21 Of The Best Songs About Bad Parents Or Parenting

Written by Dan Farrant

Parenting, with all its challenges and rewards, has been a recurring theme in music for many years. From rock to pop to country, artists have used their songs to express personal experiences, stories, and emotions related to their upbringing.

Some of these songs reflect the joy and love that comes with parenting. Others delve into the darker side, exploring themes of neglect, abuse, or simply bad parenting.

In this post, we’ve selected 21 of the best songs about bad parents or parenting. If you’re ready for an emotional sonic journey, read on!

1. “Piece By Piece” By Kelly Clarkson

One of the most heartbreaking moments a child might experience in life is when a parent leaves them. Kelly Clarkson expresses this perfectly in her song “Piece by Piece.” The track was released in 2015 from the album of the same name.

The opening lines describe a father who abandons his family. The narrator, as a young child, only remembers his back, “walking towards the airport, leaving [her] all in [his] past.” This leaves a profound impact on her.

However, the song also contrasts this with the love and commitment shown by another man, who steps in to fill the void left by the absent father.

Despite its somber themes, “Piece by Piece” ultimately delivers a message of hope and resilience. It serves as a reminder that while parents can leave lasting scars, it’s also possible to heal and build a better future.

2. “Family Portrait” By Pink

Seeing firsthand the violent arguments between parents is not something a child would like to experience. Yet this is the portrait depicted in Pink’s “Family Portrait.” From the album Missundaztood (2001), the song is a personal track that reveals the singer’s family dysfunction.

Pink experienced her parents’ divorce when she was nine. Through this song, she explores their problems from her perspective as a child. The lyrics detail the pain and confusion she felt and her desire for her family to be happy and together again.

In the music video, Pink portrays a young girl who is deeply affected by her parents’ divorce. This visual representation further emphasizes the emotional depth and personal nature of the song.

3. “Stay Together For The Kids” By Blink 182

The rock band Blink-182 pours their hearts into the powerful track “Stay Together for the Kids.” It encapsulates the pain and confusion children feel when their parents’ relationship falls apart.

Its lyrics describe a broken home. The lines “It’s hard to wake up / when the shades have been pulled shut / This house is haunted, it’s so pathetic” illuminate the dark reality of living in a home filled with tension and unhappiness.

The song is an emotional plea for parents to consider the psychological impact their actions can have on their children. It reminds us that decisions made in the heat of the moment can leave lasting scars on young minds.

4. “The Little Girl” By John Michael Montgomery Ft. Alison Krauss And Dan Tyminski

In a touching collaboration, John Michael Montgomery teamed up with Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski to create a song that tugs at the heartstrings. The track, “The Little Girl,” is about troubled parenting and its effects on children.

The song does not mention bad parents or parenting but the thought is still there. It is about a young girl who grows up in an unstable home. Her parents are either constantly arguing or drinking and doing drugs.

The striking lines “The drinking and the fighting / just got worse every night / Behind their couch she’d be hiding” reflect the harsh reality many children face when their parents fail to provide a loving and nurturing environment.

However, the song also carries a message of hope. Despite her tough upbringing, the little girl finds solace and guidance in a newfound faith. This transformation underscores children’s resilience and their ability to rise above adversity.

5. “Mother” By Pink Floyd

Parents can be protective of their children for good reason. However, being overprotective can be harmful. Pink Floyd sings of this in their song “Mother.” This track takes us on an emotional journey through the eyes of a child whose mother is overly protective.

The mother’s love is so intense that it inadvertently becomes a barrier. It prevents the child from experiencing life and learning from mistakes.

One of the song’s lines, “Mother’s gonna make all your nightmares come true,” encapsulates the essence of the narrative. Through this song, Pink Floyd reminds us that overprotection can often lead to fear and inhibition, curtailing a child’s ability to navigate the world confidently.

6. “Father Of Mine” By Everclear

An absent parent can be confusing to a child’s mind. Everclear expresses this in “Father of Mine,” from their 1997 album So Much for the Afterglow.

The song’s lyrics paint a vivid picture of a young boy abandoned by his father. With it are feelings of confusion, anger, and longing that come with such a loss.

“Father of mine / tell me how do you sleep / with the children you abandoned / and the wife I saw you beat,” echoes the child’s questions and pain of being abandoned.

While the song specifically deals with a father’s absence, the same emotions can also apply to an absent mother. Regardless of gender, the void left by an absent parent can have a profound effect on a child’s development.

