Are You Guilty of these Negative Parenting Traits?

A few years ago, before autism diagnoses and home education and understanding our family dynamic better, my husband and I started following the advice in a book called 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child. The title gives the game away and pretty much sums up what you can expect. Follow the ten day programme by the author – who happens to be a leading child and family psychotherapist – and within ten days you will have a less defiant child on your hands. Day One is all about taking a step back and recognising your own negative parenting traits. 

Reading about the detrimental long term effects these behaviours can have on children was sobering to say the least. Every single parent on the planet is guilty of at least a few of them, and at the time we were doing almost all of them. Fast forward to now, in the age of fake news and echo chambers, and not being able to have a conflicting conversation (or so it seems), I think us parents owe it to our children to own up when we’re in the wrong. Telling ourselves that it’s okay to do something, because “everyone else does it” will only come back to bite us on the bum. Of that I am absolutely convinced. Which is why I’m re-sharing this old piece. Really hope it comes in handy for your family.  

10 days to a less defiant child


We all know it’s not great to shout at our kids, but I’ve had cycles where voices were being raised on an hourly (let alone daily!) basis. It’s been upsetting for all concerned, including myself. Reading this, in the book, was a real wake up call.

“When you yell at your kids you are showing poor impulse control delivered through a temper tantrum.”

Honestly and truthfully, I had never looked at it like that before! The next part made made tears spring to my eyes.

“I encourage you to realise, as I did, that we are bullying our children when we yell at them.”

Due to being bullied as a child myself, I absolutely despise the word and was horrified to think of myself as one. I am not claiming to be perfect, goodness knows we have had our rough patches, but I am definitely not a shouty mum anymore. 


There’s an incredible line in the film Wonder: “if you have the chance to be right or kind, be kind.” Nagging at children just means they completely tune out to everything that is said. I’ve learnt over the years that it’s sometimes best to just walk away and keep my mouth shut.

self-love know yourself

Bringing up past conflicts

Starting the day with a fresh slate is absolutely essential in my house. There is absolutely no room for holding on to resentment from previous days and weeks. 

Toxic thoughts

Most kids are not evil geniuses plotting and planning on how to make their folks miserable, but it can definitely feel that way when you’re in the midst of dealing with severely challenging behaviour from them. My mind has had a habit of running away with me at times, and blaming others. Which gets me absolutely nowhere. A large part of my book Become the Best You talks about how detrimental toxic relationships are, and toxic thoughts are just as bad. Except we are in full control of stopping them.  


I’m pleased to say that I haven’t ever criticized my kids. Mainly because I saw it a lot in my childhood, and know it can lead to low self-esteem as time goes on. 

Guilt tripping

I’m working on this one, but I’ll admit, it’s tough for me. When 5yo does something to her brother or sister, then shows absolutely no remorse at all, my natural instinct is to try and make her feel bad about it. I know logically that it’s fools errand though, and an apology without sincerity is not worth having. Again I’m learning to just keep my mouth shut and walk away in these situations, but it does not come easy to me.

Being sarcastic

I’d recently started doing this too, but as with holding on to past conflicts it was a fairly new habit and an easy one to put a stop to. Now I know that we are a neuro-diverse family, and none of my children particularly understand sarcasm, I just don’t go there.  

negative parenting traits


I guess this is a combination of guilt tripping and nagging. The more I lecture, the less she listens, so what’s the point? 


We were in a terrible mess with this one, threatening to take things away on a daily basis. The main problem with our defiant little girl is that she is constantly testing the boundaries and seeing if we will follow through with our threats. Then when she’d pushed it too far and had the thing taken away all hell would break loose. We had to stop the threats, but also stop the on the spot punishments too. They were doing no one any good, and it’s another thing that I’m proud to say we have been mostly successful with. 

