9 Parenting Tips to Avoid

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Let me list my parenting resume

  • I’ve been a parent now for over 4 years.
  • I’ve read a lot of parenting books.
  • I’ve listened to a lot of parenting sermons.
  • I’ve preached about parenting issues.
  • I’ve blogged about being a parent.

Which means I have it all figured out.

Come on, you know that once you’ve written a blog about parenting, you’ve got it all figured out.

In my vast years of experience, I’ve noticed a lot of parenting nuggets being thrown around. And I’ve noticed a lot of things that aren’t shared as nuggets as much as they’re just lived out in the moment.

Things get out of hand, and go sideways in a restaurant, and you default to a certain behavior, whether in the moment you believe that’s what’s best for your child or not. Right?

You don’t really think that yelling back at your child in Wal Mart is what’s best for him, you, or the rest of Wal Mart, do you? You don’t really think that giving in to your child’s temper tantrum is what’s best, do you? But in order to save face, and just “get through” the moment, we make decisions and base our actions on more immediate gratification.

I’ve seen some pretty bad decisions that have been made in the heat of the moment. I’ve committed lots of these. And I’ve noticed a few things that you and I should avoid.

9 Parenting Tips to Avoid

1. Count to 3.

“Timmy, listen to daddy. I’m going to count to 3, and you have to _____. 1…2…2.5…2.75…2.85…2.94…” Don’t expect obedience the first time you ask for it. Give your child a chance to disobey you for a little while longer.

Delayed obedience is disobedience.

2. Always let them decide.

They’re a child. They decide what’s best for themselves. Eating a candy bar before bed? Yes! Oh, you don’t want to go eat there for dinner, like mommy and daddy do? Ok! You want to stay up late because you just don’t want to go to bed? Sure! Thanks for letting me know, you little ball of wisdom!

Children need your wisdom. And they need to know you’re the parent, not them. As a parent, God’s called you to be an authority in your child’s life.

3. Let your world revolve around them.

Get in as many “activities” as possible, because that’s what’s best for your children and your family. Always be doing something. And during the “off” seasons, find something to fill your time. Because “resting” (the Bible calls this “Sabbath”) is something we do when we die.

If you let them, children will make your world completely circle theirs. This isn’t healthy. Good parents help their family find balance between doing and being.

4. Don’t have a discipline plan.

Don’t plan for discipline…because that’s no fun! Just try to figure out in the moment what you’ll do. That way, if you’re really angry, you’ll do something stupid always do the right thing.

Plan out how you’ll discipline. Don’t make it an “in the moment” thing, or you’ll end up disciplining in a way that you regret. Godly discipline is loving, and for our good. (Hebrews 12:5-11)

5. Don’t make them go to church.

What kind of parent would you be if you forced your child to do what you know is best for them? You haven’t been called to shape the way your children grow and mature. Come on…do you even love your child?

Set corporate worship, and healthy relationships, as a weekly standard for your family, because you know you need it…not necessarily because you always wake up every Sunday eager to go. Do what’s best, not just what “feels” right at the time.

6. Always be firm.

Don’t ever let up on your kids. Because if you do, they’ll get out of hand. No grace. No mercy.

Model for your children what the grace of God looks like. Sometimes, when they’ve disobeyed, show them grace, and explain the radical grace of God to them. Don’t exasperate your children. (Ephesians 6:4)

7. Don’t ever play.

You’re the parent. They’re the child. They need to understand that distinction. Don’t ever get on the ground and play with them. Don’t show them your weaknesses. And for goodness sake, don’t ever have fun.

If you don’t play with your child, you rob them of a beautiful gift. And you paint a picture of a boring God to them.

8. When you don’t know what to do, let Google be your guide.

Not sure what to do in this parenting situation? Google it! There’s so much great advice that will always point your children to Jesus, and help your family grow. Use Google, and Google alone.

Always be wary of what you read on the internet. Find a parent (or two or three) and ask them to speak in to your life as a parent. Surround yourself with people wiser than you, and bounce ideas off of them, growing from their wisdom and experience. 

9. As long as they’re not bothering me…

They’re watching something that may be a bit inappropriate for their age? Playing with something they shouldn’t? Spending too long on Facebook? Well, at least they’re out of your hair for a couple of hours.

Do. Not. Disengage. Know what is influencing your child. Set boundaries, and stick to them. Media shapes your children’s minds in powerful ways.

Anything you’d add?




Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.christianhomeandfamily.com/ Carey Green

    Truly GREAT list… and I like the sarcastic bent to it! Makes it super effective! 4 years as a Dad and you’ve already nailed some of these things… great job Ben.. the LORD is at work in you, clearly.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks Carey! Appreciate the encouragement!

