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10 Parenting Rules You Actually Need to Break

10 Parenting Rules You Actually Need to Break

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. So let’s get real. Here are 10 rules that moms and dads actually need to break. 

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 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. 

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. 

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. 

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 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.     

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 with challenges well. 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.

7. Correction 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)

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.

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 on 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. 

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 with our children that lasts a lifetime, we will not make our parenting goal independence. 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.

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.

Oh Lord my God, You have made me a (father or mother) to ______________. Please give me a wise and discerning heart to lead my children well. Help me to distinguish good and godly parenting practices from those that are not. Thank You for the blessing to be a parent ________________. My heart is to honor You and raise my children in a way that gives You glory. Amen. (Adapted from 1 Kings 3:7-13.)


For more information on parenting go to Amazon and pick up your copy of Raising Little Kids with Big Love (toddler-nine) or Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love (tween-young adult). 

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent-family educator, co-author of three parenting books, and co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting. Her first solo venture, Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home is to be published May 2017. For more information visit You can also Contact Lori to schedule her for a seminar, retreat, or speaking event. Go to to subscribe to her Eternal Moments blog. 

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Publication date: January 25, 2017