Parenting: How To Bring Out The Worst In Your Kids
8 Dangerous Dispositions of Rookie Parents and Those Who Act Like It!
Heed the warning: How you interact with your children —the tone of your parenting —full-on shapes their life —their entire life. If you do it right, your offspring will spend their lives basking in the confidence and truth that you wonderfully embedded in them. If you do it wrong — your kids will put in a ton of effort to find freedom and stability by overcoming the massive deficit they experienced with you. They could also just as easily, struggle to find their way beyond the family of origin dysfunction and crash and burn the next generation through their well-learned life confusion.
After over 40 years of coaching people on all things marriage and family, I’ve had the opportunity of seeing two generations work through the parenting journey with a third generation now popping out babies left and right. I am currently coaching and counselling these new young parents, teaching them how to do it right through our iParent Series. You may not like hearing this but the bold, hard truth is clear: DYSFUNCTION Breeds DYSFUNCTION.
We have all seen that parents come in all shapes of sizes. They also come with an assortment of dispositions. I chose the work ‘disposition’ since it refers to the mood, attitude or temperament of the person. So in parenting, its less about what you are trying to communicate to your children and more about how you communicate your message to them. With kids TONE MATTERS. They hear the ‘edge’ in your voice, the frustration, the disappointment, the anger. Your disapproval can’t be denied. That’s your negative disposition leaking out all over. And this harmful tone comes through in the 8 dispositions I have observed – each having its own unique drastic influence in the child’s life.
I have seen many great parents and many more dysfunctional parents. I think the hardest ones to observe are those who “think” they are great parents and spend their time convincing others that this is indeed true while they defensively try to explain why their kids are going astray. Are you brave? Could you read through these dangerous dispositions without a level of defensiveness? Would you be willing to evaluate your parenting tone and maybe begin address your dark side? I have seen every type of devastating disposition listed here and both cringed as I tried to coach parents through the tragic and tumultuous impact they have had on their children.
Let’s put this discussion within a Biblical frame work. I love Philippians 4:9 and call it the Parent’s Prayer. “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” You know that more is caught than taught —much more. Your kids have a fighting chance of becoming who you are but very little chance at becoming what you say. Live it before you try to teach it. And tone matters.
So, as we go into this discussion, remember: You don’t get an option: YOU are an example to your children — THE EXAMPLE — of how to do life right — God’s way. Take courage — take stock! Here are the 8 types of dangerous dispositions that I have seen:
- The INVISIBLE Parent: This parent is too busy for their children. They are out of touch because they are just plain OUT. Work and other life distractions consistently win out and they are seldom home. Children are way down their life priority list. These parents spend their best hours elsewhere and invest little to no time building relationships with their kids. You can’t parent from a distance. You are absent — Not there. Not home. Not connected. You have no voice —very little influence because influence is through relationship — the greater the connection — the greater the impact. Invisible parents have no platform to shape their kid’s lives. This is the parent a child can never KNOW.
- The IMPOSSIBLE Parent: This parent’s expectations of their children are simply far too high. Sometimes they are worried about their image as parents and their kids have to make them look good. Sometimes they live vicariously through their children’s successes and failures, hoping to achieve their dreams through their kids. They push their kids. The child’s performance is rarely good enough. They pressure them to do better — not in an encouraging way but in a demanding way. Quick to criticize. Quick to correct. Quick to condemn. The bar is set. And their approval is based on the perceived success of the child not their inherent merit or genuine effort. The child feels like a failure. This is the parent a child can never PLEASE.
- The IGNORANT Parent: This parent has no training and no plan. They are parenting like emotional adolescents – ill-informed and inexperienced. Problem. They don’t acknowledge that they aren’t sure what to do as a parent. They are reactive, jerking their children back and forth sometimes doing what their parents did with them (not good) and sometimes following what they have heard others have tried. They are reactive not responsive. They basically parent by default. They do not make use of the effective parenting resources that are available to them. They don’t try to improve. This is a parent that a child can never LEARN FROM.
- The INCONSISTENT Parent: This parent’s standards are always changing. Their approach is wishy-washy. They often parent based on emotions and their current mood. They may favour one child over another and actually say it. Lack of unity between the parents is common. Upstaging the other parent in front of the kids, tell the child, “You shouldn’t listen to your Dad” or “You mother is not right. You don’t have to do what she said. Expectations are whimsical and subject to mood swings, so the kids never know where they stand or how to respond. Kids don’t know who they should listen to or how to best respond. This is a parent a child can never TRUST.
- The INFURIATED Parent: Look out. This parent is really dangerous. They are angry, reactionary and controlling. Everyone walks on ‘eggshells’ when they are home. Kids try to stay out of their way. Kids panic to please this parent for fear of scary repercussions. They are harsh and demanding and if not pleased, they become explosive and violent. Their ‘angry at the world’ disposition lays out taxing unrealistic expectations while it lashes out with derogatory cut-downs. Some kids leave this home early if they haven’t been kicked out already for not towing the line. This is a parent a child can never be SAFE WITH.
- The INSECURE Parent: This parent is afraid to say “no” for fear of rejection by their child. They have long looked to their kids to fulfil their own need to be loved. Because of deep insecurities they do life and parent to be noticed and gain approval. The child is like a ‘dress up doll’ that this parent wants others to admire. So, they bribe the child to be nice, to behave and to like them. As a result, the children call the shots and usually get what they want. Instead of being this adult to orchestrate the best for the child, this parent simply needs to be accepted and they try too hard to be the child’s friend. This is a parent that a child can never RESPECT.
- The IMMOBILIZED Parent: This parent is exhausted by the demands of life, by baggage from their past or by current addictions. They feel overwhelmed and preoccupied, so they give up. This parent may live a life caught up with addictions smoking up or shooting up while being on to parent. They also may have psychological or emotional impairment that preoccupies them and they often unload their cares onto their children as if they are confidantes. Their kids become an inconvenience and a burden that they just can’t deal with. Their pain, their needs and their crises are driving the day. Kids really are fending for themselves. Sometimes the child is parenting the parent or doing life alone. This is a parent that a child can never DEPEND ON.
- The INDULGENT Parent: This parent tries to buy their kids’ affections. Expensive electronics, brand-name clothing, and the latest gaming device as signs of parental success. Buying the child the latest toy, lego kit, pet, cell phone or even car is their indication that they are making it as a parent. These parents give the kids everything they could ever want and more under the guise of “providing for their needs.” They seem trapped by the Santa Claus Syndrome: they buy their kid’s approval and cooperation — since everyone loves Santa. Besides, spending money on the child eases the guilt of their absence, their non-involvement in the child’s life and their own self-indulgence. This is a parent a child can never BOND WITH.
Ok. It’s time to honestly acknowledge which of these dangerous dispositions you are most likely guilty of. Have a discussion with your spouse to share your observations of yourself and them too. Discuss what needs to change — where YOU need to change. We’d love to help further. At Doing Family Right, we care. Check out our great resources on parenting as well as find a caring counsellor for your parenting challenges.
Ask God to help you shape the lives of those He has entrusted to you in a way that honours Him and anchors them for life!
© Dr. Dave Currie – November 2021