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Undoing Parenting Mistakes

Don’t you wish there was a great big “Undo” button in life; where you could completely erase your parenting mistakes? I bet some parents would give anything for such a button.

Unfortunately, there is no such “undo” button.  But perhaps the best way to avoid the need for one is to avoid the kind of mistakes parents sometimes make.  To learn what those could be, you might sit down with a few veteran parents to ask them what they would have done differently if they could turn back time; in other words, what they would have “undone” if they could have.  And that’s exactly what I did recently through our Facebook page.  Hindsight is always 20-20, and if the regrets expressed by these parenting veterans are taken to heart by current and upcoming parents, it may help the “rookies” avoid some of the same heartaches.

IF PARENTS COULD DO IT OVER AGAIN… They’d be more consistent, worry less, seek to spend more time together, and interact more lovingly.

I have to admit, I was surprised by the direction of the answers. I was half expecting people to feed back to me some of my recent parenting tips, like: “I should have gotten my teenager a part-time job and a checkbook to manage earlier,” or, “I shouldn’t have allowed her to date so young.”  But those who responded seemed to be thinking a few levels deeper, which tells me that they put some heavy thought into their brief responses. I’ve grouped them into three main areas of concern: “worrying less, “being more consistent,” and “spending more time together.” These definitely came to the forefront.

Here are some of their “If I could do it over again, here’s what I would change” responses…

MORE CONSISTENCY…

I’d be consistent and make my “no’s” count.

I’d learn how to be consistent!

I’d be more consistent.

I’d  have been more consistent and disciplined about chores and physical activity.

I would have been more CONSISTENT.  Not being consistent causes problems every time.

I’d have created home rules and backed them up. We did too much discipline “on the fly” which made us very inconsistent.

I’d be more consistent.

I would make sure my husband and I were on the same page in parenting BEFORE we had problems that needed addressed!! That is most important — to be consistent — and not being so has caused many heartaches.

WORRY LESS…

I’d not worry so much about what I may be doing wrong. I have found that you can do everything “right” and still make mistakes. I’d just relax and enjoy parenting and enjoy my kids — they are fantastic!

I would not have been so protective of my oldest son during high school. He never gave me reason to not let go. I was just so worried about him getting hurt that I said “no” to way too much. Now he’s in college and we rarely see him because he is finally “free.”

I would not worry so much.

I’d not worry about the little stuff!

I would tell myself not to worry so much.

I’d worry less about being normal…what’s normal anyways !?!?!

I’d worry less… someone once told me that if I was worrying more about their schooling, future, etc . , than they were, I was worrying too much. Come to find out they were right!

I’d relax. Surrender. Trust. Enjoy…

SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER…

We’d have more family time!

I have a 17-year-old daughter and I did not spend enough one on one time talking or spending time together. There is a distance between us that I hope not to make the same mistake with my younger daughters.

We would have more family time and one-on-one.

I would’ve turned off the TV more and pursued mutual interests with my kids.

I’d spend more time with the kids, work away from home less often.

I’d play with my child more when she was little, like play dolls, pretend, tag, hide and seek and catch more fireflies.

I would have gotten used to less television and electronics (and other distractions) and more games together inside and outside.

We’d have more dinners together. No matter if we talk… we are together.

I’d not work as much and be home with family more.

The thing that strikes me about all three of these categories is that they have more to do with the parents’ attitudes and attempts at relationship than the actions of their kids.  In fact, they have little to do with the teenager and mostly to do with how the parent responded or didn’t respond.  But as you read between the lines, the remorse felt by these parents is likely brought on by the resulting damage to the relationship they have with their children, which perhaps continues to be strained today.

The other main category of response has to do with parent-child interaction; and again, it has more to do with the parent’s interaction than the teenager’s. Here is what they said…

INTERACT MORE LOVINGLY AND RESPECTFULLY…

I’d listen more and lecture less. I’d not force everything down their throat and expect them to obey as it does not work that way anymore… they will REBEL and that causes all the heartaches!

I’d apologize more.

I’d not yell as much.

I would have stopped yelling and given them more respect.

I wouldn’t argue with my husband in front of my children. I would allow my kids express themselves more, and not suppress their feelings.

I’d listen more, lecture less and ask their opinion on issues more. Stay engaged when the going was tough.

I wouldn’t argue with them, even though they seem to thrive on arguing.

I’d teach the entire family how to have loving healthy communication.

I’d love unconditionally.

I’d give more hugs and kisses (even when they become a teen). Sometimes we parents feel that “uncomfortable” feeling because they are getting older… that is when they need it the most.

These parents came to the conclusion that their own actions may have contributed to how they interact with their adult children today, or how their children continue to cope with life today.  If they had access to an “Undo Life” button, they’d surely make some changes.  So, take care in your own parenting.  The teen years — though they may seem arduous and never-ending with some kids — are actually short-lived.  Then you have the rest of your lives together.  The wise advice from these parents?  Be consistent… spend time with them… interact more lovingly… and worry less.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.


Parental Consistency Is So Important

When I recently asked 3,000 parents what they would change if they could start over again in their parenting, the number one response was, “I’d be more consistent.”

I suppose these parents now realize that their inconsistency led their teen and their family to a place they really didn’t want to go.  Whether rooted in misplaced love, or from being distracted by the hustle and bustle of life, or by not wanting to be the “bad guy” all the time, they made a habit of giving in, and now they are sorry for it.

