10 Parenting Rules You Need to Break

10 Parenting Rules You Need to Break


By Lori Wildenberg

Most moms and dads want to do it right. Yet with all the different information and philosophies on child rearing a parent can feel overwhelmed and overloaded. Many parenting approaches are impractical or even impossible to implement. While some strategies work really well in an educational setting, those same techniques do not transfer to the home environment. Other approaches don’t give the results we really desire.

To be good and godly parents, we need wisdom. Not wisdom that comes from this world but wisdom from our Heavenly Father. In 1 Kings 3, Solomon asks God for wisdom. The Lord was pleased with Solomon’s request. We can ask too.

So let’s get real. Here are ten rules that moms and dads actually need to break.

Girl tantrum discipline in public

1. You must be consistent.

No. Consistency is critical in moral, faith, safety, and legal messages. How the issues are dealt with depends on the situation and the child. Always trying to give the same responses, rewards, or consequences for similar situations every day and in every way ranging from potty training to driver training is an impossible task. Discipline doesn’t always have to be the same. But… where you stand on important issues does. 

mother and young daughter talking on couch

2. If you say it, you must follow through.

The verse, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’” (Matthew 5:37), has largely been misunderstood. This statement actually refers to being a person of integrity, one who keeps his word and speaks the truth.  In the heat of the moment, many of us deliver punishments that are way too severe and unreasonable. But we are not stuck. We can be flexible and reduce (or in some cases increase) a consequence after thinking through things a little more. Follow through on promises and feel free to readjust punishments.


Mom hugging teen daughter

3. Kids need to work it out by themselves.

Most kids are not skilled in conflict resolution. If they are not assisted, jungle rules prevail. The biggest, toughest sibling is the one who will get his way. Instead, give your children the knowledge of how to deal with conflict. Teach them how to respectfully state a concern without attacking the person. Speak using “I” rather than “you.” For example, “I feel frustrated when you use my stuff without asking.” Next person, “I’m sorry I took your shirt without your permission. Will you forgive me?” “Yes.” Final line, “I will ask next time.” Train your kids how to handle interpersonal issues with respect. They need your help to do this. Be the coach, not the referee or audience. 

A couple disagreeing, You hurt me! Now what?

4. Don’t let the kids see you and your spouse argue.

Kids need to learn how to work out disagreements agreeably. One way for children to learn how to do this is to observe mom and dad respectfully navigate a discussion and come to a workable resolution. If parents are able to model good conflict resolution skills, their children will learn how to discuss and disagree while keeping a relationship intact. (Note: If you are unable to model agreeable and respectful disagreements perhaps sticking to the “rule” is best.) 

5. Put your child in a time-out when he has misbehaved so he can think about what he did wrong.

5. Put your child in a time-out when he has misbehaved so he can think about what he did wrong.

Many parents use this strategy. If you are among the Parental Time-Outers, consider this: when a child takes a time-out to think about what he or she did wrong, the very behavior you hope to extinguish is being reinforced. Instead, use a time-in. Have your child take time to think about how he or she could handle the incident differently. Time-ins are for training and are much more effective than a time-out.

tired parents, parental survival mode

6. Time-outs should last as long as a child’s age (3 years old=3 minutes, 5 years old=5 minutes).

First, kick time-outs out the door and use a time-in. The goal of time-in is training, not punishment. Once the child has come up with a way to handle a situation more appropriately or has been able to self-regulate, the time-in is completed. We want kids to problem-solve or regain self-control quickly. The goal of a time-in isn’t to serve a jail term, it’s to learn how to deal well with challenges. Once the child can articulate his or her plan to you, the time-in is completed, and he can move back into the family fold.

dad helping kid with homework

7. Criticism crushes a child’s spirit.

Correction is training. Kids need training. Criticism is the thing that crushes a child’s spirit. Correction motivates and encourages a child to do something better. Criticism sounds like: Your room is always a mess. You are so disorganized. How can you find anything? (Negative, personal attack, shaming) Correction sounds like: Your room needs some TLC. I will show you how you can organize it. I will help you if you like. (State problem, train, offer assistance, a same team approach)

Mom comforting daughter

8. A good parent prevents and protects her child from struggles.

Struggles and suffering are a part of life. Rather than protecting and preventing, we must prepare our children for the inevitable challenges. Kids learn resiliency, perseverance, determination, patience, creativity, humility, compassion, and empathy in the hard places. If we cling to the prevention and protection rule, we will raise a selfish, entitled child.

group of teenager friends, prayers for teenagers

9. Busy kids stay out of trouble.

There are two reasons to break this false belief into teeny tiny fragments. Kids are too scheduled today. Overscheduling causes undue stress on the family and the individual. Children need time to play, relax, create, explore, read, ponder, and reflect. They need opportunities to schedule their own time. Overscheduled kids are quickly bored. These kids have no idea how to structure their time. Hence, overscheduled kids have no practice using unstructured time wisely and are more likely to get into trouble in the future. 

Mother and daughter embracing in front of a packed car

10. Kids must learn to be independent.

American parents fully embrace this thought as truth. But we really don’t want independent kids, do we? Independent kids grow up, grow away, and don’t need anyone. If we want a relationship that lasts a lifetime with our children, we will not make independence our parenting goal. Instead, we will stress responsibility to oneself and others. Following through with commitments, sharing struggles and joys, and caring about others are qualities of interdependent relationships. Parent for interdependence while stressing dependence on God rather than aiming for independence.  We are not created to do life alone.


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