7. “Like A River” By Joyner Lucas Ft. Elijah James

Our next song might not have “bad parenting” in the lyrics. However, “Like a River” by Joyner Lucas certainly describes the experience from a child’s point of view.

Featuring Elijah James, the song explores the consequences of parental neglect. It conveys the deep scars left on the psyche of the narrator (when he was a child). It uses the metaphor of a river flowing to represent his parents’ presence in his life, never truly being there for him.

However, there’s hope in this song. In the end, the narrator is now an adult with a son, and he vows to never abandon his child the way his father did.

8. “Because Of You” By Kelly Clarkson

Though Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You” is more about resilience, it’s the reason for that resilience that has made it a perfect song on this list.

Its lyrics are all about how a child, now grown up, struggled to navigate her life because of the emotional baggage inherited from her parents. One line shows the profound effect her unstable childhood had on her: “Because of you, I am afraid.”

On a personal note, “Because of You” takes us back to Clarkson’s childhood. It was written when she was just 16 years old and coping with her parents’ divorce.

9. “Biological Didn’t Bother (G-Funk Version)” By Shaquille O’Neal

In 1994, NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal presented to us “Biological Didn’t Bother (G-Funk Version).” It is about a boy who grows up without his biological father.

The song begins by describing how the boy’s father left him when he was just a few months old. He describes the man as someone who messes “around with those drugs” and makes his mom angry.

“Biological Didn’t Bother” is not without a sad end, however, because the boy finds a father figure in his stepdad. For him, his stepdad is his real father since he’s the one who took him “from a boy to a man.”

10. “Papa’z Song” By 2Pac Ft. Wycked

From his 1993 album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z…, 2Pac tells us a painful story of growing up without a father. The lyrics to “Papa’z Song” are told from the perspective of the narrator when he was younger.

He expresses his resentment, stating he “had to play catch by [him]self” because his pop “couldn’t stand up to his own responsibilities.”

His mother isn’t any better. He hardly sees her because she is either working or entertaining men. To top it off, she “ignores [him] and avoids [him] like cancer” because he looks like his father.

At the end of the song, the father apologizes and tries to explain why he left, but for the narrator, it’s just too late.

11. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” By Eminem

Up next is a song offering a raw and unapologetic narrative. Rapper Eminem brings to life the struggles of a turbulent childhood in his song “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” from the album The Eminem Show.

The track is a stark exploration of bad parenting, with Eminem opening up about his difficult relationship with his mother. This is particularly evident in the song’s last stanza.

The harsh public bashing made the song controversial, yet it also served as a powerful outlet for the rapper’s emotions. However, Eminem has since apologized to his mom and no longer performs “Cleanin’ Out My Closet.”

12. “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” By The Temptations

Our next song, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” was originally performed by Undisputed Truth in 1972. However, it gained significant popularity following The Temptations‘ cover version later that year.

This song tells the story of a father who abandoned his family to live a wandering and carefree lifestyle. The lyrics describe him as a “rolling stone” who “left his home,” leaving behind a family that struggled without him.

Through its psychedelic beats, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” highlights the negative impact of parental abandonment and the emotional toll it takes on the family left behind.

13. “Mother’s Little Helper” By The Rolling Stones

Using drugs as a crutch to get through your day can be seen as a form of bad parenting. It’s a bad influence on the children. This is what “Mother’s Little Helper,” released by The Rolling Stones in 1966, is all about.

The lyrics describe a mother who is overwhelmed by her responsibilities. She turns to pills to cope with the stress of motherhood. The term “Mother’s Little Helper” is a reference to the sedative Valium, which was popularly used at the time this song was written.

The song criticizes the lack of support and attention given to the mother’s mental health needs. It highlights the negative consequences of neglectful parenting on both the parent and the family.

14. “Cat’s In The Cradle” By Harry Chapin

The folk rock tune “Cat’s in the Cradle” was brought to life in 1974 by Harry Chapin. It is one of the most iconic songs about the complexities and challenges of parenthood.

The story begins with a father who is too busy to spend time with his son, always prioritizing work over family. As the son grows older, he mirrors his father’s behavior. He becomes distant and unavailable when his father finally has the time to spend with him.

In “He’d grown up just like me / My boy was just like me,” the father realizes his son has adopted his habit of prioritizing work over family. This realization hits hard, emphasizing the negative impact such parenting can have on children, as they often emulate what they observe in their parents.

