As a psychologist, I have seen some of the effects of bad parenting. Having said that, before I get into the top 5, it's a relief to know that most of these things can be fixed. Especially if we jump on it quickly and early.
The first thing that came to my mind is one of the effects of bad parenting is the endangerment of children. I'm thinking about a video that we've probably all seen, Home Alone. The parents somehow forgot and left one of their children home alone. Macaulay Culkin plays the child, who at first was a little tipped over but then starts to enjoy himself.
Endangerment is one of the issues we need to look out for and especially when it comes to abuse. There is no excuse for the abuse of children. And that's not what this particular video is about. But that's one of the main major effects of bad parenting. Now, can it be fixed? Of course, we can. As we pay attention to children's safety and our responsibility as adults to keep them safe and to do whatever we can to ensure that our children are not endangered, we are practicing good parenting.
Fortunately for all of us who are imperfect parents, kids are very resilient. I remember when our kids were little, and Vicki had a hard time attending our son's wrestling match. Or going to the park when they grab onto those monkey bars and swing across, because of the danger, or the potential danger that's entailed in those activities. And yet, kids are so resilient and they can bounce back from injury. That's the encouraging part of this story.
The second major effect of bad parenting is that it teaches kids maladaptive behaviors. Kids learn primarily by example. You have probably heard the saying that, “I can't hear what you're saying because what you're doing is shouting so loudly in my face.” Children will follow what we do, not what we say. As we engage in poor practices as parents, it actually trains them and teaches them to do the same thing.
I'm remembering a scene from the movie, 42. It's a story about Jackie Robinson when he was up and coming in major league baseball as the first black American player in Major League Baseball. There was resistance from some people toward him. In fact, one of the scenes of the video shows some of the white spectators and fans in the stadium standing up and yelling, “Go home! Get out! You don't belong here!” And this young boy is seated next to his father. He looks up at his father who was red-faced and yelling. Then the young boy stands up and starts yelling as well. This child had no problem with Jackie Robinson playing in that game. But when he saw his father yelling and screaming, that taught him a maladaptive behavior.
Now, can it be fixed? Of course, it can. I would have no business being a psychologist if I believed that people could not change. But they can. And you can change too. Now, it's not easy because neural pathways get set. Neural pathways are like our minds cruise control, or autopilot. Things get programmed in and then it's hard to change it but it's not impossible.
Think of it kind of like learning a new language. Could you learn a new language? Well, yes, you could. When I was 19 years old, I learned a new language –Finnish. It's the language that they speak in Finland if you weren't tracking that. I am now fluent in Finnish. And it was not easy to learn that very difficult language. It is possible. And what does it take? If you wanted to learn a new language, what would you do? You would enroll in a course. You would hire a coach. You would put in a lot of practice.
*Ding! Ding, Ding!*
That's what you get to do. Can we fix these negative maladaptive patterns that we have taught our children? Yes, we can.
What we've been programmed to do comes very naturally to us so we are going to have to put in some work. Think of it just like learning a language.
The third major effect of bad parenting is that it lengthens the learning curve. Yelling, for example. Yelling is bad parenting. I'm sorry. I know. I do it too. And we all do, okay? But it's not good parenting and we all know that. Well, why do we do it? Because it works. Think about it. Your child is doing something you don't want them to do, you yell at them. “Hey! Knock it off!” It gets their attention. “Huh!?” And it startles them. And the behavior stops right now.
The problem with yelling, it's a parent trap. When you yell, it's actually… In behavioral psychology terms, a reinforcer. A reinforcer makes it more likely that a behavior will occur again. That's not what we want to have happen. So, we have just lengthened the problem if it's more likely that they'll do it again.
I heard this phrase back in graduate school and I thought it was funny then, and it kind of still is, though it's really true. “Bad breath is better than no breath at all.”
Kids think this way when it comes to attention. When you yell, you are giving them attention. Immediate, intense attention. And that becomes a reinforcer to them. So, we just lengthened the learning curve.
Now, can it be fixed? Well, yes, it can. As we learn alternatives to yelling that sometimes don't get as quick of a response but they get a more effective response because we are shaping the behavior now in ways that are based on principle. That will give you a shorter learning curve. And even if it doesn't get immediate results, it gets quicker results in the long term.
One of the most popular videos on my YouTube channel is, “How To Get Kids To Listen Without Yelling?” There is a reason why it's so popular, I will put a link below for you.
Major effect number 4, bad parenting trains the next generation of parents to be bad parents. Have you ever wondered why you do the goofy things that you do? Well, you were trained by somebody too. In my coaching groups, I hear this all the time. “Well, my parents did it this way.” Or “When I was a kid here's what I experienced?” That's all we have. We don't know anything else. We apply what we have been trained or programmed to do.
Well, what are our kids going to do? Same thing. They are learning, their parenting skills from their parents. Can this be fixed? Yes, it can.
When we apply the proper principles, we can get different outcomes. Remember, first of all, your job as a parent is to love them no matter what and even if. Then your role as a mentor and a teacher is to show them a better way to parent.
One of the things that troubles me the most is number 5. One of the effects of bad parenting is that it takes away the confidence of the parent. I mean think about it, when you do things that you know are bad parenting, your confidence goes out the window. It's like, “Oh, I'm a bad parent.” Then you start to go into even more maladaptive patterns. It's a natural response when we feel that way. So, please listen carefully. Can it be fixed? Yes, of course it can. The first thing you need to know about this, you are a benevolent, generous, loving parent.
You might be thinking, “Well, Dr. Paul, you don't even know me. You don't know what I did. You don't know..” Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've been a psychologist for 30 years. You can't shock me. I've heard it. And yet, I'm telling you, you are a benevolent, generous, loving parent. Wrap your head around that because it's true. I know you make mistakes. We all do. But for you to see yourself as a benevolent, generous, loving parent that you are gives you a better starting place to work on the improvements that you and I both know would be helpful. That's the starting point.
When parents use bad parenting, they lose their confidence. It gets in their head. It messes with their psyche in ways that make it worse, not better. We got to take this on together. And there's a lot of things that you can do. You are a benevolent, generous, loving parent. Let's start from there and we can make a whole lot of progress from that point.
I have so many resources to help you parent better. Head on over to www.drpauljenkins.com where you will find a community of conscious, loving, connected parents just like you who are working on the stuff that they need to work on. Let's join up on this together and do what we can to create a culture of positive parenting. We have training courses, groups and coaching that are available to you at www.drpauljenkins.com.