(The following is an exclusive excerpt from Jonathan McKee’s brand new book, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, released this week.)
Most parents don’t advertise, “Here’s where I messed up!”
So they keep it to themselves. Sadly, this keeps other parents from learning from each other’s mistakes.
What a missed opportunity!
In my travels, I occasionally encountered settings where parents felt safe getting vulnerable with each other, sharing mistakes and asking for prayer and counsel. Most of these venues stimulated others to share similar struggles, and even humble advice, “Here’s what I learned.”
People were hungry for this kind of counsel. I know I was. I loved hearing wisdom from more experienced parents. “I tried this with my son and it didn’t work.”
So this prompted me to begin asking parents:
“If you could go back in time and change one parenting practice, what would you change?”
And that’s the question I’ve been asking people over the last year.
I’ve asked my readers about it, I’ve polled parents, particularly empty nesters, and I’ve questioned countless parents face-to-face at my workshops. The results have been eye opening to me, not only as guy who researches parenting and youth culture… but as a fellow parent!
It didn’t take long for me to begin noticing common denominators. As I began documenting all my polls and surveys, the same struggles and regrets kept floating to the surface. Parents all across the U.S. experience similar forebodings and feelings when they look back at their parenting.
The one answer I heard more than any other answer by far was:
“I wish I would have spent more time with my kids.”
This accounted for more than a third of all the answers.
Think about this for a second. I asked hundreds of parents the exact same question and tallied my answers. I organized those answers into about 15 different categories ranging from time spent with kids to disciplining style. Out of all of these categories, one category accounted for almost 40% of the answers. Parents overwhelmingly look back in regret and wish they would have spent more time just hanging out with their kids.
The testimonials were poignant:
“I’d fight for each moment with them, no matter how tired I am!”
“It seems like we were so concerned about placing boundaries that relationship took a far back seat.”
“I would have spent more time making memories, and less time worrying about dishes”
“More time in conversation, and less time in front of the TV.”
“With a do-over, I’d jump in the ocean with them more instead of sitting on the sand watching them play.”
Some of these parents were pretty honest about the excuses they used:
“It was always easy to say ‘I’m way too tired today!’ or ‘I have to get this project done so we will just do it next week.’ And pretty soon we weren’t doing those things at all.”
“I think back about the times my kids requested to spend time with me but I was too busy doing what I wanted to do, or quite frankly, sometimes I was ‘busy’ being lazy or tired.”
But the majority of parents also seemed to regret the way they disciplined, particularly in anger.
“I wish I wouldn’t have responded so quickly.”
“A softer voice proved waaaaaaaay more effective.”
“I learned to postpone my reaction during conflict and dialogue later.”
Parents also seemed to regret spending too much time with busy activities like sports.
“I always liked sports because of the discipline and teambuilding, but sports quickly became a seven day a week commitment that sucked the life out of every other part of her schedule.”
“Sports started as something positive, but soon became the number one priority in all our lives, above family, church, school… name it.”
The more I asked parents what they’d change, the more I heard the same struggles—struggles I knew all too well.
It’s funny… but these vulnerable lessons we all are initially too scared to share with others… these are pure gold to other parents! I know this because occasionally I will share these words:
“Here’s where I messed up…”
Whenever I say those words during one of my parenting workshops, you can hear a pin drop. Parents are on the edge of their seats.
“And here’s what I’d do different next time…”
That’s when every pen in the room begins writing furiously. People want to know what works and what doesn’t work in the world of parenting.
This kind of knowledge is treasure!
That’s why I wrote If I Had a Parenting Do Over. I hope to help you in a way that I wish someone would have helped me. I hope to provide you with hindsight I only wish I could have had access to ahead of time.
As I look back at my own parenting and notice key areas where I improved, I compare and fuse those practices with the wisdom and experiences I’ve observed from other parents. I have the unique privilege of mingling with thousands of parents at the parent workshops I teach each month across the world (and you’d be surprised how similar the struggles are of parents in Kampala Uganda and in Lincoln Nebraska). After these workshops, my wife and I always hang out at the back table and dialogue with parents, listening to stories, and trying our best to answer tough questions. It’s amazing how often I hear parents share similar mistakes… mistakes I recognize all too well… and wish they could go back and approach their parenting differently.
If only they had a do over.
Let’s face it. Hindsight is 20/20.
Jonathan’s brand new book, If I Had a Parenting Do Over is being tagged as “his best book yet.” It’s recommended by Shaunti Feldhahn, Doug Fields, Sean McDowell, Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly, and more. Here’s a glimpse at his “Table of Contents” with the “7 Vital Changes” he’d make:
Table of Contents
FIRST CHANGE: Tip the Scales
SECOND CHANGE: Let it Go
THIRD CHANGE: Notice
FOURTH CHANGE: Press Pause
FIFTH CHANGE: Segue
SIXTH CHANGE: Add a Question Mark
SEVENTH CHANGE: Walk With
WHAT NOW? 25 Ways to Apply What You’ve Just Read