Not listening to your child 

I don’t think this was ever done intentionally, but in the book he talks about the importance of properly listening to your kids. Letting them get their point across, even if you think you have something to say that you feel is more important. This is a tricky one, because in the heat of the moment sometimes the last thing we want to do is listen to what they have to say. 

stop feeling meh

Denying your child’s feelings

This is another tricky one, because my girl can dish it out but can’t take it at all. When the toddler fights back 5yo will come crying for sympathy, the last thing I feel like giving her considering she’s been goading her sister for two hours previously. As difficult as it has been at points, I’ve had to just ignore what happened beforehand and give her the comfort she needs. 

To summarise… 

We put so much emphasis on what the kids are doing, but by focusing our efforts on eradicating negative parenting traits behaviour, over time it trickles down. This is the long game, but it’s so very worth it.

You might also enjoy articles on similar subjects: 

10 Days to a Less Defiant Child Part One | Part Two

On Autism and Hard Work Finally Paying Off

Am I Being Judged, or am I Judging Myself?

Home Education Almost Broke Me, but I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way 

How We Helped Our Autistic Daughter Sleep Through the Night After 8 Long Years of Severe Sleep Deprivation 

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66 thoughts on “Are You Guilty of these Negative Parenting Traits?

  1. That was a very interesting read – and I’ve had to think about many of these things since my youngest was diagnosed with autism. I’m just wondering if you did a follow up post on how this style of parenting has worked for you in the months since?

  2. A little typo or autocorrect accident in the second sentence: I meant to write “parenting”…

  3. Great post! It seems there is a little revolution going against authoritarian, but basically negative parent. Here in Denmark, where we live, it has been introduced by Danish family psychotherapist Fie Hørby in her controversial book “Drop opdragelsen” (“Stop raising your child”, in other words: Stop trying so hard, relax and respect your child more). It is very encouraging to see this trend in other countries too, but then again: It is backed by international research.

    BTW: This approach is even more important for children with autism, who get easily stressed after which their brains shut down. And all of our three kids have an ASD diagnosis.

  4. I started to read this book too but I’m way to lazy to have finished and found that my son just growing up a bit has helped. But I love that you’ve highlighted some of the main points here because as I said, I’m lazy and this is a perfect little reminder for when I am about to go loco! 😀

  5. I think holding our tongues can be the most difficult thing to do, but over time is probably going to make us much better parents xx

  6. Well done with the not shouting, it’s so hard at first isn’t it! Thankfully for us, one month in, not shouting has become our new norm. Even a slightly raised grumpy voice the other day was met with “mummy you’re shouting and upsetting me” – made me realise how far we’ve come from Xmas Eve… Although we still have lots of work to do! Good luck with the nagging!

  7. Parenting is such a minefield. We are human too and have tolerances.
    These are excellent things to focus on though and I know I’m guilty of some of them. I’ve been trying to hold my tongue a lot more with both the children and the Better Half.
    Hoep it’s all going well x

  8. Well done for making these changes. The book sounds like a really interesting read. I’m definitely guilty of shouting and nagging. I’ve cut back on the shouting a lot lately, I hated doing it, but didn’t know how to stop. Now I work at home I’m happier in myself and that seems to have stopped me shouting. I still nag though! I really ought to try to stop.

  9. Don’t apologise lovely, you’ve not been well! I think most of us could probably tick half the list off, because we’re only human after all. It’s good to be aware of it all to make sure it doesn’t lead to trouble in the future xx

  10. Thanks so much for your kind words Eline. I had a really dysfunctional upbringing and have worked hard to break so many negative cycles. Parenting is so hard though, because we aren’t perfect and it’s easy to fall into bad habits. I hope that by being aware of our own failings, we’ll get things back on track fairly quickly. Very best of luck to you!

  11. I really love this post and what you are doing for your kids. It is not at all easy, I know. I come from a very authoritarian home where all of the above were par for the course. Now I have my own child I am trying very hard to break these awful patterns. I’m definitely guilty of raising my voice, nagging and harbouring resentment! I really believe we have a duty to our kids to examine our own behaviour though, and so I can’t commend you enough for trying. Hope it all works out for you.

