5 Bad Parenting Habits to Let Go of Now

Here are 5 bad habits that could leave a negative impression on your kids down the road.

Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #477

image of parents fighting behind child

From the very first day I became a parent, not only did I want the moon and the stars for my child, I wanted something equally important—to be a wonderful role model.

When my kids were infants, I didn’t worry too much that they would pick up any of my bad habits—chewing ice, walking at warp speed (nearly knocking things, including people, over) just to be efficient, cracking my knuckles and toes when nervous, or eating food off of other people's plates. But, as they became toddlers and started talking and imitating, I began to realize that my precious little ones were not only my offspring, they were also porous sponges that soaked everything in—good and bad—and had the memories of elephants, never forgetting anything they saw and heard.

I’ve been doing this ‘mother’ thing for nearly 25 years now, and can truthfully admit a thing or two about what I’m proud to have done while raising my eight kids and…what I have since learned (the hard way) I should’ve paid more attention to.

Here are five bad habits that could leave a negative impression on your kids down the road and how to correct them.

5 Bad Parenting Habits

  1. Speak Without Thinking
  2. Not Being on Time
  3. Negative Self-Talk
  4. Neglecting Self Care
  5. Disorganization

Here are each in more detail.

1. Speak Without Thinking

Most of us have had moments where we completely forget to filter what goes from our head to our mouths and out it comes, commentary that really should have remained silent but now it’s out there in front of colleagues, friends, spouses, or worse yet, our kids.

I humbly include myself in this bad habit, and I hadn’t realized I was doing it as often as I was until one of my children bagged me at a school meeting. Three of my children struggled with significant speech delays. Because of that, we spent several years working closely with speech and occupational therapists and also had pretty intense services with our school department. I attended dozens of Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) meetings with teachers and administrators. Most times my children did not attend them with me, but occasionally they would be invited.

One such time was a meeting to decide the best placement for my son as he transitioned from second to third grade. There were two choices for teachers who both had tremendously different teaching styles. I was completely prepared to give my perspective on which classroom I thought he would best thrive in, but my son beat me to the chase. “There’s no way you’re putting me in Mrs. Smith’s class! She’s a real witch and the year will be a disaster!” Ouch! Out of the mouths of babes—and one with a speech delay nonetheless. That was a good 15 years ago, and I still remember how mortified I felt because it was quite obvious my son was parroting exactly what I had said mindlessly while he was in earshot.  

Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. consultant and best-selling author, has a remedy for those of us who blurt things out unintentionally. In 5 Simple Questions to Ask BEFORE You Speak he recommends the following strategy. Before you speak, T.H.I.N.K. and ask these simple questions: T: Is it True? H: Is it Helpful? I: Is it Inspiring? N: Is it Necessary? K: Is it Kind?

I’ve tried to be very mindful of what I say aloud in front of my kids and others in general ever since that incident at my son’s IEP meeting. I’m by no means perfect, but I definitely put much more thought into what slips through my lips now.

2. Not Being on Time

This is one of those bad habits I had been guilty of more than any others, consistently being 10-15 minutes late to nearly everything, including pediatrician appointments, pick-ups from practices, dates with friends, and sadly even funerals. I could have easily blamed it on the logistics of constantly scurrying from behind because I had eight young kids and primarily took care of them myself, but truthfully it wasn’t them, it was me and how I managed my time.

I was always telling myself I had time for just one more quick project before I headed to the car, like throwing in a load of laundry or paying just one bill so I could get it out in today’s mail. Although I knew exactly what my timetable should have been to leave my home and arrive at my destination on time, I had rose-colored glasses on that made me believe I could be a little bit more productive yet still be on time—as though time would stand still for me alone.

While being 10-15 minutes late may not seem like a big deal, I began to realize that it was not only unfair to the person or team waiting for us to arrive, it was also extremely unfair to my own kids. I learned that they secretly resented my tardiness because it made them feel forgotten and undervalued. One of my daughters actually felt like she had to make excuses for me because we were always late to softball practice. It seemed harmless at the time, but her coach later told me that her teammates always referred to our comings and goings as being on “Butler Time.” When I heard that, I decided I had to get my act together and stop getting my family to our destinations late.

In How to Stop Being Late to Everything All the Time, I’m what’s known as “The Underestimator,” which is explained as a well-intentioned person who occupies an alternate reality where time has no meaning. Like I said before, I always felt I could sneak one more item in from my to-do list before walking out the door. The solution for people who mismanage their time like I did was to actually time some of the projects that they tackled to see truthfully how many minutes (or hours) truly were spent completing the task. Productivity expert Julie Morgenstern, author of TIme Management From the Inside Out, says “Underestimators are afraid to find out that they can’t do everything, or they obsess over and take too long to do other things.”

Bingo! Morgenstern had me completely pegged. Because I had a large family, I felt the need to prove I could keep up with everything, no matter what. Her solution was to time the projects that continuously make you late, on three separate occasions, and then apply one of Morgenstern’s Four Ds to each one. “Delete: If it’s unimportant or unfeasible, you might choose not to do it at all. Delay: Reschedule your task for a more appropriate time. Diminish: Create a shortcut, like breaking a big project into parts and dedicating just one hour a day to it. Or Delegate: Give all or part of your task to somebody else.” This eye-opening exercise allowed me to be realistic about what I could accomplish in front of my schedules to actually get out the door on time.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.