The Worst Kinds of Parents

Some of you may have heard about the recent buzz surrounding a new book titled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, wherein she offers an unnerving and controversial account of raising her children as a Chinese mother.

Regardless of your personal thoughts or knowledge of the book, it certainly has done one thing: start conversations.

The term “tiger mom” is now being used to describe overly-protective, hyper-involved, strict mothers. I have to say that I don’t see too many of these moms on the playground, but I do see a whole slew of other unhealthy types of parents.

It seems that more and more parents these days just don’t know how to parent and, instead, resort to unhealthy and even irresponsible types of parenting. There are 8 patterns of problem parents. Are you one or do you know one?

In his book Generation iY, Tim Elmore identifies 8 types of damaging parenting that have developed out of the new generation of children and their parents.

1. Helicopter Parents–hovers too close

2.Karaoke Parents–try too hard to be cool (and they’re not)

3.Dry-cleaner Parents–drop their kids off for others to raise

4. Volcano Parents–erupt over minor issues

5. Dropout Parents–let their kids down

6. Bullied Parents–can’t stand up to their kids

7. Groupie Parents–treat their kids like rock stars

8. Commando Parents–let “rules” trump relationship

Most of the unhealthy parenting styles I see most regularly are either helicopter, karaoke, dry-cleaner, bullied, or a combination thereof.

In Scottsdale, where I live, the trend is very much for parents to so-overly invest themselves in their children’s lives that parents often do not have a life of their own. A mom feels accomplished, successful, or worthwhile based on how well her children perform or excel.

Those parents also simultaneously ask others to raise their children. They essentially outsource their parenting to the school, church, synagogue, coach, teacher, doctor,  or whomever.

I find this to be a dangerous trend, because parents are both uninvolved, yet taking credit for the outcome.

I feel saddened for bullied parents, too. These parents allow their kids to run the show and it is exhausting. A 2 year-old will absolutely takeover a household if given an opportunity. Bullied parents spend each waking moment catering to their children’s wants and desires (I suppose there is a little bit of groupie parenting in there, as well).

I personally, probably, struggle the most with being a karaoke parent. I mean, most parents want to be cool and they want their children to think they are cool. Of course, at 4 and 2, my kids think “cool” is anyone who gives them some french fries or an ice cream cone.

I don’t worry about being the cool mom in the future too much, however, because I know that God will direct me to do plenty of things in parenting that will undermine any “coolness” I may have garnered. I’m okay with that.

I heard someone say once that, if your kids hate you, you must be doing something right. Of course, I desire a healthy loving relationship with my kids, but if they happen to think I’m the devil for brief periods between the ages of 13-17, I’m cool with that, too.

Okay, so what about you? Which of the parenting styles listed do you see as most harmful and/or prevalent? If you are a parent, do you struggle with one or more of these? How did your parents, parent you?

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15 thoughts on “The Worst Kinds of Parents”

  1. How do parents find the balance between that list? I am no parent, but I have always imagined when I have kids that I am going to cherish them, think the world of them, but also be slightly strict.

    1. That is a good question and I will say that we respond in the way God responds to us.

      He is a perfect Father, who loves us more than we can imagine, to thinks the world of us. God is not “strict’ per say, but He sets healthy boundaries for us and protects us.

      He does not give us anything we want because He knows in His wisdom what we actually need.

      God delights in His children, loves to give them the desires of their heart and yet knows how to discipline us, not to punish, but to refine and mature us.

      Just look to the Lord and His Spirit’s leading as a parent when the time comes Aimee and you will do great!

  2. Unfortunately, I find myself being a volcano parent. Part of that is because we have four kids 4 and under, so little issues tend to snowball fast if left unchecked. But I often find myself needing to have more patience with them.

    1. Mike,
      I so understand and empathize. I only have 2 (with a third on the way) and my patience is tested minute by minute.

      One of the things the wise parenting sage in my life has told me is to make sure our kids know that an accident is an accident. So for example, we don’t explode when our kids spill a glass of milk because that is an accident and life is full of them. We have to make sure they know they can make mistakes.

      I’m guilty of yelling at my kids at times. I hate myself for it every time, but God is gracious and is bringing me more and more self-control. I will be praying Mike for your “volcano” tendencies and for patience to abound.

      Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wow, I really don’t like this post. I think it just kinda rubs me wrong because the truth is that we can ALL be ALL of those parents – and not in a bad way. For example, I’m absolutely a helicopter parent when I’m out with my kids in crowded places – like the mall or Disneyland. I’m a Dry-Cleaner parent because I believe that school is the best way to educate and challenge my daughter. I’m a Volcano parent because I sin and there are times when I erupt when I shouldn’t – but it allows me to show my kids forgiveness and grace when I apologize. I’m a Drop out parent because there is just no way to meet every single one of my kids demands. Being let down is a part of life and through it you can learn hope in the one thing that matters – Christ – and also, that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

    I think you get my point. I’m sure Tim Elmore was talking about extremes. And I guess that’s what I missed from your article. I can be anyone of the types of parents listed above in any give moment and judged by other parents in that moment. But that doesn’t mean that I am that type of parent ALL the time.

    1. Abbi,
      I understand your point, but I think you missed mine entirely.

      Yes, Elmore and I, were referring to extremes. Watching your kids at the mall is not “hovering.” That’s called responsible parenting.

      Hovering parents have come out of phenomenons like parents attending college interviews WITH their kids and even job interviews.

      Dry cleaner parents “outsource” parenting responsibilities. Do you really think that I was suggesting that your child attending school is the same as you expecting the school to parent your child? I made no such suggestion.