  12. Ah, the shouting. That’s my worst habit, although nagging and guilt tripping probably come a close second, but are very closely linked to the cause/effect of the shouting, I think. Another very honest and wise post, thank you very much for sharing with #ThePrompt and so sorry that it’s taken me so long to comment this week xx

  13. Don’t be too hard on yourself lovely, defiant children are so challenging and it’s no wonder we get ourselves into bad habits. Being aware of them though and doing everything we can to break away from them is the best we can do! Really hope you make some headway with your daughter soon…

  14. Thanks so much for your kind thoughtful comment Sophie! No drama discipline sounds fab, I’ll definitely look into it. You’re probably one step ahead of the game with Arthur at the mo, as you’re so aware of everything you don’t want to be and do, and are great at sticking to your beliefs xxx

  15. Thanks so much for popping by Kelly! The book is definitely worth a read, we downloaded the kindle version to start right away but also bought it in paperback so we can use it to reference whenever we need to as easily as possible. Best of luck!

  16. Thanks so much Carol! It’s not been easy but it’s been worth it, and will continue to be worth it for (hopefully) long term family harmony… just need to keep it up now 🙂

  17. We all strive to be the best parents we can, whatever ‘best’ means relatively in each of our own worlds. To look at how our own behaviour has maybe spiralled a little too far out of control must be very hard but well done to you and your hubby for taking it upon yourselves to do this. I hope you reach the summit in time Renee. #ThePrompt

  18. Thanks so much Sarah for your lovely comment, I really hope to be able to help others through this experience. Life with smakk kids can be a huge challenge, but steering things in a different direction when the going gets rough will hopefully get things back on track. Best of luck, and don’t be too hard on yourself xx

  19. Thank you for being so honest Renee. I can see many parent child relationships benefiting from being so open. I love the whole vibe of your blog because in the end we are all still learning and trying to do our best for our children with the best of intentions. I sadly can relate to too many of those negative behaviours. Time to switch the focus off the kids and on my own behaviour for a change.

  20. Thank you for sharing this post, after reading through I can relate to pretty much all of the behaviours and I am actually really sad to say that. I will certainly take a step back and have a think of my own behaviour before judging my childs. Once I have finished the current list of books I had in my kindle I will definitely start this one. #pocolo

  21. I think what you’re doing is so brave – admitting that maybe your approach isn’t working and going something about that rather than getting stuck in a negative cycle. Arthur is still too little to really show any challenging behaviour, but there have been flashes of it and I’m so determined to be able to move forward in the way you describe rather than getting trapped by shouting and punishments. I read an article recently which really brought home to me the damaging impact of such an approach, and it led me to the book ‘No Drama Discipline’ which I’m trying to digest at the moment. I really hope things start improving for you and your family soon – it sounds like you’re doing all the right things to make that happen xxx

  22. This is a great post, and really helpful for me, being the mom of a rather defiant child 🙂 I definitely am guilty of quite a few of those on your list, most egregiously, the yelling. I know it logically – how can I expect my daughter (almost 7) to use a respectful loving voice if I can’t use it myself? How can I expect her to want to do her best to please me if I’m harboring ill thoughts about her personality and past offenses (toxic thinking)? So much to think about here, I agree that parenting a challenging child starts with taking a good close look at your own behaviors. Sigh. Never easy, but so important.

  23. Thanks so much honey, glad you and Ross see results by being aware of these things. Makes such a positive difference xx

  24. Oh dear, sounds really tough, especially when you have other kids that are being exposed to that behaviour. Really hope things improve for your little one soon… keep calm 😉

  25. Thanks Tracey, you’re so right – we are only human and we all mess up and make mistakes. Taking responsibility for those mistakes is a must when raising kids, but can be difficult in the midst of challenging behaviour. We’re trying though, and definitely making progress from where we were at Xmas 🙂

  26. Thanks so much hon! Franki’s advice was great – praising the positive and trying to ignore the negative is definitely the way forward. It’s dealing with things in the midst of a meltdown that’s tricky. We’re doing well on the not shouting front for the most part, which is a huge improvement. Love and kindness are the order of the day xxx

  27. It’s a book well worth reading lovely, the author provides useful suggestions all the way through. It’s an eye opener if nothing else, and makes you think twice before doing things xx

