Are You a Hypocritical Parent?

How to Avoid Being a Hypocritical Parent

You are your child’s first teacher.  You teach them to talk and walk, what to eat, how to read and how to bully other children.  Wait, what?  Children will do what they are taught and the most powerful parenting doesn’t come through a parent’s words, it comes through the behaviors of the parent. Children observe how the adults around them behave and they take on and repeat those behaviors, even when they have been instructed NOT to.  Lead by example.  If you don’t want them to hit, don’t hit.  If you don’t want them to curse, don’t curse.   If you don’t want them to quit, don’t quit.  If you want them to be kind to others, be kind to others. Teach them to rise above adversity, animosity and to have a positive outlook when things are bleak.  Don’t be a hypocrite.  So, are you a hypocritical parent?

1.  Arguing/fighting:  If parents argue and fight with each other, with others and/or with their children this is the exact behavior the children will repeat back to the parent and/or others. If handling conflict in this way is the norm for the parent and is justified to the child as ‘ok’ because they are the adult the message being sent is “the parent can have the tantrum the child has to be the adult.” When a child is being attacked in any way, it immediately puts them on the defensive. Emotions are contagious so the child will take on the energy of the parent to defend themselves, and then get in trouble for it. If a parent does not want their children to fight and argue then the parent cannot show them this method of behavior as a viable option by using it themselves.   They must demonstrate how to solve their problem without fighting about it.

2.  Appearance: All parents, male and female, have a responsibility to dress like adults and model adult behavior, responsibility, elegance and dignity if these are qualities they want to see in their children. If parents, especially women, are over-sexualized they cannot expect their children to do, be or think any differently about themselves.  Likewise, boys should dress with pride.  If they want to be perceived as a slob, then dressing like a slob is okay.  Perception is reality.  Have confidence in your appearance.

3.  Partying:  When the teens are getting grounded for drinking or smoking this becomes confusing when they witness these same behaviors in their parents. If parents are partiers the children will see drugs and/or alcohol as feasible options for coping with stress and/or for having fun.

4.  Procrastination/laziness: Being a parent includes being a working part of the family when it comes to household duties, chores, and other upkeep issues. If parents are lazy on their time off and are not being a participating member in the household, children will model this laziness and rebel in having to be responsible in and around the house as well.  Parents must demonstrate there is time to rest/play when work (household chores) are done.

5.  Breaking commitments:  Most parents expect their kids to follow through on their commitments, and yet many parents back out on commitments made to children. When parents don’t keep promises to show up and take part in a child’s life, this teaches children they are not worthy.  This lack of commitment can also be demotivating for children it could also elicit rebellion in important areas such as school, sports, chores, and friendships.

6.  Values: When children get the message from their parents “You can be whatever you want to be as long as we agree with it,” this mixed-message interferes with the child’s desires for personal growth. Parents who encourage independence and self-expression need to do that without, then, preferring their child’s preferences to be the same as  theirs—from political beliefs, extra-curricular interests, religious beliefs, sexual preferences, passions, or big picture view-points. Parents are to be guideposts on these real-life matters, but they need to trust that experience is the greatest teacher.

Many parents believe that certain behaviors are exclusive to them because they are the adult.  Think about how your actions influence your children and remember that children do what parents do not what parents say.  I’ve seen an amazing amount of anger and resentment occur in children when they are corrected or get in trouble for doing the things the parents are doing, or act the way the parents act.  So, my advice is: Let your children inspire you to be person you want them to be.  It’s not too late, you can change, learn and grow together!

Sherrie Campbell, PhD is a veteran, licensed Psychologist with two decades of clinical training and experience providing counseling and psychotherapy services to residents of Yorba Linda, Irvine, Anaheim, Fullerton and Brea, California.  In her private practice, she currently specializes in psychotherapy with adults and teenagers, including marriage and family therapy, grief counselling, childhood trauma, sexual issues, personality disorders, illness and more. She has helped individuals manage their highest high and survive their lowest low—from winning the lottery to the death of a child.  Her interactive sessions are as unique and impactful as her new book, Loving Yourself : The Mastery of Being Your Own Person. She earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 2003 and has regularly contributes to numerous publications, including,, and  She is also an inspirational speaker, avid writer and proud mother.  She can be reached at Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person is available on and other fine booksellers. 



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