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

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