  28. Sounds Lucas is a very lovely boy hon! , I agree that some families just shout as standard and it’s not in a horrible way, which is absolutely fine. For us though it was making everyone miserable 🙁 it’s nice to have turned down the volume, although 5yo is still learning and still shouts more than me and hubby put together xx

  29. Don’t look at it as failure Nikki, look at it as empowering that you’re aware of your less than perfect traits and you want to improve your situation. We’re all guilty of losing our rag, especially in the middle of the most stressful time of day *before school* arrrggghhhh I despise those thirty minutes when the clock is ticking and 5yo is dragging her feet and doing everything in slow motion! The good thing about being mindful about not shouting is once you get into the habit it starts becoming second nature…

  30. I’ve heard of that talking book, and have been meaning to buy it *goes off to Amazon* thanks for the reminder xx

  31. And that my dear sums it all up just perfectly! I’m sure you’re right and that as long as we have lots and lots of love on offer all the time everything will come good in the end xx

  32. I think we’re all guilty of some or most of these lovely! The book is definitely worth a read though 🙂

  33. It can be really hard to just let it go sometimes can’t it, and we know we’re not helping at the time and need to snap out of it but it’s just so difficult in the heat of the moment. The problem with these books is that it all sounds wonderful on paper, but in the middle of a meltdown perspective is often lost xx

  34. Thank you so much for your lovely comment hon, it’s great to get the perspective of an expert on this. Two years ago we read a book called ‘How to Calm a Challenging Child’ which focuses on praising the positive and ignoring the negative, so we’ve been aware of it since then but it’s difficult in reality when you have more than one child and the challenging one is being violent. What would you suggest in that instance? I’m happy to ignore little things, but I can’t stand back and watch her hurt her brother or sister… keeping calm in the midst of that has been the biggest focus for us, and we’re doing well overall. We’ve come a long way since Xmas! xx

  35. Best of luck my lovely, as with all these types of things being aware will hopefully put you ahead of the game. Shouting is probably the one that most of us are guilty of, because in the sleep deprived haze that becomes our life, tempers are easy to lose in the heat of the moment…

  36. A really honest post – and it is great to share things like this to help others analyse their behaviour too. Ross and I already talk regularly about many of the things on this list so it helps to know we are doing the right thing. Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo x

  37. Thanks for sharing so honestly what so many parents struggle with. The fact that you’re trying to do something about it shows how much you care and the difference you want to make in their lives. I hope things continue smoothly for you xx

  38. Good post. 🙂
    We are currently struggling quite a lot with our 4 year old as she has taken to shouting, being quite rude with her words and the way she speaks to us, constantly hitting and pushing us etc.
    She doesn’t have any “rude words” as in bad words, it’s the tone that is the problem and the yelling using that tone, stomping off and slamming a door…..sigh…
    At times it’s hard to kee p cool! lol

  39. What a great post, and what a great list of things that really make you sit up and ask yourself “do we do that…omg, we do do that!” It’s a long list and sometimes, some days when we haven’t had enough sleep or things are just going wrong it’s easy to slip into one or more of these “bad habits”. I applaud you for looking at your family and focusing on making a change, because many don’t so that in itself is a real positive for 2015. But do remember that just because you’re a mummy doesn’t mean you’re not human, and all humans make mistakes – we just have to be big enough to apologise for them.
    Thnx for sharing

  40. Oh hun sorry you are going through this, remember you mentioning this and the book-you are wise and have made progress already so keep going. Was really interested to read Franki’s advice too with her expertise. Important reminder to focus on the positive where possible. I think we must remember to be kind to ourselves too, to realise we are human, make mistakes, can say sorry and that we are just trying our best. I agree with F and always apologise after if I shout and try to explain why I did. I do need to not shout as much though! Kids need and thrive on boundaries and tonnes of love and things will get easier. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts x