  • Thomas Vertrees

    Ben, loved the post. I think that we sometimes do things as parents because it is the “new thing” without weighing it against our own experience, or other influences. I may have to disagree with you on #1, though. When we look at what we want from our children when they are 18 and leaving us, it is often not that they obey blindly anyone in authority over them. Sometimes they are told to lie, steal, cheat, or worse from those that have authority over them. No, what we want from our children is for them to be a wise decision maker. That they can weigh the options, discern the wise choice, and go with it. So, as a counselor, I will often encourage parents to count to 3 (and just three – not fractions) to give the child the chance to obey, to give them the opportunity to make right choices instead of blind obedience. I want my child to decide well, even if that decision is whether or not to obey me (which tends to be a wise choice :)

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Hey Thomas, thanks for weighing in. I see what you’re saying. I have a couple of thoughts.
      1) “Immediate obedience” will, I believe, change over time. I won’t expect my son to respond in the exact same way when he’s 18 as opposed to now, while he’s 4. My hope would be that he’d learn obedience now, and be able to make the wise choice as he grows up. He’s just not capable of making the wise choice right now in most situations: what to eat, when to sleep, when to not walk in the road, when to not jump off of a countertop, etc.
      2) If a child doesn’t “have a choice” in the end, and has to obey, then counting to 3 just delays the inevitable.
      3) Delaying obedience teaches children that, even when they know exactly what God’s telling them to do, it’s ok to wait until God forces you to obedience rather than following Him willfully.

      I agree…we want to raise children who learn to obey. I just think that we’re setting our children up for an improper response to God when we know (not when we’re uncertain of God’s voice…that’s another post for another day) what He’s calling us to do. There are for sure times when I give my child a choice…and when I tell him, “You’ve got ___ minutes to clean up/get ready,” etc. But as far as obedience goes, we make it an expectation to obey when called on.

      • Thomas

        Let me try to explain it a different way. I believe that children (of most ages) need “space” to make right choices. Sure there are things that are “non-negotiables” (like things relating to harm, danger, etc.), but in things without imminent potential harm I think we should allow for “space” between the command and the consequence. And isn’t that how God interacts with us? Doesn’t He demand obedience but is also “slow to anger” and “willing that none should perish”? What I mean to say, if we are using our heavenly father as the example of how we should parent, isn’t the example instead offering every possible alternative prior to punishment / correction? Having space and opportunity to obey doesn’t mean obedience isn’t expected.

        So for example, if my 6 year old is engaged in an activity that is unacceptable (say …. teasing his younger brother), he is given a directive and a consequence: “(1)Daniel, stop saying mean things to your brother or (2) you will have a time-out.” If there is not immediate compliance, then counting: “1 … 2 …. 3… ok, time out” Now, because we do this often, we often don’t make it to 3. We get compliance before the consequence. That is the goal.

        Sure, it matters the developmental level of the child, but I think we also lean in the direction of underestimating our children’s capability for choosing right behavior, and instead lean heavily on unquestioned obedience over say, understanding, wisdom, and discernment. It makes a big deal, especially when your kid walks to kindergarten and his friend is trying to tell him to take an eraser.

        I know this was long, and this is really a topic for a whole book (and in fact there are several). I just may personally lean more towards fostering independence that is trained to make good choices (even at a young age – maybe even younger than others might) over the desire to have my sons do exactly what I say in the moment I say it.

        That being said children are different and need different things from their parents, that is sure.

        • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

          Good stuff, Thomas. Makes sense for sure.

          This may just have to be one of those ‘agree to disagree’ issues. And if so, I’m cool with that. But I enjoy the dialog. It helps me clarify my thoughts.

          I still say that if my son can obey at ‘1…2…3’ he can obey at the first ask. Delaying his obedience is a little way of him exercising his rebellion and independence. And not ‘independence’ in a healthy way, but in a rebellious way. It’s his way of reminding himself that he’s the one in control, not me. That he’s the ultimate decision maker, not me.

          I’m all for raising my son to make wise choices, weighing through consequences, and discerning the next step to take. But I don’t think complete freedom is the way to go in that. I don’t believe that a child becomes a good decision maker by being given choices to make, but by seeing good choices modeled by their parents on their behalf.

          • Thomas

            I think that the key in what you are saying is in this:

            “I still say that if my son can obey at ‘1…2…3’ he can obey at the first ask.”

            So I would say – Yes! Your son has that capability. You may not have a need to count. But our children are not everyone’s children. To use the “don’t count” as a universal recommendation – never to be used – I wonder that it doesn’t take into account the real issues that are present with parents who, like you and me, desire and expect obedience, yet the child’s behaviors are so significant or parental frustration is so high, that to demand immediate obedience (as the only strategy) is a recipe for shame, failure, embarrassment, and hopelessness.

            Other than that, I think we are really talking about semantics and strategies. Whether someone counts or not, uses color cards or charts, whatever the strategy might be – the goal is still obedience, leading into the development of discernment and wisdom. We may disagree on when that process can start, and that’s ok, but we are taught to “train up a child” – I think that there are some freedoms in the details.

            Kids are resilient. I see them recover from parenting all the time. :)

            Thanks for letting me participate in this dialogue. I also enjoy the process of idea clarification.

          • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

            “I see them recover from parenting all the time.” Yes! Love it!

