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How Not to be a Defensive Parent

Parent-teacher conferences are intimidating for blogger Lisa-Jo Baker. Something about condensing the merits, challenges, struggles, and achievements of her children into a 20-minute meeting brings out a nervous, defensive side of her. After all, what do parents love more than their children? And how easy is it to slip back into old thoughts of insecurity and vulnerability from one’s own school days, when you’re back in the classroom, face-to-face with a teacher?

Baker writes,

“Going into those meetings is like welcoming conversation and commentary about the deepest parts of your own heart.

And I know that we’re not supposed to let ourselves be defined or judged or whatever by our kids and their behavior. But tell that to any mom who is sitting outside the principal’s office or in that hard chair outside the teacher’s homeroom and suddenly she’s 8 all over again.”

So how can we learn to let go of parental insecurities? How can we walk the journey of life with our kids, both correcting their mistakes and praising their efforts? Baker, and many authors on, share thoughts. Baker shares,

“I want their teachers to believe me when I say that we are PARTNERS. I don’t want to be defensive, I want to be totally open to learning about my children from these people who have such a unique 6 hours a day with them. So if they tell me that my kid is showing attitude or using bad language or disrespecting the sub, I BELIEVE THEM. And then we work together to figure out what comes next in the plan.”

It may be disheartening when we hear negative things about our children. But Mark Altroggle writes that there are 5 Benefits of Having a Challenging Child.

  • It grows our dependence on God
  • We grow in humility
  • We grow in mercy and sympathy toward others
  • We grow in patience and perseverance
  • We grow in love

Pam Farrel shares her story of a particularly trying time in her son’s life, and how she was able to work with him to overcome challenges in her article Finding the Treasure in Your Child. After one particularly hurtful altercation, she confesses:

“I ran to my room in tears. I threw myself across my bed and desperately prayed to God, ‘Lord, I am a pastor’s wife, Director of Women’s Ministry, I write all these Christian books and I am raising a little atheist upstairs—I need HELP! I am so afraid for Zachery. I don’t know what to do. All I do know is that Psalm 139 says he is fearfully and wonderfully made. I believe that. I believe there is a gift, a treasure, that You place in each and every one of us. But God, Zach is so angry he cannot see the treasure. Help me help him see that treasure!’”

Have you ever felt that kind of discouragement as a parent? Theresa Ceniccola shares encouragement in her piece 5 Whispers Every Mom Should Hear. One crucial part of parenthood, she reminds us, is that we don’t have to do it alone:

“If you’re like me, there are days when you feel you bear the weight of the world on your shoulders. You know in your mind that God doesn’t intend for you to carry the burden alone, but there’s something in your heart that just won’t let others in to help lighten the load. This is the whisper you need to hear when your cross becomes too heavy. This is the whisper that will set you free and surround you with support. Maybe you need more help at home with childcare or housekeeping…or reliable assistance in the office with bookkeeping or customer service…or maybe you just need a supportive sister to reach out to…someone who will listen and love you and lift you up. No matter what your struggles are today, you don’t have to do this alone. Remember that. Repeat it often.”

If you’re a parent, have these pieces encouraged you? If your kids are grown, what words of advice would you pass on to younger parents? If you’re a teacher, be sure to check out another angle to this scenario, in Paige Givens’ piece, To the Christian Teacher in Public School.

Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor at

Publication date: November 5, 2014