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Understanding Bad Parenting Tips to Avoid Common Mistakes | Parent Coach | MegAnne Ford

Understanding Bad Parenting: Tips to Avoid Common Mistakes


I work with parents who are actively preventing themselves from using bad parenting skills. I do not believe there are bad parents, although I do believe there is bad parenting in the world.

My husband shared his experience talking about me to other people, and I realized I had a similar one. Before my husband became a PE teacher, he worked as a personal trainer. During his training sessions, clients often asked about me. He would gently explain that I'm an entrepreneur, then mention I work with parents. They'd inquire further until they understood. Similarly, at public events like weddings, people ask what I do. When I say I'm a parenting coach, they usually respond in one of three ways:

"Oh, my neighbor needs to work with you," or, "Oh, my sister, I have to share your information with her. Her kids are wild; they need to work with you."

When someone says that to me, what I'm actually hearing them say is, "Oh, I can see the need for this type of work; I can see it in other people." It's always curious to me; once, I heard from someone that their husband actually said, "You should call my..." again, but he should have called me. But it's like they see it in someone else's behavior, so they're like, "Oh, I can see why someone would want to or need to work with a parenting coach; they can see it in other people."

The second common response that I get is they'll say, "Oh, do you have any book recommendations?"

So what that tells me is they're saying, "Oh, I value this education; I value what you do; I value wanting to know this and that I'll just do it myself. Just tell me the book recommendations, and then I'll go read; I'll go read the books, and then I'll do it myself," which I'm like, "Hey, at least they see like, 'Oh, this is some skill; this is some information; this is some education that I can acquire.

Then the final response that I get is very swift, like I've passed them a hot coal, and they're just trying to pass it back. What they'll say to me is, "Well, I hope I never have to work with you."

That response always surprises me when they say that because what they're really saying is, "I hope I never become the bad parent." It's like they seem to see that working with the parenting coach means that you've had some sort of failure, you know, like, "Oh, if you have to go and get this information, you know, you're broken, or you're not doing it right, or you're not good enough," and I'm always quickly following that up with, "I work with the best parents; I work with parents who are invested in knowing that they see the need, knowing that it's acquired knowledge and education that they too want to get, and they not only just want to get it for themselves, but they want to get it so that they can show up feeling empowered with their children, and they also know that the best parents invest in their parenting."

So it's like I quickly follow this up with, "Hey, yeah, there's no such thing as a bad parent." I actually truly do not believe in this case.





Bad Parent vs Bad Parenting

And it's also very interesting, like, we get into the nuance of the debate here. Then, after the question, when I'm like, "Oh yeah, there's no bad parents. I work with the best parents; I work with parents who want to become stronger, who want to become more confident, who want to become more regulated for themselves and for their children," for me, that's amazing.

Whenever I share this, I always get some pushback. They say something like, "No, no, no, I know a bad parent, and a bad parent is X, Y, and Z." And they typically go with something like, "Well, what about the parents who abuse their children? What about the parents who are horrible, who just scream and punish their children all the time? Like, those are bad parents too."

And again, that opens the door to say, "No, I actually don't think that's the truth." And I don't think that's the truth because I don't think that there are bad kids, and I really think that this myth of bad parents, bad kids, or that behavior can be bad or that if you do this, then you're bad, I really just think that's an overall dangerous myth, and I feel like this myth is one that runs rampant in our society and in our world often. And I get it, I truly get it, because I think that this myth fuels shame. 


Guilt and Shame Explained

There is a difference between guilt and shame, and just as a refresher, guilt really focuses on the action and is rooted in the value of self-compassion. It's saying things like, "Why did I do that? I don't want to yell; I want to be calm and connect." I'm separating myself from the action, and that opens up the door to say, "Hey, I yelled, and that must mean I need a break. I'm a good person; they're a good person. I'm acting in a stressed state, and I need to regulate myself so that I can act differently." That's often called mom guilt.

On the other hand, shame is "Why did I do that?" We take it on as our morality; we start to value perfection and say things like, "I yelled; that must mean I'm a bad mom." You see how it quickly aligns us to this good parent-bad parent binary, where now because I did this, I'm a bad person. Then it just feels heavy and weighs us down, and this is a lens we then use on children when they're exhibiting behavior that we struggle with. We start to use that same binary with them, asking, "Why did you do that? What's wrong with you? Can you just stop that?" Essentially, it's judgment, and I get it—judgment actually acts as fuel.


