didn’t know that they knew.

When I am at restaurants and grocery stores, I am always extremely observant of families with children.  These days it’s quite normal for kids to make a scene by having a temper tantrum when they don’t get exactly what they want, yet I still find well-mannered families in public that appear to be having fun.  So there are still kids who can behave in public. That’s what I want.  I look forward to doing what it takes to lead a happy, old-fashioned family.

Ultimately, this isn’t about whether or not parents should spank their children or even about discipline; because personally I truly don’t care about the issue unless it involves my own kids.  (So I sure hope that doesn’t become the distracting focus here, with people having a blog comment war on the topic of spanking.) The question I am seeking to answer is simply “What makes a person ‘a bad parent’?  Here’s what I came up with, based on observation, common sense, and help from my facebook friends:

Rules in Being a Bad Parent

1. Do not set expectations for your child.

2. Do not follow through with discipline nor be consistent with your words and actions.

3. Do not praise your child, pay attention to them, or spend time with them.

4. Let them decide for themselves the difference between right and wrong; Don’t force your own religious beliefs on them or live your life consistent to your religion.

5. Don’t worry about embarrassing your kid, speaking condescendingly to them, or calling them names, especially in public.  Because they will get over it.

6. Make sure they always like you, because most importantly, your job is to be your child’s best friend.

I think that I’ve always been a dad, I just didn’t have a kid until now.  I crave to raise well-mannered kids that are cool.  And though I have technically zero experience in that field so far, I can’t wait to prove it can be done.  So, Super Nanny, I will not be needing your help.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on John Mayer, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Nick Shell It’s time to help me with another future website post. Answer me this: What makes a person “a bad parent”?

Wednesday at 6:52pm ·  ·  


      Jessica Y:  being irresponsible in front of your child. such as drinking, doing drugs, cussing out other people. basically setting a bad example fro your child. we all want our children to grow up better than we did so as a parent we should show them how to be better. 

      Wednesday at 7:02pm ·  ·  1 person

      Lee Ann L: I am more strict, so I think letting your child run wild is one. In the store or wherever. Keep an eye AND a hand on your child when they are little. Maybe that is just annoying to me, but letting a wee one walk yards ahead of you were they could easily get into traffic is life threatening. Personally, I do not think Marc or his ex OR her husband were good parents. I don’t really want to get into it here, but being too lax is part of it. UGH! I can feel my stomach acids flowing. 

      Wednesday at 7:08pm ·  ·  1 person

      Cyn Z:  Putting yourself before your kid(s). 

      Wednesday at 7:12pm ·  ·  2 people

      Hjordis C:  Child abuse and neglect! 

      Wednesday at 7:13pm · 

      Diana T: Just not accepting them for who they are. They’ll do things in their own time and on their own terms and love means accepting that no matter. 

      Wednesday at 7:15pm · 

      Crystal A:  I agree with Cyn and Hjordis. The two biggest things to me is putting yourself before your kids. Neglecting them and abusing them. They are a gift from God. We will raise our children to be the future. So we must take great care of them. 

      Wednesday at 7:16pm ·  ·  1 person

      Ferne E: I think a “good parent” is a person that takes an active role in their child’s life. They celebrate their successes, but bolster their confidence when they fail. A good parent encourages their child to explore their strengths, but to work even harder to overcome their weaknesses. They teach their child to love others and love themselves. A good parent puts their child’s safety first above being their friend. I’d say a “bad” parent would do the exact opposite. 

      Wednesday at 7:17pm ·  ·  3 people

      Crystal A: I love Bens answer. We must take an active role!!! 

      Wednesday at 7:18pm · 

      Bethany S:  I agree with Jessica that being irresponsible is something that makes you a bad parent. I think that there are many other things also that can make you a bad parent. Abusing or neglecting your child can make you a bad parent. Allowing someone else to abuse a child can make you a bad parent. Not raising a child to know God should be considered in the “bad parent” role according to the Bible. We should be an example of God that shows them how to be more like Him. 

      Wednesday at 7:19pm · 

      Alissa K:  being selfish with time, money, anything. 

      Wednesday at 7:21pm · 

      Krystin P: I agree with everything above. Another “bad parenting” habit is not being consistent. When your child doesn’t know where their boundaries are, they will be one of those out-of-control, trantrum-throwing, self-centered brats. And there is no one else to blame but the parent that did not train up the child right. 

      Wednesday at 7:22pm ·  ·  1 person

      Laura K: i teach mine to NEVER judge others and they wont be judged. to love unconditionally and to put others first. i do admit that they get their way sometimes but they know when i mean business… its my way! 

      Wednesday at 7:44pm · 

      Steven H:  Some one who isnt willing to sacrifice everything for the better of their children. i.e. — “since we had little jane i NEVER get to go out clubbing with my girls and i hate it. oh i only got 10 dollars and i need cigarettes and baby formula…. maybe her bottle will last her till tomorrow i need my smokes.” honest things i heard people say when i bagged at foodland. 

      Wednesday at 7:49pm ·  ·  1 person

      Sara H: Selfishness. You have to have a life and a relationship with your spouse outside of parenthood BUT you must always make sure your children are aware of how utterly important their happiness and sucess is to you. *dislaimer* I’m not a parent yet but I had great parents! 

      Wednesday at 8:00pm · 

      Laura T:  A bad parent is someone who is not there for the child either physically/mentally and emotionally……a parent who does not discipline their child or hold them accountable for their actions….a parent who does not have time for their child or puts their needs ahead of the child’s….you have to be a parent first and friend second…you ever watch “The Nanny”? OMG I can’t believe that parents let their kids get so out of control and they are ruling the roost. 

      Wednesday at 8:16pm · 

      Michelle C:

      Now, I can only speculate as I don’t have any children of my own yet, but my husband and I have decided that we are both too selfish with our own spare time that we are not ready for children. 

      This is actually kind of tricky because you do…See More

      Wednesday at 8:58pm · 

      Felisha H: A bad parent to me, which I don’t have children yet, but as I see it a bad parent is someone who is too much of a friend to their child instead of a leader. A good parent guides their children through life and brings them up to be good adults. 

      Wednesday at 9:16pm · 

      Jeremy D: A bad parent is one that dosen’t live a Godly life before their children and instruct them in the Word. Lord, help us all not to cause a child to stumble or be led astray. 

      Wednesday at 10:28pm ·  ·  1 person

      Sarah I:  Since I am at the same place in parenthood as you, Nick, I can’t really say much from a parents point of view yet, but as a teacher I would say that a parent who fights all their kids’ battles for them rather than equipping them with the skills to deal with things on their own is not good. A parent who spends all of his or her time trying to shelter children from consequences is not incredibly healthy. 

      Thursday at 3:45am ·  ·  1 person