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…


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.


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…


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…


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.



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.

Promoting Healthy Relationships at Home


Parenting is about a number of important things, like preparing children for the hardships of life.  But more than anything else, parenting is about developing relationships.  This week on Parenting Today’s Teens, Mark Gregston gives parents three challenges to help promote healthy relationships at home.

Radio Program this weekend is “Promoting Healthy Relationships at Home” with special guest, Tim Smith, who is a parents coach, is a wise man who’s dedicated his life to helping parents in their pursuit of the very best for the kids.  You can find this program at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org or have it dropped into your ITunes.

Ten Ways to Rebuild a Relationship With a Teen

Ten Ways to Rebuild a Relationship With a TeenRelationships thrive in settings where everyone agrees that nobody is perfect.

Unconditional love is fundamental for building healthy relationships with teenage children who will test their parents and their rules in every possible way. When they do, a busy, stressed-out parent can often react in ways that don’t always convey unconditional love.

If that sounds like you, maybe you need to work on mending your relationship before it is destroyed altogether.  Consider implementing some of these bridge-builders:

10 Ways to Rebuild Your Relationship

1.  By spending weekly time together, one on one…

Of all the advice I swear by, this is one you cannot ignore; Take your child out for breakfast, out for coffee, or do a lunch — and make it a habit every week.  Even if they resist, you must insist.  It tells your child, “You are worth spending time with, even when you are at your worst.”   Make it a one on one time together and come prepared with a topic to discuss that will be of interest to your teen.  It doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  But it should be consistent.

2.  By sharing challenging experiences…

Parents need to spend more time, not less, having fun with their child when he or she reaches adolescence.  Unfortunately, many organized school and church activities can tend to get in the way of that.  I recommend you find a challenge you both appreciate and pursue it together with excitement.  Dedicate some resources, time, effort, interest, and vigor to developing your interest together.

3.  By looking for opportunities for discussion…

Ask the right kind of questions.  The kind of questions that make them think about things, not just a “yes” or “no” questions.  Find out what they think, how they would do something, where they would go, and why they think a certain way.  Take advantage of reinforcing those moments when a discussion leads to surprising expressions of wisdom from your teen.  Talk about controversial subjects as you would a friend or co-worker for whom you have extreme respect.  Never belittle their opinions about things. After all, did you know everything when you were a teen?

4.  By listening more and answering less…

If you want your teen to grasp what you are thinking, then stop telling him what you are thinking until your are asked for your opinion.  Zip your lip – just be quiet.  Stop lecturing, start listening.  Your teen won’t be ready to really listen until he becomes the initiator of a discussion, so just hush and get out of the way of him taking the lead.

5.  By developing a sense of humor…

Some of us are sour, bitter, and stressed all of the time.  Lighten up!  When was the last time you really laughed?  Try having a joke night – where everyone has to come to dinner with a joke to share.  Even if it’s corny, everyone laughs!

6, By playing together….

Play paintball, go ride horses, go fishing or hunting, go camping and gaze at the stars, or pull a stunt together.  Get them up at midnight to watch a meteor shower.  Live it up and enjoy life with your kids in some way.  If you don’t like what they like they like to do, then just be there to watch or help them in some way. The key is the two of you being together.

7.  By remembering your child’s past and believing in your child’s future…

Carry a photo of your child as a youngster with you at all times! Post their baby photo on your refrigerator.  This way you won’t forget who this child was when they turn into an alien in their teens.  Keep in mind the joy of bringing them home at birth.  Remember, the thumbprint of God is still on their life.  Don’t dwell solely on their current struggles and difficulties.  Thank God for the work He is doing and will do in your child’s life.

8.  By establishing boundaries…

Let them know where they can and can’t “go” in your relationship.  Tell them what you expect, before something challenges those expectations.  Clearly establish your belief system and household rules. Being too lax as a parent and trying to act more as their friend and peer will hurt, not help, your relationship.

9.  By selfless confrontation…

Remember, discipline is about your teen, not you.  It is discipleship for their own good, not to make you feel better for all the stress they’ve caused.  Seek the right things in your child’s life for the right reasons.  Confront with calmness, correct with firmness, and with a love that has their best interests at heart.  Confront their mistakes with matter-of-fact and consequences, unwavering and without emotion or anger. In this way, it will become clear to them through the consequences that they are causing their own grief, not you.  If you are unsure, ask your spouse if you confronting your teen in an appropriate way.

10. By correcting and disciplining them, even when it makes you uncomfortable…

Your child needs to know you love them enough to correct and discipline them when they behave in ways that offend others or break your household rules or the rules of society.  Find healthy ways to discipline through loss of certain freedoms and privileges for a time.  Never resort to physical discipline with a teenager and be sure to approach all discipline on a united front with your spouse.  And be sure to reward a teen for good behavior by adding more freedoms and privileges.  That’s more important to them than anything else at this age.

And one more – as a bonus!

You can rebuild your relationship by acting on your faith and your beliefs.  Don’t just say it, put your beliefs into action.  Serve others, love others, forgive others, pray, worship.  Exercise your faith in front of your teenager.

Which of these will you implement into your relationship with your child this week?  I recommend starting with number one. And even if you get nothing but grief from your teen at first, keep up your weekly time together, week after week.  Eventually they’ll come around.

Remember, relationships thrive when unconditional love is delivered across a bridge of friendship that never stops — even if your teen doesn’t respond or goes on making mistakes.

“Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love:

therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.”  Jeremiah 31:3


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 39 years, has two kids, and 4 grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, 2 llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.  His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with over 2,500 teens, has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents.

You can find out more about Heartlight at www.HeartlightMinistries.org.  You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our Parenting Today’s Teens website at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org, It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. Here you will also find a station near you where you can listen to the Parenting Today’s Teens radio broadcast, or download the podcast of the most recent programs.