Negative Parenting

Negative Parenting

Most parents “lose it” at some time or another when their child misbehaves.

It’s normal.

Coming down on yourself with guilt and shame, possibly inflicted upon you from bystanders not understanding the dynamics of your family, is easily done. They do not understand the behavioral challenges your child struggles with daily, and you along with them. Worse yet, if your child struggles with an ongoing serious pathology such as oppositional defiant issues, everyone involved, teachers, family members, and neighbors are tested to their limits.

Instead of condemning yourself, try reminding yourself that the key to practicing sustained positive parenting , is to avoid negative parenting actions. Most important as a parent, be consistent and loving, while not “giving in.”

Most parents get that children who are disciplined harshly and inconsistently seem to be the worst off in the neighborhood. In fact, research confirms that the teenager experiencing sustained negative parenting is likely to have severe antisocial behavior.

Where are the “How-to” parenting manuals – Negative parenting

Yet in the United States, most new parents begin to actually parent their child based on how they were raised as a child. Carrying on negative parenting actions becomes a generational issue. And except for the brief encounters with the pediatrician early on, parents are left to fend for themselves. Easy access to television celebrity experts who make millions a year offering quick solutions through shame-based parenting. Parenting experts and trusted published guidelines and community-based  classes are few.

That is until problems begin to appear in school, or a teen’s social life, and a child psychologist or school counselor is brought in to assist. While early interventions seem to work for pre-school and elementary aged children, rehabilitated outcomes tend to be low for teens, with negative behaviors carrying on well into adulthood, while continuing the spiraling generational parenting damage.

 Connections between negative parenting and anti-social behavior

You probably can recall from your youth the parents of your friends who used hostile and punitive parenting tactics to control their children. While your friends might have appeared balanced and positive children early on, the psychological damage becomes increasing visible as teenage years approach.

Numerous research studies has linked anti-social behavior in teens to harsh parenting styles. While these parents rule their children with an iron fist, they also “fluctuate between being permissive by their lack of involvement and tending to be more violent and critical.”

Yet, waiting for the signs of negative parenting need not wait for teenage years. Children as old a 5-years of age can start showing signs of hostile and punitive parenting tactics. Typically, these obvious behaviors are opposition to authority, aggressiveness towards peers and authority figures (parents and teachers), and hyperactive behavior (vacillating at times between maniacal to brooding). Numerous studies have demonstrated that these abnormal behaviors in primary and elementary aged children are caused from:

  • Punitive discipline (yelling, nagging, intimidation, insulting, and threatening)
  • Inconsistency in parenting
  • Lack of warmth and positive involvement
  • Physical aggression (hitting, beating)
  • Spanking

Early signs – Negative parenting

As previously mentioned, most new parents borrow parenting skills learned from their own childhood experiences. Few adults want to admit that they in fact are somehow flawed due to negative parenting experiences growing up. So, new parents tend to act and do as their parents have done, regardless of the outcome – “It was good enough for me (And I’m okay) so it’ll be good enough for you as well.”

Research informs us that disruptive behavior problems start with oppositional behaviors such as whining, noncompliance, and talking back as early as three-years of age. As a parent wanting to change the pattern of negative parenting, regardless if it was intentional or not, need to try these ideas.

Reverse the effects of whining by developing an anti-whining parenting practice. Anti-whining involves ignoring the actual whining event (that means NO negative communications) and rewarding non-whining times of the day with positive encouragements, and rewards if needed, early on, and only if required. If your child is whining, don’t do what you would normally do, like yell, hit, smack, insult, or get angry.

Additionally, here is a brief listing of suggestive rules to follow as a parent for children of any age (The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter)

Your goal is to build family relationships, no matter how old the child.

Being a parent is a learning experience — you won’t be perfect the first time.

Each child is different, so no matter what you have heard about “the rules,” only trial and error will tell you what works with your child.

Your child is also learning; you cannot expect him or her to be perfect either.

As the parent, it is your right to decide what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t, but that isn’t the same as control. When your child gets older — preteen and teen, and even earlier — that child will gradually develop autonomy.

The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter

The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., A Wiley Company. 02/15

Dallaire DH, Pineda AQ, Cole DA, et al. Relation of positive and negative parenting to children’s depressive symptoms. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol, 2006 Jun; 35(2); 313-322

Stormshak EA, Bierman KL, McMahon RJ, Lengua LJ. Parenting practices and child disruptive behavior problems in early elementary school. J Clin Child Psychol 2000 March; 29(1): 17-29.

Photo credit: David Goehring via


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