Based on my work with teenagers, I’d have to say those parents are justified in their remorse because I see a lot of kids today all mixed up by inconsistent parents. Teens left to themselves will naturally get into trouble.  That’s the nature of adolescence.  The path they’ll go down is the one of least resistance or the greatest pleasure. And that’s why they need structure — but it needs to be consistent to make any sense to them.  Most teens thrive when clear and unmovable boundaries are in place, because it’s the one anchor in their otherwise turbulent life.

Without consistency a teen will feel like they are living on a seesaw, where certain behaviors are okay one day and not the next.  Not knowing which will happen next can be stressful, and that can lead to anxiety, anger, depression, irritability, frustration, over-reaction to everyday problems, memory loss and a lack of concentration. Does that sound like your teen?

I’ll Never Be Like My Parents!  

Many parents don’t discipline their children because they’re afraid they will become like that military father or the domineering mother they swore they would never be like.  Others don’t discipline because they’re afraid of losing something with their child that they have worked years to attain… a good relationship.  But everybody in the family loses when the parents are inconsistent.  It hurts the misbehaving kids, it hurts the marital relationship, and it hurts the kids who are being obedient.  Why? Because when one parent is less concerned about upholding the rules, the other parent invariably gets exasperated and feels they need to go overboard with rules.

More often than not, moms tend to want more rules, while dads tend to be too lax in regard to rules.  When one parent becomes the “heavy” and the other becomes the “easy,” the relationship between the teen and the parent, and the parents to each other, can suffer.  If the mom is the “heavy,” she is constantly battling her kids (without her husband’s help) and that will strain the relationship she has with her children and her husband.  If the dad is the “heavy,” his efforts to discipline can be undermined by a wife who tends to let her children off the hook too easily.  So the dad is seen as mean and uncaring by the child and even by the wife.  It’s only when parents participate equally that relationships throughout the family are balanced and able to flourish.

To be consistent, mom and dad need to come together to agree on the basic household rules, based on their own beliefs. As in everything else in life, there may be a need for some compromise. Mom won’t get every rule she wants, and dad will have to be more concerned about the rules than he has been.   Both parents will have to work as a team, and not usurp each other’s authority by adding rules or not enforcing the ones they’ve agreed to.

So Step Up!  

I realize that some parents don’t want to discipline. But they need to step up and realize that their child needs rules and boundaries and consequences to correct and strengthen their character.  It’s not because the child needs justice for doing something wrong, but because they need patterns molded into their life that will determine how they will engage with people in the future. It can literally determine if they’ll be successful in life or not.

The focus of teen discipline should be aimed at critical character values like honesty, obedience, and respect. Honesty is a character issue that will help them in their relationships in the future.  Obedience will help them gain direction and insight into life.  Respect is the bedrock of all friendships and interpersonal relationships.  You correct their lapses in these areas so that they will have the type of relationships that they really want… and to keep them from destroying or impeding relationships with their foolishness.

Remember this… discipline isn’t about you and it isn’t about getting back at your kid. It’s about helping them. Your child will continue in their selfish, immature behavior patterns until the pain they receive is greater than the pleasure they receive from it.  They’ll continue in those negative things until someone holds them accountable.  We are the ones, as parents, who must do that.  It cannot be left to anyone else.  We are the ones who need to say to our children, “You cannot do this.”  We need to set the boundaries and establish the consequences. We need to make it clear that we’ll walk along side our teen in life, but we’ll move to stand in front of them when they start down the wrong path.  Why?  Because we know that if they go that direction, it will lead to their unhappiness.

Here are some things to remember about discipline.

  1. Rules without relationship cause rebellion.  If one thinks that discipline is nothing more than a list of rules posted on the refrigerator that line out how everyone is supposed to act, they are greatly mistaken.   It is important that time be spent with your child building a relationship, or the discipline will have no effect.
  1. Look to their interest.  Don’t hand out a consequence just because your teen made you mad.  Hand it out because, if they continue in the inappropriate behavior, the result will be something that is harmful to them, and will take them somewhere they really don’t want to go.
  1. Discipline means confrontation.  Confrontation is never easy, and is never really that enjoyable.   To avoid confrontation is only postponing the inevitable to a time when things will be worse.
  1. Don’t be afraid of seeing your child go through the pain of consequences.  Parents are, at times, too quick to rescue a child from their discomfort, thus keeping them from learning from their mistakes or choices.  Your rescuing just might allow them to continue in their plight.  There are many words for this: denial, enabling, equipping.  Rescuing is usually done with the wrong motive, and invariably the wrong results.
  1. You can’t be consistent with everything, so pick your battles wisely.  If I was determined to correct every issue that a child presents, I would spend all my time correcting, and very little time building any relationship at all.  Your child is not going to be perfect this side of heaven, and there’s plenty of time to correct things along the way, so focus on ten things versus one hundred, and be consistent with just those ten. Remember, even God had just ten commandments.
  1. Discipline is training.  Discipline is helping your child to get where they want to be and to keep them from a place they don’t want to end up.  Practice discipline in your own parenting even as you discipline your child, and you’ll get them there.

Teach What You Know to Be True  

In your discipline, stick with what you know to be true and you know to be right.  Think back to the basic principles your parents or grandparents taught you, and pass those forward.  They are tried and true.  Focus on rules and boundaries that build character.  They’ll create a foundation for your child to base every decision they make in their life.

Periodically review the rules in your family. If you determine that some are simply unnecessary or too confining, don’t just stop enforcing it.  Make it clear to your teen that you have both thought it through and the rule no longer applies, or they will think you are being inconsistent.  And be sure to accentuate the positive — when your teen gets it right, congratulate and reward them.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.