            Same goal. Lots of gray in between here and there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.piefer Craig Piefer

    Knee jerk reaction: “What you do with one kid and what I do with four kids should not both be called parenting, it makes them seem like task of the same level.”
    This is coming from a pastor who is right now putting together a sermon on family: never give advice! Until you have had multiple kids who are all grown… even then don’t. Share your mistakes and what you wished you would have done or what you learn from it, but never give advice. Unless some ask you, “What would you do…” Then answer with a “this is what I wish we would have done.” Even this blog rubs me the wrong way and I know you have a wonderful heart. Teach out of your weakness otherwise you come a cross as something less than you want.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Hey Craig,
      Thanks for jumping in the discussion. Appreciate your perspective.

      Can I be honest? I kinda feel like you’re criticizing me for only having one child. I’m sure that’s not your intention. After all, the number of children that my wife and I have is completely out of our control. We’d love to have more, but God hasn’t seen fit yet. I’m sure you’re not being critical of our 1-child family, but it just feels that way. Our parenting sure feels like parenting to us…the highs, lows, frustrations, and joys. It may be to a different scale, but it’s parenting nonetheless.

      I wasn’t trying to tell anyone what to do. That’s why I stated before the start of the list that these are things I’ve seen…AND DONE. I’m not immune from bad parenting decisions at all. And I never want to come across that I’ve got it all figured out. I’m learning as I go. Learning through mistakes, victories, heartaches, and joys.

      I don’t have it all figured out, but I’d love for people to learn from me, and do a better job pointing their children to Jesus. If part of my experience can help someone else to grow in their parenting, I’d love that.

      I don’t have it all figured out, and never will. But I’d like to share my journey with others.

      “Teach out of your weakness…” Good stuff. I completely agree. That’s where I want to be.

  • Janet Dubac

    Thank you for sharing this Ben! The sarcasm makes it all the more interesting! I agree with everything said here, but I want to comment on tip no. 5. I am the kind of parent who compels my children to attend church every Sunday–no excuses. I believe that although my children have their own minds, I certainly cannot let them do as they please–especially miss church service.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Children learn how to make decisions early in life not through the choices they’re given, but by the way their parents make wise decisions for them and model good decision-making. Keep taking your kids to church!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.piefer Craig Piefer

    Ben, thanks for the honesty. As you know, knee jerk reactions are rarely Jesus-like.
    I shared my knee jerk not because I thought it was a “right thought” or you needed to hear my opinion, but I wanted you to see how others might see you. I think you’re great and I want others to see you in the correct light. For me and lots others we can take advice and constructive criticism on lots of things (for me it’s preaching, I love to find the harshest critics and asks them to help me get better) but parenting is hard to take even the most kind hearted advice. Why is that? Because, we always think, “you don’t know my kid.” So we disregard it. The best advice I have ever received was through peoples stories, for some reason my pallet can handle that better. I know some people can handle it straight on and are not good at reading between the lines of a story, but I think they are the minority.
    So my post was a little “devil’s advocate” and I shouldn’t have done that, because I HATE when people do that! Sorry. My comment was not more about leading than parenting. I hope and pray that God will bless you and your wife with more kids soon, either born of your flesh or of your heart! When that happens you’ll understand my knee jerk reaction (though you will probably have the wisdom to keep it silent). You will see that the difference I was feeling was a parent of one is Parenting and a parent of multiples is Parentings. When more kids come you’ll see that you used to be a Dad but now you are a Dads.
    My prayer for you: God, bless his walk, his life, his family and his ministry. Amen.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks for the clarification, Craig. I appreciate your take on it greatly.

      And thanks for the prayer! I need it desperately!

  • Amy

    I appreciate the fact that you admit you have committed a lot of these. I often hear religious people echo their problems with the counting method you relate in number one. I too, get annoyed when I see parents with unruly kids simply counting and re-counting. I think this is what you mean. I do sometimes count with my daughter ,who is 5. Not always, but she does what I tell her to do by the time I get to 3. What are your suggestions, aside from counting when I am in a hurry and she is acting a little naughty? I mostly find myself doing this in the morning when we are in a rush to get out the door and she doesn’t want to get dressed quickly or brush her teeth… etc… If you don’t have any suggestions, what books would you recommend? Thanks ,Amy

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      When you are in a hurry, and need to get out the door, that’s precisely the time when you want them to obey “right away, all the way, and with a happy heart!” (that’s the verbiage we use in our family)

      “Heat of the moment” decisions are planned for well in advance, by the way you’ve trained your children leading up to it. If you wait until then, things go sideways really quickly. Like they sometimes do in our family, lest you think we are perfect parents. :)

      I’d suggest a couple of books:
      1. Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Ted Tripp
      2. Peacemaking for Families, by Ken Sande
      3. Give them Grace, by Elyse Fitzpatrick

      • Amy

        Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll pick up one or more of these books.

  • Andrew Mason

    Here’s two: Don’t have a set bed-time and always let your kids butt-in (is that a word?) on conversations you’re having with other adults.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Good adds, Andrew!

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