How to Be an Evil Parent

At a recent presentation by psychologist and primary care physician, Dr. Leonard Sax, Sax reminded parents that nothing has changed. That is, Sax said their job in parenting is no different than it was 20 yrs ago, before the internet, cellphones, and status updates. While technology has impacted society, the role of families and parents is still to provide a loving, caring, and nurturing home that guides a child towards adulthood.


Dr. Sax carefully reinforced the authority of parents, which he suggested was something parents have been giving up or losing for the last 20 years. In my work with families I believe this trend is two-fold: there are a lot more fears that parents internalize, and families are simply busier. There are many parents that feel restrictions in setting limits or disciplining their child due to fears that their actions will be discussed and may trigger an adult to file a report with child protective services. It has also been my experience that parents choose not to be strict to avoid alienating their children, or causing harm to the parent child relationship. Perhaps many parents grew up in households where their parent was strict or overbearing with rules and expectations, and now as parents they are trying to over correct for this experience.


Living in the 21st century, in a global economy, and in a sophisticated tech culture, technology has made many things easier, but it has also allowed us to cram a lot more things into a given day at work, school, or home. All the benefits of technology has not led to more leisure and free time to relax in a blissful state of efficiency and productivity. The expectations and fears of students have also increased with greater emphasis on standardized test scores, the need to appeal to admissions committees with one’s wide range of extracurricular activities, not to mention the grooming of athletic champions who will merit impressive scholarships.


The family is also more busy these days than in previous generations. Very rarely does an adult have the luxury of a strict 9-5 schedule. The amount of time parents spend working, commuting for pick up, drop off,  and the amount of awake time that a family spends together in its home is shrinking. Given the time constraints, it is quite easy for parents to be cavalier with limitations, discipline, or being involved in the lives of their children. It’s easier to not rock the boat, and have a positive, calm brief interval of family time. In these cases, we see more  parents collaborating with their children or relating to their children as an equal or friend vs. a parent who’s the head of the household.


If parents leave their teen or child to parent themselves or to self regulate how to manage their time, make healthy choices, etc., it is my belief that their children are simply not in the position to make good informed decisions. The consequences of actions will not be immediately apparent to the young person, and also the consistency of behaviors is not a realistic expectation of a young person. Parents have the wisdom of experience and maturity to know what is right and wrong, or know what is better or best for their child. While children may be one Google search away from having all the information and answers, this does not mean they will always inquire about what the right or best solution maybe to a given problem or dilemma.


For instance if someone is tired every morning, it would be logical for that person to sleep more; typically this would mean going to bed earlier. Most children realize being tired is not fun, but they would also rather stay up to watch TV, play video games, read, be on their computer or their phone. It is not realistic for children of any age to be self motivated enough to determine to turn off everything and go to bed earlier so they can obtain optimal hours of sleep, in order to function in an excellent way. A child would not likely say to their friends, “Sorry I couldn’t talk last night, I made a conscious choice to go to bed earlier.” It is more reasonable for a child to tell their friend, “My parents are EVIL, and made me go to bed early.” The child’s friends would simply accept and understand that an adult can be evil, end of story vs. a child who explains their desire to improve their sleep habits would be ridiculed or pressured to stay up.


Being an Evil Parent does not mean you can’t have a positive relationship with your children, but what it does mean is that you accept the responsibilities and some temporary backlash of being a conscientious and loving parent who is able to establish limits, and able to hold the line they draw.


  • Be a Parent, Not a BFF– a parent’s love is unconditional and constant. A friend is prone to fizzle in love and loyalty, and likely to disappoint.
  • Maintain and Provide Structure– minors of all ages, and even young adults function better when clear expectation and structure is in place
  • Stick to Your Guns-if your wisdom, experience, gut or parental intuition is telling you it’s a bad idea, it won’t hurt to say “No.”



 Parents feel free to share other ways one can be an Evil Parent or concerns that prevent you from being truly Evil


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