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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.


The Parent Your Teen Needs You To Be

As parents, we put a lot of expectations on ourselves. Before kids, we might have been content to be average Joes and Janes. But the moment that little bundle of joy was first placed in our arms, we felt the need to put on a cape and transform into “Super Parent”! And that’s a hard role to play. But good news mom and dad—your teen doesn’t need you to be a superhero. You don’t need to have your face on the Mount Rushmore of parents, or make it into the parenting Hall of Fame. In my 40 years of working with teens, I’ve discovered that our kids don’t need parents who are perfect saints or super human. Teens simply need parents who are willing to make some necessary changes.

Parents Who Are Willing To Be Imperfect

First, let’s debunk the fairytale that families can attain perfection. Where exactly did that myth come from? No family is perfect. So quit trying. It flies in the face of reality, and yet I find so many families working overtime to look, act, and be the perfect family. Relax. Deal with failures as opportunities to learn. If you have never shared your personal flaws with your kids, they haven’t had an opportunity to see what it’s like to live with imperfection. Instead, they think that faultlessness is normal. The first time they sprout a pimple they’re ready to freak out! Let me offer you this challenge—tonight around the dinner table, share one thing about you that isn’t as perfect as you’d like it to be. By sharing your inadequacies, you allow your teen to connect with you in a different way. It will reaffirm your teen’s understanding and acceptance of himself, while drawing him into relationship with you as well. Teens need parents who are willing to be imperfect.

Parents Who Are Willing to Be Disliked

Parents who want to “rescue” their children from pain or suffering are actually hurting their kids more then they know. It usually happens for three reasons:

  • Parents want to be friends with their kids
  • Parents can’t handle the constant nagging of their teen during punishment
  • Parents are afraid that if they punish their child, he or she will rebel

Mom and Dad, your child doesn’t need another friend. During these tough adolescent years they need you to be a parent—to correct them when they make a mistake and love them regardless of their behavior. Teens need parents who are willing to love their kids, even if it means their kids dislike them. So if your daughter gets a speeding ticket, don’t pay for it yourself. If your son is failing a class, don’t do his homework for him. Yes, we should extend grace to our teens. But showing grace doesn’t mean swooping in and saving the day when your kid messes up. That’s caving in. Setting aside time to help with homework is loving. Writing their book report–because you read it and they didn’t–is rescuing. Teens learn independence and maturity when they face hard times more than when everything is going smooth. Handing out discipline isn’t for the faint of heart. I know it can be hard, draining, and exhausting. But if we want to follow God’s plan for character growth, we need to let natural consequences shape our kids into mature adults. Hebrews 12:6 says, Those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines. No matter what your kids might think in the moment, punishment isn’t a cruel action. When done in the right way, it can be an expression of love. And it’s what your kids need from you.

Parents Who Are Willing to Say “No”

Some parents relish being needed by their teenager. They dote on them and take care of their every need. They ask “How high?” when their teens says, “Jump!” They may even take abuse and disrespect from their teen when it is directed their way, thinking, “Oh, they’re just having a bad day.” These parents need to step back and understand that teens need to hear “no” sometimes. If not, it will lead to selfish, bossy, and entitled adolescents who don’t understand when life doesn’t go their way. It’s okay to say “no” as long as you provide a good reason. When your son demands the latest iPhone, you are allowed to say “no” and explain why. When your daughter asks to go to a certain party, you have the freedom to say “no” and provide your reasons. Life doesn’t always say “yes” to our requests. And parents shouldn’t either.

Parents Who Are Willing to Let Go

Very few comments made by high school seniors and college students can scare parents more than when young people announce their desire to “fly the coop” and become independent. Those words are tough to hear because in the minds of most parents there is a voice shouting, “We can’t let this happen!” Some parents might think, “What will they do without me?” Other parents wonder, “What will I do without them?” Change is hard, but the desire for independence is actually a very normal and healthy desire in teens.