Judgment is the Fuel for Bad Parenting

Judgment actually acts as fuel for shame and stress. When we pour judgment onto something, it can have harmful impacts. We do it to ourselves, we do it to our family, we do it to our community, and that's what I want to dig into today. It's like, what is going on here, and how can we start to pull this away and separate ourselves from our behavior?

When we think about judgment being an activator for shame and threat, there are three more closely related factors that add fuel to the flame: unconscious bias, humiliation, and trauma.

Unconscious Bias refers to things outside of our awareness, making awareness the first step in addressing them.

Humiliation often arises from feelings of being the only one not understanding something, but finding community in spaces like positive parenting series can alleviate this sense of isolation.

Trauma can further entrench feelings of shame and threat, hindering our ability to achieve the calm and connection we desire.

Being fueled by judgment, unconscious bias, humiliation, and trauma keeps us locked off from what we truly desire: calm, empathy, and kindness.

When we direct judgment toward ourselves, we often say things like,

"Why are you doing that again? Oh my gosh, what's wrong with you? Just stop! You promised you wouldn't do this again."

When we fuel judgment towards ourselves, it becomes second nature to extend it to our family, saying similar things like, "Why are you acting like that? Oh my gosh, what's wrong with you?"

Then, this tendency to judge extends into our community, where we judge people at the playground, in our kids' classes, teachers, or even those who cut us off in traffic.

Practicing judgment becomes easy and habitual, fueling disconnection from calmness, empathy, and kindness, ultimately blocking empathy as we distance ourselves from others through judgment.


Are you practicing bad parenting?

What we're doing is saying, "You're in the outgroup, you don't belong to me, we are not the same."

There are parents who yell at their kids, but I'm not that parent, even though sometimes I do. I already know why I do it, but I'm not a parent who yells; I just yell when I'm angry when they don't listen to me, right? I can find an excuse.

This mindset blocks empathy, fuels judgment, and hinders connection to kindness by keeping some people in the outgroup and seeking confirmation bias within our ingroup.

As Dr. Dan Siegel mentions, empathy comes easy for those in your ingroup—those who look, think, and act like you.

Conversely, empathy is often blocked for anyone in the outgroup—those who don't share similar traits or beliefs.

This phenomenon is evident in societal interactions, where quick empathy is extended to those in the ingroup, while those in the outgroup trigger a more challenging response due to differences in appearance, thought, or behavior.

In the book "The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read," Philippa Perry discusses this concept in relation to the good-bad parent binary. She suggests that believing in this myth leads to defensiveness when confronted with evidence of what is perceived as "bad parent" behavior.

This dynamic is observable on social media feeds, in friend groups, and in conversations when discussing parenting. It often triggers a shame response, causing individuals to question their own parenting practices.

However, Perry emphasizes that anyone seeking support and guidance in parenting is not a bad parent but rather someone committed to breaking down barriers such as shame, humiliation, unconscious bias, and trauma in pursuit of cultivating calm, connection, and kindness in their parenting journey. 


Behavior is just communication. 

I think about this in relation to behavior as we explore the idea that behavior is a form of communication not only for children but also for parents, caregivers, and adults.

Understanding that our behavior communicates something prompts us to self-reflect on its impacts and whether it aligns with our parenting goals. Positive parenting aims for positive repercussions, fostering a closer connection between parent and child, while negative patterns inherited from past generations may lead to disconnection and fractures in relationships.

Through self-awareness and conscious choices, we can bridge these divides and nurture healthier dynamics with our children. This perspective encourages us to recognize that we're good people navigating complex situations, and by understanding how our behavior affects our relationships, we can strive for positive outcomes.

So, how do you communicate to yourself and to your children?

How can you cultivate a supportive environment for yourself as a parent, recognizing that your behavior does not define you but does impact your relationships?

As a parenting coach, my role is to help parents evolve and improve their parenting methods, acknowledging their inherent worthiness and love for their children. Let's embrace curiosity and seek support to foster calmness, which naturally guides us toward more positive interactions. So, I encourage you to reflect on your behavior and consider how you can nurture more supportive and nurturing dynamics within your family.



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