I’d like to think at some point in my life I will no longer struggle with the temptation to eat more calories than I burn in a day. However, I love food and the sooner I realize this will always be a weak spot for me the better I will be able to deal with it. The same is true in my parenting. The sooner I recognize my parenting weakness the sooner I can make a plan to overcome it and become more of a parent that my child needs.
I believe there are several common mistakes we make as parents. While we may have made some or all of these mistakes, we have one we usually default to. Understanding this equips us to identify it when we’re tempted to do the thing that will be unhealthy for our kids and our relationship with them.
Here are a few of the most common mistakes:
- The Servant Parent “tries to woo the child back by anticipating and meeting her child’s every whim.”* The servant parent overreaches in her child’s life to convince the child of her love. In my book, Love No Matter What, my daughter, Katie, made this observation of the how the servant parent negatively effects her child, “Of course, kids realize that their parents love them and are trying to show that love, but they also see that their parents are desperate and obviously lacking the courage or confidence to parent correctly.” Katie gives important insight—“Your kids cannot mature emotionally when they are still being treated like babies. . .Being a Servant Parent is like being a jailor. You are depriving your kids of necessary life skills that will be difficult for them to learn elsewhere.”* Let them take on their own responsibilities. They will fail, but that is how we all learn.
- The Checked-Out Parent “is the opposite of the Servant Parent.” He “gives up when it becomes evident his child won’t do as he wants.” This thinking goes something like, “I’ve done all I can. He doesn’t listen to me anymore.”* When your child becomes difficult is exactly when she needs you to lean in. She needs you to be available to talk. She needs you to be around to see what is going on in her world—yes, even snoop on her social media. Most likely her ugliness is from the hard stuff in her life. She may not be able to express that, but she needs you consistently there for her and loving her. Remember, parenting is not about you—it’s about your child.
- The Passive-Aggressive Parent doesn’t “deal with their children’s decisions in an honest and direct way. They may act calm or unaffected, but their emotions are churning.” They often divert their emotions to less important issues thus making mountains out of molehills. The kids are confused because the parents are overreacting and the important issues are not appropriately addressed. Parents, what do you have to lose? In love and controlled emotion address the issue that needs addressed. Teens quickly spot inauthenticity. When you deal with the real issue and ignore lesser ones, you will have a greater influence in your kid’s life. You will also build trust in your relationship.
- The Scared Parent feels that “one wrong move on their part and their children will rebel or bolt, and they’ll never see them again. But except in extreme cases, kids know their parents love them. One former teen rebel commented to me, “I knew my loved ones would forgive me.”* It is tempting to have someone else speak the hard things to your child, but the truth is when you are showing your kids love they are listening to you, the parent, more than anyone else.
- The My-Way-or-the-Highway Parent is my personal favorite as this is my weakness. “This parent knows best. There are only two ways to look at life—the parent’s way and the wrong way.” This doesn’t leave much room for discussion or the leading of the Holy Spirit. This parent tends to spiritualize everything. This parent needs to take a fresh read through the Bible and note what God truly says is black and white. God has given us many ways to express ourselves as He created us to do that are well within His boundaries of right and wrong. Think—pick-your-battle. I became a much better mom and fan of my girls when I did this and embraced who God made each one to be.
While I have grown as a mom, I still feel my tendency to want my kids to do life my way. When that happens I pause and remember it’s their life, not mine, and there are many, many ways to do life. I am not always right!
Parents, don’t beat yourself up. Honestly, decide which weakness is yours and then deal with it. Ask God for insight and help. Lay your plan aside and He will direct you.
If you’re brave enough, I’d love to hear your weakness and how you deal with it!
*Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2013.
For more thoughts on parenting weaknesses and how to unconditionally love your child see Love No Matter What.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.