      Dry cleaning parents expect teachers, the church, whoever to do the hard parenting that they don’t want to. I don’t think your kid being in kindergarten qualifies as that.

      I was in no way suggesting that if you are guilty of one you are failing or that all parents are not susceptible.

      I spoke of my own inclinations toward karaoke parenting.

      It was meant to be a guide and conversation started about the unhealthy types of parenting that have begun to arise. It was not meant to make you feel bad, inadequate, guilty, or defensive.

      I apologize if it did or if you felt that I was attacking anyone. I write often about the times I have yelled at my kids or failed as a mom. I’m not riding on a high horse. I’m writing to raise questions and seek answers.

  4. The only thing I can contribute, because right now I’m the just surviving the ride parent, (LOL!) is that you might wanna recheck those ages for parental/child hatred. I have an 11 yr old who thinks I’m Satan with a minivan. He’s obnoxious, mouthy, smelly, lazy and on the verge of military school.
    And, just to balance this, he’s also a gifted musician, a genius, driven, has compelling arguments, knows what he wants in this life, and is a dedicated Christian. But he’s still a teen who hates his mama.

    1. Agreed Ade. I almost wrote “12 years old”, but as you pointed out, perhaps the hating does begin sooner than I thought.

      I certainly hated my parents at points and still love them today. I’m sure you’re doing a great job in your “surviving the ride” parenting style.

    2. I would check that “dedicated Christian” trait in your son. If he is obnoxious, mouthy, and lazy (especially with you) then he is not a light through which Jesus can shine. All kids can be these things, but they do not have to be tolerated. I have a 12-yr-old son. . .we try to not only point out his Light but also what parts of his character may cause others to stumble. . .such as talking badly about his siblings, disagreeing with a referee on the court, and/or rolling eyes at an adult. A dedicated Christian will be an example to others as to how to behave, first and foremost being respectful to his mother.
      Ade, this is not a discouragement or an argument, just what I’m seeing in what you’re writing. As a parent I want to be careful to not mis-judge my children (good or bad) so I can clearly see who they are and how I can better parent them. “Hating his mother” could be a place to start. And maybe you were just using that as a figure of speech but if so, it’s a strong one.

  5. Hmmmm I’m not a parent, but I married the product of a Chinese household. To be fair, my mother-in-law doesn’t even come close to the “Tiger-mother” mentality. In truth, she more closely resembles my own mom. That being said, there is a LOT of truth to why Chinese kids typically turn out the way they do. Chinese kids are instilled with a sense of honor, duty, respect and purpose that is rarely equaled in other cultures. Those principles translate to the hard work and delayed gratification it takes to become expert in something, whatever that may be. I fell in love with Dave because of his loyalty, work ethic and integrity. First of all, thanks Mom Lin for raising a talented and well-rounded son. For fighting for his piano lessons, his violin lessons, his trips to camp and overseas. You raised my perfect match and I will learn from both you and my mom to raise our own the same way!

  6. As I read that list I cringed when I recognized myself in more than a few of those categories. Thankfully I never linger in one category for too long. Having said that, are there any parenting books you recommend?

    P.S. I like the parenting posts. You should write more. There are way too many brats in the world.


  7. I rule my House with an iron fist of fear, loathing, and emotional intimidation.

    Okay. Not really. I just wanted to get your attention.

    I wrote about this issue over at The Fatherhood of God. So I can spare my fingers the enormous task of retyping it all, here’s URL.

    There is a Part 2, as well.

    Check it out, and see if it makes me look like a godly father or a jerk.

  8. Hi Nicole,
    I was just curious if you had read the Generation iY book? I was thinking about buying it, if it is actually good. We aren’t parents yet, but I think if I had to choose what type of parent I might be it would be the Helicopter Parent. YIKES!

  9. I got thrown into the deep end of parenthood, getting all three of my kids at once, without the handy learning curve of getting them one at a time. (Let me tell you, that’s HARD.)

    Part of me wants to be a helicopter parent, because I know how scary this world is, and I just want them to be safe. But I also know that insisting that I *have* to be in the bathroom stall rather than just outside is not good for my almost-six-year-old. Part of me wants to be the karaoke parent, because I was never ever cool before. But again…not healthy for the kids.

    My parents operated under the belief that we were not being raised in a democracy, something my dad reminded us of quite often. We resided, he said, in a “benevolent dictatorship.” The choices they made as parents were the ones that they felt were the best for us. They chose to let us make mistakes. They chose to love us anyway. They did not make the mistake of trying to be something other than parents, the ones charged with raising us to be responsible adults and productive members of society.

    The biggest problem that I see, as the wife of a youth pastor, isn’t even in this list. I suppose it’s part and parcel of the karaoke style, but it’s threatening enough, I think, that it warrants its own point: the Buddy-Buddy parent. Here the parent has tossed aside actual parenting in favor of being their kids’ best friend instead. Often this is seen in kids of divorced parents, but it’s not limited there. Whichever parent tries to hang on to the proper role of parenting is ultimately vilified by the one who would prefer to be nothing but the children’s buddy. One of the young girls (she’s 14) from our last youth group posted recently on Facebook that she’d gotten her bellybutton pierced. Her parents weren’t happy with her…but they were the ones who TOOK her to have it done. I don’t get that. You didn’t want your daughter to get this piercing, you’re mad that she did, but you’re the ones who took her and paid for it to be done? Oy.

    My kids will grow up in a benevolent dictatorship like I did. There are times that we make them wait for things, because we want to teach them that life cannot be about instant gratification. Waiting is GOOD. It’s not that we don’t want them to have a cookie, or get a drink, or go play outside. We just don’t want them to grow up thinking that everything in life will be handed to them the minute they want it.

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