Oct 072013 7 Responses

3 Things to Do When Parenting Goes Wrong

What do you do when parenting goes wrong?

When you know you have failed?

When it’s obvious your children are making bad choices?

When your family isn’t going the direction you want?

Few things have the ability to paralyze us like a failure in parenting. We have high expectations, tremendous hopes, and feel the weight of great responsibility. We believe parenting matters and when it doesn’t go as we expect, it grieves our soul.

Yet there are actions to take. When you fail at parenting, do these three things:

1. Own your mistakes. We all make mistakes. The difference between healthy families and unhealthy families is not the presence or absence of mistakes. Both healthy and unhealthy families make mistakes. The difference is that in healthy families, those who make the mistakes own the mistakes. This begins with parents.

We must create a climate in which owning mistakes is not just allowed, but expected. There must be honesty, grace, and love which allows a person to admit failure.

As soon as a child is old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, a parent must make an intentional effort of communicating the parent’s mistakes, modeling a process of admitting mistakes, asking for forgiveness, and making it right. If we start this process early, it will create a climate in which both parent and child expects each other to own their mistakes.

2. Disown their mistakes. While we should be quick to own our mistakes, we must be equally quick to disown the mistakes of others. The point of disowning their mistakes is not clearing our name or keeping up our reputation; it’s about honesty, transparency, and an atmosphere of truth.

The problem with owning the mistakes of others (especially our children) is that it gives control of our lives to others and can hinder others from owning their own lives. When we own the problems of others, we lose control of our own lives. We should be defined by our choices and actions, but when we own the mistakes of others, we are defined by their choices and actions. As we own the mistakes of our children, we prevent them from owning their mistakes. We fail to model what is right and we fail to allow our children to feel ownership for their choices and actions.

3. Exercise your influence. Making mistakes in parenting is disappointing, but what truly hurts our children is when we allow one mistake to have a multiplying effect. Our mistakes multiply when we allow a past mistake to create future mistakes. When we own our mistakes—recognize them, confess them, and correct them—it frees us to continue to parent. Depending on the age of our children, we need to find the appropriate amount of influence and can leverage that influence to our highest ability.

No matter our age, the age of our children, or the circumstances of our lives, parents always have influence with their children. Discovering our level of influence and leveraging it to our best ability is one of the most important things a parent can do. Parents often confuse influence for control. When they feel they have lost control, they wrongly assume they have lost influence. It is not true. There is always a way to influence your child, no matter your age or theirs.

Parenting is a difficult task which no one is naturally equipped to do with complete success. We will all make mistakes. Being able to own our mistakes, refraining from owning the mistakes of others, and exercising our influence is often the difference between good parenting and bad.

7 Responses to 3 Things to Do When Parenting Goes Wrong
  1. Diane Fagan Reply

    Every word is precious. I really get so much from your writing, Kevin. Thank you, again and again.

  2. Sue Grace Reply

    More please:) You gave the “what” (continue to influence our grown children) but I need the “how”.

  3. dennyneff Reply

    Thanks for this Kevin. The first thing I’m going to do is forward it to my adult son along with OWNING up to some mistakes I’ve made with him over the years. I’m also wanting him to implement this with his family to build trust and communication with his children as well. Bless you Pastor.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Great word Denny. As you know, there is nothing better to say to a pastor than telling him how you will apply a message.

  4. […] always have influence. In my article 3 Things to Do When Parenting Goes Wrong, I said no matter what... kevinathompson.com/parents-influence-children
  5. […] Later that afternoon, when school was nearly out, the teacher allowed us to go in pairs to retrieve ... kevinathompson.com/parents-spank-shouldnt
  6. Sophia Castillo Reply

    Hi, I’m a wife, mother and step mom. All adult kids. 19 to 30. It’s my husband mother who is so open with her bad toned opinions, that my husband has that way about him as well as his kids and it is thrown around without apologys most of the time. My husband will apologize sometimes, my mother in law will apologize sometimes, my step kids will apologize sometimes. They act entitled as if I’m not good enough. I feel I’m to sweet and easy and get walked on or a punching bag. When ever I stand up for my self ( even if it is always done with love) I end up getting attacked by everyone even my husband. I have stopped doing anything with my husband and my step kids for two days now and it’s just killing me because I like to let things go. It just keeps happening and I know I already forgave them and I’m not even made at them. I just want to things get better and I believe in our home it will have to be my husband setting the example where respect is needed and hold his adult kids responsible so that they learn to hold there selves responsible, but I don’t ever see that happening. Just last night he came to me and said in an angry voice now my daughter is moving out because he told her she has to be nice. I said wow I’m sorry to hear your daughter disrespect you like that but it is not my fault. He acts like I suppose to do something with what he created. We have only been married 1 and 1/2 years together only 4 years and I’m his 3rd wife. My husband, his daughter and my mother in law are the ones that are the most disrespectful ones to me in my life right now. I’m at my leaving point.

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