Parenting experts do not exist. I’ve said it before, and I’m happy to say it again. There is no such thing as a parenting expert because all kids are different. What’s amazing parenting for one child is not even remotely close to amazing parenting for another. As a mom of four kids, I don’t consider myself a parenting expert by any means.
Yes, we have four kids, but no two of them are alike. Our first born is so uniquely different than our second, and nothing shocked us more than welcoming our second baby and realizing experts…we were not. By the time the twins were born, we knew for certain no one is an expert when it pertains to parenting.
However, there are people in the world who are experts at many things related to parenting. For example, there are many medical professionals who know a thing or two about parenting types, and they have valid thoughts. One such thought that parenting experts share is the idea that neglectful parents do exist – but I bet you have a much different assumption of a neglectful parent than is true. I did.
Neglectful Parenting is Referred to by Professionals as Uninvolved Parenting
Quick; off the top of your head, define neglectful parenting. It’s a person who doesn’t care for their kids. They don’t provide the basics, they don’t take care of them, show them love, put their needs first, or provide the basic parenting requirements, right? Not entirely, according to the parenting experts of the world. According to Healthline, neglectful parenting (which is commonly referred to as uninvolved parenting because of its less negative connotations) is ‘a style of parenting where parents don’t respond to their child’s needs or desires beyond the basics of food, clothing, and shelter.’
Essentially, neglectful parenting is exactly what we think, but also so much more than what we thought. This is why the lines of neglectful parenting are often blurred. When a parent is providing their kids with a roof over their head, food in their tummies, and clothing to wear, they can’t be neglectful, right? Wrong. They can, and many are. Here are the 20 signs you may be entering into the realm of neglectful parenting. Recognizing these signs now is the first step toward making positive changes and becoming a better parent.
1. You are not affectionate with your kids
While it’s true that some people simply do not feel comfortable displaying emotions such as affection, a neglectful parent show displays no affection. No hugging, no hand-holding, cuddling, etc. Affection does not come naturally, and you don’t feel that bond with your child.
2. You do not supervise your children
You let your kids come and go as they please. You don’t worry about what they are doing. Perhaps you ignore them unless you need something from them.
3. You don’t pay attention to your child’s schedule
A neglectful parent has no idea what their kids are up to. Do they have a game? Maybe you know they participate in after school activities, but you don’t know which ones. You don’t know where they’re going when they leave the house or when they’ll be home. Their schedule is of no importance to you.
4. You don’t know where your kids are
More so than not knowing what they are doing or what their schedule looks like, a neglectful parent may not even know where their kids are at any given moment. School? A game? A friend’s house? You don’t know, and you’re not that bothered by not knowing.
5. You do not practice discipline
Unless your kid’s behavior is directly affecting you, discipline plays not role in your life. Your child can do what they want, when they want, and it’s fine unless it affects your life.
6. You view parenting as a duty
Parenting is a gift. It’s a choice you make, but you don’t see it as anything other than an 18-year duty. You look forward to the end of that duty, and you don’t see it as a gift.
7. You do not speak to your children about their lives
A good parent talks to their kids about their lives. Involved parents ask about tests because they know their kids had one that day. They ask about friends and other interests their child has. They care, and they want to know.
8. You do not show interest in your child’s life
Listen; not everything our kids do is interesting. Trust me – I know. My son is obsessed with the weather and provides weather reports for every major city in the world daily. Believe it or not, I don’t care about the weather in Minneapolis considering we live in Florida. However, while I might not care about every single weather report he provides, I care very much about his interest in weather. I am curious what he learns about it when he watches videos, etc. A neglectful parent doesn’t have any interest in their child’s life.
9. You are too busy for your kids
We live in a world that prides itself on being busy. My schedule is busier than your schedule, as if it’s a badge of honor. We are all busy. Kids are busy. Work is busy. Home is busy. Social lives are busy. I get it. But you’re too busy for your kids all the time. Whether its work or home or your own social life, you are always too busy for your kids. You may not even see this as an issue, but rather just how life is.
10. You don’t tell your kids you love them
My kids hear, “I love you,” about a million times a day because I am a big fan of speaking what I feel. I love them a lot, so I tell them a lot. A neglectful parent may not even realize they’re not telling their kids they love them. You might not realize you don’t say it often. You might feel it, but you don’t say it, and that’s a form of neglect.
11. You are an addict
Did you know your addiction is a sign of neglectful parenting? You probably did, but maybe not. Perhaps you are a functioning alcoholic. It’s not stopped you from going to your kids’ games or PTA meetings. Perhaps you work every single day of your life and no one knows you’re a functioning alcoholic, and you might even think you’re a great parent. If you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, however, you are practicing neglectful parenting.
