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My Friend Is a Bad Parent

How to manage friendships with people who you think are bad parents.

What do I do if I think my friend is a bad parent?

If you think your friend is a bad parent or see signs that concern you, you should start by identifying which elements of their parenting worry you. Questioning your friend's choices may stem from them having a different parenting style than you do or seeing signs of physical or verbal abuse in their children. In either situation, there are some steps you can take to be a good friend and maintain a healthy relationship despite your conflicting parenting choices.


How to deal with differences in parenting styles

1. Don't judge

Personal opinions run rampant when observing how other people parent their children. Some parents take a hands-off approach, some are more prone to helicopter parenting, and others are somewhere in between. Even if your styles are the same, avoid judging your friend’s parenting skills. Don't assume that your friend is wrong in how they approach parenting just because you parent differently.  

2. Listen more

Friends are great because they are there for you through thick and thin. You can trust your friends when you need to talk, and they respect what you share. In the case of parenting, your friend may feel overwhelmed by constant and unsolicited parenting advice if you openly critique their choices and behaviors. A great way to maintain your friendship is to listen, offer helpful words when asked, and be there for them if they have a hard time.  

3. Plan one-on-one time

Spending too much time together while your children are around may cause you to notice those parenting differences even more. Plan time together when you have childcare to focus on your friendship as individuals. Remember that friendships take time and maintenance. If you are overly focused on their parenting style, you may not be able to enjoy their company.  

Is my friend really a bad parent?

While some choices may go against your preferences, some behaviors can be genuine indicators of insufficient parenting tactics. Some parents only realize that they are causing their children harm after they take court-ordered counseling or therapy. Understanding what kind of a parent you are takes self-awareness that must be developed over time. 

Signs of a truly bad parent may include

  • Avoiding or neglecting their child 
  • Setting a bad example  
  • Distrusting their child 
  • Being overly pampering or controlling 
  • Pushing the boundaries of authoritative parenting 
  • Showing favoritism between children  
  • Committing physical or verbal abuse  

If you suspect child abuse of any kind or have witnessed inappropriate behavior, you should contact or call your local child welfare agency


How can I be a better parent?

A parent’s ability to evaluate themselves is crucial for their children’s well-being, even if they think they are a model parent. Self-awareness involves monitoring your thoughts, emotions, and overall belief system, and it's beneficial to self-reflect when your perspective is challenged. While considering your biases and choices can help improve your parenting skills, here are six specific actions to help you become a better parent each day.  

1. Don't yell at your children

When parents have younger children, they can become frustrated with their child's inability to do things at a higher level or avoid bad behavior. Instead of yelling or reacting in frustration, take a minute to breathe and collect your composure while you decide how to respond. If your child behaves poorly, calmly explain why their behavior is wrong and choose an appropriate punishment if applicable. 

2. Give reasons for instructions

Always explain to your children the reason they should make a particular choice or take a specific action. Children should understand why they must go to bed on time or brush their teeth twice daily. If you want to instill good habits and behavior, your child needs a reason to commit to them. Children often need repetition over time to adopt behavior changes. Whether you're instilling good manners or teaching them how to manage stress, be persistent and consistent, knowing your child will get there. 

3. Let your children make some decisions

Children are always told where to go and what to do. Letting them make some choices along the way can help boost their confidence, strengthen their sense of responsibility, and teach them how to be independent. Whether it's through chores or other activities, give children the opportunity to make choices when you can. Without giving your children some autonomy, the negative impact can become especially evident as they grow into their teenage years. 

4. Communicate openly

Your children may not always want to talk, but they need to know you are there for them no matter the situation. At any age, children thrive on effective communication with their parents. Taking time to be invested in your child's life, whether it's a typical or special day, will help you develop a trusting relationship over time. Talk to them about the topics they want to discuss and, more importantly, do more listening than talking.  

5. Show affection to your children

Children need and thrive on love, as it impacts their development in a positive way when they receive enough attention and tenderness. By providing love and affection to your child, you support their mental health at crucial developmental stages. Focusing on praise, encouragement, and other positive parenting techniques is an excellent way for parents to ensure their children feel supported and loved. 

6. Take a parenting class

Parenting classes have much to offer at every stage of a child's development. When parents have their first new baby on the way, most don't think twice about enrolling in some basic prenatal classes because they need to learn about caring for a newborn. Parenting classes can teach any parent essential and helpful lessons, whether they're a model parent or have room to grow. 

Parenting can be stressful because you deeply care about your children. If you need help learning how to be a good parent, consider learning about different parenting methods to help evaluate your options. No matter what approach you choose, do what you can to protect your mental health. Parental burnout can impact how you parent, so it's crucial to take care of yourself to be the best parent you can be. 

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