Parenting styles can have a lasting impact on kids, even into adulthood. Here’s how to recognize the signs.
Without a doubt, parenting is one of the hardest jobs out there. It can be rewarding, frustrating, exciting, and challenging all at the same time.
As a parent, you might question yourself daily about whether you’re making the right decisions if your kids will be OK, and what you could have done differently.
Parenting can be uncharted territory. You may try to emulate your upbringing and apply it to how you raise your children.
Teaching your kids the values and beliefs you learned might be important to you, but it can be hard to find a parenting style that also embraces the ways the world has changed since your childhood.
Everyone parents differently, and most parents tend to experiment with different parenting styles. Some parents may be lax and lenient whereas others might be strict or overprotective. One family might value freedom of expression, while another focuses on creating a structure with rules.
But it’s important to understand how negative parenting styles can cause harm to the emotional, social, and physical well-being of your child.
Negative parenting is a culmination of neglectful or harmful actions and behaviors that can impact a child’s development and mental well-being, sometimes into adulthood.
While some actions might be purposeful, parents often do not realize their actions — or lack thereof — can have a lasting effect on their child.
Negative parenting can include:
- harmful words and emotions directed at a child
- repeated criticism without guidance or recognition of accomplishments
- a lack of respect and trust
- incessant reprimands
- lack of praise
- using comparisons to shame or degrade a child
Overall, there are four main types of parenting styles. Three can be considered neglectful and potentially detrimental to child development.
Authoritarian parenting is often characterized by:
- strict enforcement of rules
- emotional unavailability
- one-way communication
- demanding unrealistic expectations
- low sensitivity to the child’s feelings
This parenting style is often equated with “tough love” and phrases like, “I told you so.” Many
Permissive parenting is also considered a negative parenting style by experts and often involves parents who:
- are openly communicative but low in responsiveness
- lack of consistency and follow-through with rules and expectations
- teach minimal direction and guidance
- avoid conflict at all costs
- give in to their child’s demands
A neglectful parenting style is often characterized by parents who:
- are neglectful, emotionally unavailable, or unresponsive
- do not provide guidance or nurturance
- let kids “fend for themselves,” often causing them to grow up too soon or miss out on childhood
- are unaware of important details in their kids’ lives, such as who their teachers and friends are
Experts agree that neglectful parenting is a negative parenting style. Children raised with this parenting style might have difficulty with certain issues well into adulthood, like:
- low self-esteem
- forming and maintaining relationships
- understanding safety
It’s common for parents to second-guess your parenting decisions.
If you’re questioning whether you might be engaging in a negative parenting style, here are some signs to watch out for.
Over or under involvement
Your level of involvement in your child’s life can be a sign of poor parenting, whether inserted into every aspect of your child’s life or entirely out of the picture.
Kids need their parents to be present to feel supported. Too much or too little involvement can be detrimental to their well-being.
Withholding affection or attention
Children need attention and affection from their parents. If you are emotionally unavailable or refuse to acknowledge your child’s need for attachment, you might engage in a negative parenting style.
Kids who are ignored by parents or whose accomplishments go unnoticed may experience the detrimental effects of neglectful parenting, which can continue into adulthood.
Shame and guilt
Shame and guilt are powerful emotions, especially for children who may not be able to handle big feelings yet.
Parents who shame or guilt trip their kids can make them feel as if they aren’t good enough. This kind of behavior can be a hallmark of negative parenting.
Balance of discipline
Consistently maintaining a balance of discipline and realistic consequences can be very important for childhood development.
Households with zero discipline may be setting kids up for failure. Children who do not learn boundaries may be more likely to participate in harmful behaviors and exhibit a lack of self-control.
On the other hand, overly strict or rigid, fear-based rules can drive kids to act out or rebel. Controlling parenting may contribute to certain mental health conditions, such as:
The effects of poor parenting can affect a child for years, sometimes well into adulthood.
Kids raised within negative parenting styles often deal with:
- negative self-perception and low self-esteem
- control issues, such as pushing limits and boundaries to see what they can get away with
- rebelling against authoritative figures, like parents and teachers
- a higher likelihood of breaking the law as they grow up
- antisocial behaviors and aggression
- low resilience and indifference
- difficulty forming meaningful relationships
Children who are raised with negative parenting styles may be more likely to display:
- explosive behaviors
Aggression in children can involve:
- cruelty or physical harm toward other people and animals
- threatening behavior
- destruction of property
According to a 2008 study, early childhood neglect and maltreatment may be as powerful as experiencing child abuse for predicting aggressive behaviors in kids.
Researchers found that children who were neglected by their parents or primary caregiver before their second birthday exhibited higher levels of aggression between ages 4 and 8.
Although the realization of negative parenting can be scary and may even arouse feelings of shame and disappointment in some parents, acknowledging its presence is the first step to taking corrective action.
With some hard work and introspection, the effects of negative parenting on kids can begin to become undone.
Remember, kids are kids. They’re navigating this unknown — and sometimes scary — world with their parents as their guide.
Mistakes will always be made, but it’s important to set your child’s behavior apart from the child themself. Listening to their thoughts and feelings can help you both move past any bumps in the road.
Affection is a recipe for growth and can go a long way in your child’s development and well-being.
If you need help getting started, consider joining a local support group to connect with other parents who are experiencing the same difficulties as you.
Talking to a therapist can also be a great way to gain insight into your behavior. They can help you better understand your parenting style and abilities.