12. You think you are raising independent kids
There’s a difference between raising independent kids by choice and by neglect. If you assume that your level of disinterest or lack of presence is you teaching your kids independence, however, you are mistaken. Teaching kids independence means allowing them to work through their issues, take responsibility for their own actions, and learn from their mistakes. Leaving your kids to their own devices without any guidance or care when they’re going through something is a sign of neglect; not a sign of independence.
13. You are self-centered
Self-care is necessary for all parents. As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup. However, being a self-centered parent is a different story. Putting yourself first, worrying about you, and not worrying about your kids is a sign of neglectful parenting.
14. Everything else comes first
There will always be times in your life when other things come first. Your own health and self-care may come first on occasion. Your marriage will come before your kids sometimes. Even your job will occasionally come before the kids. However, your kids will come first in your life 9 times out of 10. When everything but the kids come first all the time, you’re entering neglectful parenting territory.
15. You feel disconnected from your kids
Feeling disconnected from things in your life might be a sign of something more serious, such as depression or other health-related issues. However, feeling disconnected from your kids while connected to everything else is a sign of neglect.
16. You don’t worry about your kid’s grades
Good or bad, when you are simply uninterested in your child’s grades, it’s a sign you’re neglecting them. Of course, you know your child. Their strengths and weaknesses; you know your child. You should expect them to do their best in school even if you’re aware they’ll never be a straight A student. But not caring at all is a sign of neglect.
17. You don’t worry about your child’s behavior
Your child is misbehaving at school, but you don’t care. It’s not your problem. That’s a school problem. This way of thinking is unhealthy, and it’s a definite sign you’re entering the neglectful parent territory. You don’t care enough to realize your child’s behavior at school is your problem, and that’s never good.
18. You aren’t present at home
The common thought here is that if you are home, you are not a neglectful parent. Neglectful parents leave their kids home all the time and don’t bother staying put, right? Wrong. A neglectful parent can be home all the time and still not be present. You’re on the phone, you’re on the internet, you’re in front of the television. You’re doing everything there is to do but focusing on your kids.
19. You do not emotionally support your child
Another common misconception about neglectful parenting is that if you’re providing them with a home, food, and clothing, you’re good. The truth is more complex than that. You must also emotionally provide for your child. When you don’t, you’re in the territory of uninvolved parenting, which is always a terrible sign.
20. You are not close to your kids
Do your kids come to you with exciting news? What about sad, hurtful, or upsetting news? Do they show you their artwork? Do they tell you about their crushes or the kids in class? Do they share with you? Kids who are close to their parents do these things. You know so much about them, and they tell you because they know you care. If your kids don’t talk to you, and you are not close to them, could it be you?
It’s easy to assume a child who doesn’t talk to you is simply going through a phase. Teens, pre-teens, whatever; they go through phases. Ask yourself, however, if you are there for them. Do you show them love and affection? Are you close? If not, could you be giving off neglectful parenting vibes?
Why Are Some Parents Neglectful?
The fact is that many parents don’t realize their behavior is neglectful. The vast majority simply parent the way they parent because its how they were raised. You may not be aware that your own parents were neglectful to you. You may love and respect them, and you might even have a great relationship with them. However, you are doing what you were taught by example.
In many instances, however, neglectful parents suffer from mental health issues. We touched briefly on depression and addiction earlier, and both are serious issues that affect every area of your life. Whatever the issue, recognizing it is the first step in trying to move past your neglectful habits.
Neglectful Parenting Has Adverse Affects on Children
Being raised in a neglectful home increases a child’s chance of repeating the cycle in their own homes. Kids who live with neglectful parents are less likely to do well academically, go to college, succeed in life, or break the cycle. They’re less likely to learn to control their own emotions and handle life issues. Kids with neglectful parents tend to turn to substances they can and probably will abuse, and they tend to choose life partners who exhibit the same unhealthy tendencies.
Even if your kids seem all right despite recognizing these signs in yourself, it’s time to seek help. Speak to a counselor or a therapist about your concerns. It is never too late to promote change for the better at home, and you and your kids will only be better for it.
Why Understanding That You May be Entering Neglectful Parenting is Important
Kids are resilient, yes. However, what’s so important about understanding that you might be entertaining the realm of neglectful parenting is that these signs are not always obvious. Everyone is busy. Kids go through phases. Sometimes we feel disconnected from many things. Keeping up with multiple kids is a challenge at times. Disciplining your child is difficult for you.
The simple fact of the matter is that you might be blissfully unaware that you’re entering the realm of neglectful parenting. This is dangerous, but it’s not the end of the world. You can change. You can improve your own child’s childhood, and you can turn the page. There is no such thing as a parenting expert, but there are medical experts who know a thing or two about how you can really mess up your children…and this is one of those things. None of us is perfect. Exhibiting one sign of neglectful parenting doesn’t make you a bad parent, but it doesn’t hurt to take control before it’s too late.
Additional Resources for Parents
- Teaching Kids the Importance of Mindfulness
- Understanding the Importance of Gratitude
- Growth Mindset for the Family