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July 16, 2009 / Brian Haynes

When You Feel Like a Failure as a Parent

Notice I say , WHEN you feel like a failure as a parent. Even the best parents have instances of failure. I have been doing the parent thing long enough to know there are days and there will be other days when I feel like a total failure as a parent. Ever said something that is really difficult to take back? Ever disciplined out of anger.  Ever been disappointed by a choice, decision, or a behavior that you thought would never come from your child… even if she is 30 years old.  What do you do when you feel like a failure as a parent?  Here is a practical path for dealing with your feelings of failure in a healthy way.

1) Examine Yourself

It is important for us to examine ourselves in the midst of a disappointing situation. The best question I can ask of myself is, “Did I act in a way that made the situation worse or better?”  As I dad I am learning that my attitudes and actions have a very real effect on all of my children. Did I carry the weight of the world home from work? Was I disconnected and distant or did I turn my attention to the family when I walked in the door? Do I listen to my children or am I quick to fix the situation without giving them a chance to share their feelings. If I did anything in the situation, I need to own it. Now hear this: owning it means quickly moving on to step two. You are likely a great parent who made a mistake.  Don’t walk around in your failure. Don’t worry yourself into depression. Instead deal with it… seek forgiveness.

2) Seek Forgiveness.

Seeking forgiveness goes 2 ways. First, seek God for His forgiveness. You are not a perfect parent but He is a perfect Father who loves you. He knows your struggle. Seeking God for forgiveness aligns our heart with His. It’s like I, as an imperfect father, tap into my greatest resource… the perfect Father. In humility I find forgiveness, grace, and wisdom to know how to move forward.

Then seek the forgiveness of your child. If you have done something wrong in the situation own it. Be specific. For example, ask your child to forgive you for yelling before you knew the whole situation. Maybe its deeper than that but the principle still applies. Not only is this a step toward righting the wrong, you are also teaching your child by modeling humility. You are showing them how to make it right when they have done something wrong. In a sense, you are their living blog on the process.

3) Discipline Appropriately.

Don’t take discipline out of the equation just because you might have reacted the wrong way. If your child has done something wrong he should face appropriate consequences. Discipline is difficult work but we have the responsibility just the same. Make sure the discipline teaches and is healthy. Take the time to calmly explain to your child why they are being disciplined.  No matter how they react, follow through.  The discipline should be age appropriate. Ask yourself an obvious question.  Is my kid 2 or 16?

4) Restore the Relationship.

After you have disciplined, work to restore the relationship. Hugs, kisses, words, and time. That’s my philosophy. Think of something you and your child love to do together and go do it. The child needs to sense that though the circumstances have not been great, you love them unconditionally. You communicate that with words, touch, and time. This is an important step in the process. Don’t leave it out. Work to intentionally restore the relationship. Depending on your child’s season of life and the situation it could mean anything from sharing an ice cream cone to initiating family counseling.

5) Understand… at the end of the day, our adult children choose their own path.

It’s difficult when our children grow up and choose a path we would not have chosen for them. I know so many parents who seemingly did everything right yet their adult children make life decisions not reflective of the training they received at home.  As a parent it can be a devastating reality. Still we must choose to understand that children grow up to be men and women that at the end of the day make their own decisions. It does not take the pain away but it also does not label you as a failure. Be confident and pray. Know therefore that the Lord our God is God.  He is the faithful God keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. (Dt. 7:9)

On some days, we all fail.  The Lord is faithful.  Your efforts and intentionality will pay off.  Proverbs, as a source of wisdom and not a promissory note, tell us that when we train up a child in the way he should go, in the end he will not depart from it.

5 Comments

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  1. Chis D / Feb 6 2012 1:32 am

    Thanks. My daughter is smoking pot to “feel normal” and while her younger sister told me, I didn’t yell or punish. I expressed my disappointment but ultimately, it is her decision. Today, she told her sister and made her promise not to follow in her footsteps…then smoked in front of her. I smelled it when they got back from their walk together.
    I was speaking with their step dad whose son was killed in a car accident 3 weeks ago….I was already crying when they came home. I feel like a failure, and this site didn’t seem “religious” at all, but ironically he asked me about my faith tonight. Praise God, I am finally able to evangelize to him.
    I am so confused by the message and lesson my God is giving me. Finding this site randomly has helped confirm my faith, so thank you.

    • Brian Haynes / Feb 6 2012 11:41 am

      We will pray for your situation today. May God guide your steps as you wade through all of this.

  2. Carmen Love / Nov 20 2009 8:48 pm

    Thank you so very much for taking the time to write this wonderful article of inspiration. I am a single parent and have brought my children up in the lord. The two oldest have strayed away and have engaged in behaviors that have completely broken my heart. They have cursed me to my face and seem angered by my relationship with the lord. As a result, I am not able to see my little granddaughter who I love so much. I have always loved them so very much and have done my best to show them. Sometimes we can do too much for our children…crippling them, which cause them to rebel. There were times I was too overly protective and now I am paying a huge price for it. I survived an abusive relationship. And I never wanted them to hurt like I did. No matter how many bible studies, church attendance, family prayers, hugs, kisses, love, and being a Godly mother, it seemed as if they learned absolutely nothing. Nevertheless, I continue to pray and believe that my efforts were never in vain. I appreciate your article so much…it lifted me.

    • cindy / Jan 11 2012 7:31 am

      I feel like a failure, my only child, a daughter which I put on my energy into bringing her up with strong values went completely against everything she was ever taught. At 19 she became involved with a 32 year old married man with two children , became pregnant. I find out she has been involved with other men with no commitments just recreational sex. These are not the values of our home or my family or my husbands. I feel somewhere I must have failed as a parent.

      • Brian Haynes / Feb 6 2012 11:43 am

        We will be praying about this Cindy. Don’t give up. Think of Proverbs 22:6 and pray like crazy for your daughter. Keep pursuing her in love. May the Lord give you wisdom.

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