Undoing Parenting Mistakes
By Mark Gregston
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 this week, 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.
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.
“If I could do it over again, here’s what I would change” ...
- 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…
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.
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Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, national radio host, and the founder of Heartlight, a residential counseling opportunity for struggling adolescents, where he lives with 50 high schoolers. Learn more at www.heartlightministries.org. Mark’s blog can be read at www.markgregston.com or he can be followed on Facebook and Twitter. His radio programs can be heard at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.
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