15. “Independence Day” By Martina McBride

In the world of country music, Martina McBride‘s “Independence Day” stands out as a powerful anthem. It conveys a hard-hitting message about domestic abuse.

This song is often mistaken for a patriotic song. It’s actually about a woman trapped in an abusive marriage and her decision to liberate herself and her daughter.

The lyrics depict the daughter witnessing her mother’s suffering at the hands of her abusive father and feeling powerless to help. The mother, unable to endure the abuse any longer, takes drastic action to ensure her daughter doesn’t suffer the same fate.

At its core, “Independence Day” addresses the theme of domestic violence and the emotional turmoil experienced by children growing up in abusive households. It urges listeners to recognize and address these crucial societal issues.

16. “Little Toy Guns” By Carrie Underwood

One of the artists known for potent storytelling is Carrie Underwood. She presents a compelling narrative in her song “Little Toy Guns.” This country-pop tune doesn’t shy away from addressing the troubling issue of domestic discord and its impact on children.

In the song, a young girl is forced to witness her parents’ constant arguing. The child, unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation, wishes that her parents’ harsh words are as harmless as “little toy guns.”

With this song, Underwood brings attention to the damaging effects of negative parental behavior on children. It urges listeners to reflect on the importance of maintaining a healthy and positive family atmosphere.

17. “A Boy Named Sue” By Johnny Cash

Country music legend Johnny Cash delivered a humorous narrative with his song “A Boy Named Sue.” This Grammy-winning track tells an unconventional tale of a man named Sue.

Sue spends his life embarrassed and bullied because of his name. This fuels his anger toward his absent father, who gave him that name and then disappeared from his life. This forces Sue to toughen up and learn to defend himself. Unfortunately, it also leaves him with a deep-seated resentment.

While the song takes a lighthearted approach, it addresses the consequences of absent fathers. It reminds us that parents’ choices can profoundly impact their children’s lives, often in ways they might not anticipate.

18. “My Mom” By Eminem

From Eminem’s earlier song, we know he can be harsh with his lyrics. “My Mom” is no different, as it takes us deep into his troubled childhood.

Like “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” this rap track offers another candid look at his tumultuous relationship with his mother, who he alleges was dependent on prescription drugs.

In this song, Eminem recounts how his mother’s substance abuse problem affected his upbringing. Through this song’s narrative, the singer shines a light on the damaging effects of parental negligence and substance abuse on a child’s life.

19. “The Story Of My Old Man” By Good Charlotte

Through their punk rock beats, Good Charlotte takes us through “The Story of My Old Man,” released in 2002. This song reflects on the relationship between the artist and his father, who is depicted as absent and emotionally distant.

The lyrics recount memories of the father’s struggles with addiction and his inability to provide support for his family. It sheds light on the impact of bad parenting and how it can shape a person’s life.

However, the narrator pleads, “I’m telling you, do anything you can / so you don’t end up just like them.” It urges listeners to break free from negative familial patterns and strive for better.

20. “Perfect” By Simple Plan

Sometimes parental pressure can have damaging effects on children, especially when these high standards aren’t met. This is what Simple Plan‘s “Perfect” talks about.

It is essentially a heartfelt confession from a child to his father. The narrator feels inadequate and expresses regret for not being able to live up to his father’s expectations: “I’m sorry I can’t be perfect.”

Through “Perfect,” Simple Plan emphasizes the importance of understanding and accepting one’s children as they are rather than expecting them to be flawless. It serves as a reminder that everyone is human, and no one can be perfect all the time.

21. “Broken Home” By Papa Roach

Closing this list, we have “Broken Home” by Papa Roach. The lyrics explore feelings of loneliness, confusion, and anger that come with experiencing a divorce as a child.

The song points out how parental conflict and separation can inflict emotional scars on children. It often leads to feelings of being caught in the middle.

The lyrics describe how the child feels like he’s the “weak link” in the family. It suggests that he feels responsible for the broken relationship. It emphasizes the impact of divorce on a child’s mental and emotional well-being, urging parents to prioritize their children’s needs and provide them with stability and support.

Summing Up Our List Of Bad Parents Songs

The songs discussed above offer powerful insights into the struggles and challenges of growing up with bad parents or in dysfunctional family environments.

Through their lyrics, they remind us of the importance of nurturing and supportive parenting for children’s emotional well-being and development.

However, this list is by no means exhaustive, and there are countless other songs out there that tackle this delicate subject. Share your song recommendations with us, and we’ll add them here.

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.