6 Signs That You're a Dysfunctional Parent

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scared girl
If you are one of these parents, here's why you need to change. (Charisma archives)


  • "I am driven and have been successful, so why would I let my child waste one second of his day?"

  • "Childhood is overrated—we need to start thinking of college now!"

  • "I love to vicariously live through my 
child's life. It makes me so much more of an involved parent when I feel that we are "both" succeeding!"

  • "Everyone else is my daughter's competition—and they had better get out of the way. There's room for only one at the top."


Children raised by the Driver parent will often grow up feeling anxious or depressed (or both), and dissatisfied with their accomplishments. They often struggle with addiction and are unable to "play" or relax.

4) The Micro-Managing Parent

As the Micro-Managing parent, you desire only the best for your kids. Because you are the adult and they are the children, how could your kids possibly know what is best for them? You have made some good (and bad) decisions in your life, and why wouldn't you want to pass on this wisdom to your children? These are statements you might use to reassure yourself you are on the right track:

• "I know what is right. It's my job to make sure my child doesn't make a mistake!"

• "Everything is done the way I want it, or I do it myself. Since my standards are so high, it's just easier that way for everyone."

• "My kids don't understand that I make all their decisions for their own good."

• "The world is a dangerous place—period! Someday my kids will thank me for protecting them."

Children raised by the Micro-Managing parent will often grow up doubting themselves, feeling driven to perfection, struggling with headaches and stomachaches, and developing eating disorders.

5) The Criticizing Parent

The Criticizing parent is one who can't help but point out what is wrong. To him or her, it's obvious what needs to be fixed, and consequently this parent calls attention to the problem so it can be corrected. As a Criticizing parent, you argue that this is a gift to your child, while others say you are being cruel with your words. You question how else your child will get the "thick skin" needed to survive in a harsh world and believe that you're doing her a favor by "toughening" her up.

To feel reassured, a Criticizing parent might make these justifications:

  • "Life is tough. I didn't get a free pass; why should he?"

  • "Of course I constantly criticize my child (even in public). It keeps her ego under control."

  • "I never praise my child because then he will never strive for better. It's the only way to get ahead in this life."

  • "I don't encourage my child's interests—she will probably change her mind soon anyhow. What a waste of time and money."

  • "If I don't point out his faults, someone else will. Wouldn't he rather it come from me than from 
a stranger?" 

Children raised by the Criticizing parent will often grow up bullying others, feeling insecure, blaming others for their mistakes, and being pessimistic about the future.


6) The Absentee Parent

The Absentee parent is just that—absent from the daily events of their children's lives. In your mind the big moments in life are not losing teeth, hitting a home run in Little League, or a dance recital. The big moments are the ones that you are providing and planning for, such as college, weddings and retirement. You can justify your absence because of the following reasons:

  • "I recognize that my child would rather have all today's 'stuff' than me, so I work long hours to provide for his current and future needs."

  • "My absence is a good way for my children to learn independence."

  • "My nanny (or babysitter) is younger and more fun than I am."

  • "I deny my child emotional bonding when I am home so that our time away is easier on her." 

Children raised by an Absentee parent often grow up too fast, become sexually promiscuous, have low self-worth, and demand inordinate attention from others.

But There's Hope ... The Spiritually Healthy Parent

In contrast to the six dysfunctional parenting styles stands the offer of hope from God that we may live in relationship with Him, pursuing His kingdom while living on His script. While far from perfect, the Spiritually Healthy parent is a parent who walks each day, step by step, with God as his or her guide.

Becoming a spiritually healthy family means you will allow God to call the shots for you and your family members and that you look to Him to give you wisdom instead of relying on your own strength and "great ideas." Because you realize you are a work in progress yourself, you offer your children grace when needed, while helping them see the correct path that God desires all His children to follow.

You recite the following things each day, because, deep down you know them to be true:

• "I recognize that my child has been entrusted to me by God and that I need His guidance to raise her."

• "I know I live in a sinful world, but I will seek to put God's character on display in my home in everyday situations."

• "I know there is a higher calling as a parent than controlling my child's behavior—and that is forming his faith."

• "I seek to grow spiritually myself, knowing that the overflow of this will have a positive impact on my child."


Children raised by the Spiritually Healthy parent often grow up knowing God, loving others, living a life of meaning and recognizing that this world is not their ultimate home.

Go deeper and explore the practical remedies for each of these parenting styles in the book Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family: Avoiding the 6 Dysfuctional Parenting Styles by Michelle AnthonyDr. Michelle Anthony is the vice president of Learning Resources at David C Cook and the author of Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family and Spiritual Parenting. Anthony has graduate degrees in Christian education, theology and leadership and more than 25 years of church ministry experience as a children's and family pastor. Visit michelleanthony.org

©2015 David C Cook, used with permission

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