  41. I recognise a fair few of these behaviours. I do try my very best to reward them for good behaviour rather than punish the bad, especially as I can see how well they respond to this. But sometimes, especially when sleep-deprived, it’s so hard to remain calm! Also – nagging… my 5yo could happily play with lego all day and I have no idea how I’d get him to school without nagging him to get dressed! Does the author provide alternative suggestions? Interesting post and it sounds like you’re doing really well xx

  42. Interesting post. Good Luck and hope it starts working lovely. With regards to the shouting. We are shouters in our family; sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference in emotion as we shout quite a bit. I don’t think it’s harmed Lucas at all; he’s well behaved, excellent behaviour in school and knows the boundaries. I think it’s different for everyone but am looking forward to seeing how this progresses xx #pocolo

  43. I also had tears in my eyes about the shouting. I am so guilty of losing my rag, although I am trying hard. This morning I failed, but it was after I had warned my son that he was pushing the limits and that I am trying my hardest not to shout. Then he followed up by answering back and being rude, so I lost it argh!!

    If I read this book I would feel like a failure on every level and start worrying that I had psychologically damaged my kids for good. Does this guy have kids of his own? He must be a saint on earth!

  44. Reading your post sounds very familiar to me! I have been reading “how to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk” and “toddler taming” both of which have a very similar method to your book. I have found them really useful and they make a lot of sense, but I have found it easy to slip back into old habits so I make sure I take time out to reassess the situation and refer back to the books for tips 🙂 x

  45. These posts have been enlightening for me. I definitely have shouty days and it’s awful to think that you are bullying, but when patience eludes you it happens. I think it is right for us to reflect and modify our behaviour, but we all get it wrong sometimes and as long as there is a lot of love around it will work out in the end Zx #pocolo

  46. Love it, determined little souls, such a nice way of describing them 🙂 It’s certainly worth taking a huge step back and assessing our own behaviour when things get bad. The book is well worth having on the bookshelf – I have a feeling I’ll be using it as a reference point a lot over the coming years xx

  47. Ooh I’m guilty of the sarcasm and not listening properly to what my daughter is saying! I tend to zone out when she chats on and then agree or nod at the wrong moments!
    The book sounds interesting. Will have to give it a read.

  48. Really interesting post lovely. I’m sire all of us are guilty of some of these, at least occasionally, but I guess as long as we and be aware of how bad it is and try and limit it then we are on the right track. These things creep up on you very easily though don’t they? When you suddenly realise you’re doing something and you don’t know how it started. Monkey made me so cross the other day that even after he apologised I couldn’t let it go and was just holding on to resentment for ages afterwards, which didn’t help anyone! Fab post xx

  49. I’ve really really noticed how my behaviour impacts Aaron so I recognise each and every one of these points. Thankfully I have been working on it for a while now, and catch myself quickly when I go down the road of starting one of them. It’s transformational as when our behaviour gets better, so too does theirs.
    Liska xx

  50. I work with children with various behavioural problems and it’s all about the positive and ignoring the negative (simplified version) and therefore that’s always been how I’ve parented as I was an Applied Behaviour Analysis tutor before I was a mum. However, there are days when I’m sleep deprived and Luca is being particularly testing and I lose my temper and shout. I do tend to apologise though afterwards and explain to him why I got angry.
    My other half though is guilty of a lot of those things, in particular shouting and lecturing! I’m slowly trying to break his habits, maybe this book might back up what I’ve been trying to tell him, after all he’s more likely to listen to someone other than me. He’s very stubborn.

    Love how honest this post is though, you should be proud of the changes you’ve already made! Xx

  51. Agree with Mel that it sounds like a very helpful book – and of course I am guilty of many of those too. It is so easy to get caught up in negative parenting habits without really thinking about the way they affect our children. I get annoyed with Jessica shouting when she is angry and then realise that she is only doing exactly what I do and how can I expect her to stop if I am not able to do so myself? Definitely one that we are working along along with eliminating the toxic thoughts. Thank you for sharing and hope that things are improving for you.

  52. It really sound like a book worth reading. I am guilty of quite a few of the above, and my girls are determined little souls (to water it down). I will be pinning your post and will probably have to buy the book in the next couple of years. xx

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