So Moms and Dads, when your child comes to you with plans to launch out and go to college, move out, or make smaller steps towards independence, I would encourage you to consider what your child is actually asking. This may be the opportunity to affirm those character traits and values that you have spent years building into the moral fabric of your son or daughter. Instead of thinking about all the reasons your teen shouldn’t go, think of all that might be accomplished by giving your stamp of approval on an ultimately very necessary transition. Realize that this may be a wonderful opportunity. Teens need parents who are willing to let go. They need parents who believe in them and can even encourage them to become increasingly independent. Isn’t that the goal of raising kids to become adults?

Now, I’m not saying that as parents you should throw caution to the wind and go with anything your kid suggests. But I am saying that because your 12 year old will one day become that 18 or 19-year-old young adult, you need to train to let go, and foster independence more and more each year. Moms and Dads, don’t miss out on the opportunity set before your child. In Moses’ words to the Pharaoh, God would beckon you as a parent to “let my people go!” Trust what you have taught, and are teaching.  And even enjoy watching them launch into the adulthood.

Your teen doesn’t need you to be a superhero or a saint. But your teen does need a parent who is willing to be imperfect, willing to be disliked, willing to say “no,” and willing to let go. It’s the type of parent all of us can learn to be.

 

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.  Here you can download the Parenting Today’s Teens App, a great way to listen on your schedule.

 


Teens Can Learn By Your Mistakes

Do you understand what your teenager is thinking?  Probably not. Maybe you wonder if your teenager is thinking at all!  Though the evidence may suggest otherwise, your teenager is probably thinking too much about the world around them and wondering too much about how they will fit in.

A teenager’s culture can dramatically affect how they think and act.  And today’s culture is far different from when you and I were teenagers.  What’s similar is their need to fit in and to be liked by their peers, which can trump all other needs in their life.  But can you appreciate the unusual pressures they face today, like their wondering if the economy will ever recover and whether or not they’ll get a job, go to college, or have what you had in life?

So it would be a good exercise today to at least try to understand where they are coming from and to walk in their shoes for a day.  You’ll then begin to understand that it can be a very daunting world for them.  They live in a cultural universe that is absent moral absolutes; devoid of values, and where integrity is conditional. Often a teenager’s behavior is simply mirroring that culture without the teen ever realizing its effect on them. And nowadays, that culture isn’t across town, or in another city — it beams into your home through the Internet, cell phone instant messaging and texting, video games and television. As a result, choices that seem perfectly fine to your teenager can counter just about everything you hold dear.

Expressing how badly you continue to feel about your own poor decisions at that age can teach a teenager a lot about how to avoid similar mistakes.  More than ever, kids are in desperate need of parents who are willing to be a bit vulnerable in sharing their own failures. That’s where transparency comes in. Teens can learn volumes from how you handled or mishandled decisions when you were the same age. You see, it’s important to help your teen understand that mistakes are a part of growing up, and everyone makes them, but some mistakes are best avoided.

When you acknowledge your own imperfections and the lessons learned from your own mistakes, it builds a bridge to your teenager.  So talk with remorse about those moments in the past when you blew it.

Being genuine and transparent also means communicating that you still aren’t perfect.   For instance, if you’ve recently failed your teen in some way, such as yelling at them inappropriately or maybe even being hypocritical about the rules in your home, then ask their forgiveness!  Don’t make excuses; admit it, and maybe even assign some consequences to yourself! Better yet, ask them what the consequences should be for your failure.  When you are wrong, just be wrong, and accept the consequences. When a teen understands that his parents aren’t perfect, it gives him freedom to confess his own failings and also to identify his own need for a Savior.

Like it or not, you as parents are accountable for being an example to your children, who will assimilate that example into their own lives when they are older. Be assured, they are watching you. And they’ll learn the right or wrong way to deal with decisions and failures by your example.

So my advice is to begin to appreciate the pressure points in your teenager’s world.  You may not fully understand how your teenager thinks, or how different the culture is from when you were a teen, but when teens feel that their parents have at least tried to walk in their shoes, they’ll be more likely to open up and accept parental help in pointing them in a better direction.

 

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.