My personal motto in regards to parenting has always been, “There is no right or wrong way to parent.” This, however, is in regards to things that are personal preference. Things like breast or bottle feeding, cloth or disposable diapers, spanking or not, and co-sleeping and crib-sleeping. In this sense, there is no right or wrong in parenting. As a parent though, there are times were you see something so inconceivably wrong you have to shake your head, and say, “That is just really bad parenting.” I asked parents I knew to relay to me the most epic parenting fails they had ever witnessed. Some replies didn’t surprise me. Parents leaving young kids unattended, dressing them inappropriately for the weather, feeding or otherwise caring for them badly simply due to lack of parenting knowledge, happenings that were in fact wrong, but were nothing compared to a few of the answers I got. The content I was gathering for this article took a dark turn– enough so I debated not even penning it-but the fact is things like this really do happen, not talking or writing about the isn’t going to make them go away. It isn’t going to help those kids get parents that care.
My own top seriously-those-parents-need-lit-on-fire moment occurred when I still worked as a fast food manager. I was working drive-thru. It was winter, and not oh-a-little-snow winter. I was wearing gloves and my hands were still changing colors, the moisture on my arms would freeze and form ice on the hair if I left the window open to long. It was cold, cold. A car pulled up and rolled down the window. The driver seemed intoxicated, and the bottles around the car supported this, as well as the fact that he actually took a swig off a bottle right in front of me. He wasn’t just drinking and driving though, in the passenger seat there was a naked toddler, likely around 1 or 2. There wasn’t even a car seat in the car for her to have crawled out of. She was dirty, and shaking. I told him he was going to have to come inside, and he was going to have to bring his daughter with him. He did, and I gave him free food to distract him until the cops arrived.
Stories from other parents:
“A woman I know tied a pacifier to her baby’s face. You know the two holes on either side of some pacifiers? She laced a shoestring through them, and tied it around his head to keep it in his mouth. When I told her it was DANGEROUS, she got all whiny and told me, “But he wakes up every time he spits it out” The same mom added too much formula to her baby’s bottle. I asked why she did it. She said, “it’s extra nutritious that way.”-Samantha, Sterling, AK
“A parent was at least half hour late picking up his 5 year-old daughter from my school’s After School Care program. She was panicked and upset enough as it was. He looked at her and said, “Well, Katy, did you think we forgot you? Well, we DID! I forgot, Mom forgot, and the babysitters forgot to come get you!” The child already had low self-esteem without that comment.” – Andrea, Rochester, NY
“As a mental health worker, we had a 6 year-old girl who had been admitted for behavior problems. She was kind of a regular there, though her issues were far more her parents’ than her own. When doc was ready to discharge her, he called the parents to come pick her up. They declined because they were getting ready to go on vacation, and didn’t have room in the vehicle for her.”-Anonymous
“I saw some of the WORST parenting when I worked as a lifeguard at an indoor water park. There were a lot of parents who left their very young children alone at the pool while they ran errands. One time, I had to jump in to rescue a four-year-old girl. When I asked her where her parents were, she said that her mom was out buying groceries.”- Stephanie, St. Paul, Minnesota
“I began seeing a 15 year-old girl for depression. She also had episodes of cutting herself when upset. Her father, while drunk, decided to “teach her a lesson” so he poured salt in the cuts on her arm.”-Anonymous
“I’ve seen a lot of things– parents leaving children alone in the car, saying, “I’m just going to run in to the store for a minute.” I watched a 4-year-old ride his training wheeled bike to the store; he was riding in the gutter alone the roadway. Another parent took their child that had pink eye in both eyes to McDonald’s playland. I saw a couple fighting in front of the kids about who was is getting which child in the divorce. One said, ‘I never wanted him; you take him!’”- Steven, Soldotna, Alaska
“One time there was a little boy of around 2 years old, who was telling his mum and dad he needed to use the bathroom. He was met with, ‘In a minute, I’m doing something.’ Of course, a small child cannot hold it in, and he went for a number 2 right in the middle of the shop. His parents then yelled at him for his bad behavior! The boy was in tears because he was dirty and didn’t understand what he did wrong. –Anonymous
Stories like these can make us question whether or not everyone should be allowed have kids. They can make us angry and sad, but what they should make us do is act. Children can’t stand up for themselves.
What’s the worst parenting fail you’ve ever seen? What did you do about it?
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Preventing Child Abuse: What Can You Do?
Beating Stress as a Parent
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