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Breaking the Cycle: Letting Go of Unrealistic Parenting Expectations

I am a terrible parent.

Or at least that’s how I feel a lot of the time. Parenting is difficult and long-suffering work and a lot of days (read most days) I go to bed feeling like I lost. Like I am a terrible parent.

And maybe you resonate with this. Maybe most days you feel like a terrible parent or at least that you didn’t get it right. Now, I don’t have any magic pills to not feel this way. But I do think the solution is two-fold. The first is to capture and acknowledge the reason why we feel this way. The second is to remind ourselves of some truths.

First, let’s talk about some of the reasons why we might feel like we are terrible parents.

  • Unrealistic expectations- Often we have this pressure to be PERFECT. I don’t know if this pressure comes from within or from outside of us. Either way, the pressure is there and it is an unrelenting pressure that seeks to destroy us and if we let it continue it will destroy us.

  • Lack of support- Parenting is lonely. It feels like it’s us vs the world. That we are the only ones going through what we are with our child. And that if we shared our struggles with others that they would not get it and judge us.

  • Lack of knowledge- So many times I have wished that kids came with a handbook or an owner’s manual. “If your 14-year-old son rolls his eyes at you, do ____.” Sadly, that’s not how it works and it can be challenging to know what to do. I know when I don’t know what to do I feel insecure and not sufficient.

Acknowledging the problem is only half the battle, or in reality, only a quarter of the battle. How do we battle the lies? What truths do we need to know to set us free from these lies?

Here are 3 truths to help us.

  • Our child doesn’t need a perfect parent- I know this is hard to believe. But research backs this up. What our child needs, is an imperfect parent who loves them, keeps showing up over and over, and provides relative stability. That’s it. You can do that. I can do that. We can do that.

  • You are not the only one- So many times I believed the lie that I was the only parent who was experiencing what I was experiencing, but when I was finally brave enough to verbalize what I was feeling and experiencing others said “Me too.” So be brave, confide in other adults, and be the brave one who says what everyone is thinking and feeling. You will be surprised by the support system you find.

  • Growth not mastery is the key- You have found this website and are reading this article, which puts you ahead of most parents. Not that its a competition, but if it was you would be winning. In all seriousness, you are doing the work you need to grow. You will never know all there is to parenting, but you can know more today than you did yesterday. And that’s what matters.

So it looks like I am NOT a terrible parent. And neither are you. We are doing the best we can and keep growing into better and better parents. And guess what? That’s exactly what our kids need. So join me in capturing the lies and shouting the truth.

Mike VanDrie

Redemption City Fellowship Pastor


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Blog Goal:The Talk With Your Teen blog encourages and equips Christian parents to have consistent, open, and meaningful conversations with their teenagers about relational and sexual health.


About us: This blog is hosted by The Joshua Center from Positive Options. The Joshua Center exists to mobilize the body of Christ to embody the Gospel as we build a culture of life in West Michigan.


Parenting teens can be challenging. We offer Biblically based social and sexual health workshops that help ground teens in God's truth and authority as they navigate a hypersexual and rapidly evolving culture focused on individualism and self-gratification. Talk with your Teen articles expand and build on these trainings by encouraging and equipping Christian parents to have ongoing conversations with their teens regarding sensitive cultural issues. For more information about our workshops, for both teens and their parents, please email

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