Parenting: Do We Really Know What We're Doing?

You think you’ve got this parenting thing all figured out. You know the right Bible verses, the squares on the consequences chart, and the ways to handle pretty much any situation. Then—life. Your kids just know how to find the seams between all your carefully laid plans, the places where you don’t have a strategy laid out, the gray areas.

For reality star and blogger Jen Hatmaker, she’s come to realize that trying to plan out parenting never works how you think in the real world:

“We have no idea if we are reacting correctly or making appropriate choices or parenting “right” or striking the proper balance. Did we discipline when we should have shown grace? Or relent when we should have clamped down? Are we getting the technology thing right? Should we have let the kids see that movie with the F-word? Are other parents letting their 7th grader go to Sonic after school? Do we give our kids too many/few chores? Do we allow boyfriends and girlfriends in 8th grade? Is our kid’s curfew appropriate? If we don’t enroll him in SAT Prep Class, is he doomed? Have spanking/time outs/isolation/lost privileges ruined our kids or redeemed them? Do they know when I make up answers?”

Because they believe that having absolutes in parenting are pretty much impossible in our fallen world, she and her husband Brandon have established some guiding principles that they do their best to live by. These aren’t hard and fast rules for everyone; they’re more just yes’s and no’s for their family:


Constant Entertainment

Her kids can and must learn to entertain themselves without having to be enthralled by some sort of glowing screen. “If my kids cannot make up their own fun outside of mindless technology or maternal leadership, we have way bigger problems. It is okay to say ‘no screens’ while not shouldering the responsibility to fill the blank space.”

Spending Money on Junk

She believes that the best in life isn’t tied to Netflix, jeans, shoes, smartphones, or any other material possession. “I can dry up the commercial pipeline and my kids will still have everything they need, most things they want, and all the stuff that really matters.”



With kids, mess happens. If parents try to manage every moment of their lives to keep them from scraping their knees or breaking dishes, we’re really just hurting them. “Either we control and micromanage their childhoods, or we raise real kids.”

Relationships and Generosity

Hatmaker does her best to always say yes to anything that will help her kids grow relationally or emotionally, such as playdates and invitations from friends. She also finds that she has to push back against her default negative response when her kids ask to do something:

“I find when I am generous with these kinds of yeses, the material requests slow to a crawl. If I am going to give them stuff, let it be the stuff that feeds their minds and hearts and souls and imaginations. Let the yeses push them toward relationships, inventiveness, and contentment instead of materialism, isolation, and entitlement.”

In a recent article on, Dr. Michelle Anthony suggests a bit more structured response to parenting because it’s so easy to fall into dysfunction. She gives 6 types of parenting styles we must avoid, such as 4) The Micro-Managing Parent:

“As the Micro-Managing parent, you desire only the best for your kids. Because you are the adult and they are the children, how could your kids possibly know what is best for them? You have made some good (and bad) decisions in your life, and why wouldn’t you want to pass on this wisdom to your children?…

“Children raised by the Micro-Managing parent will often grow up doubting themselves, feeling driven to perfection, struggling with headaches and stomachaches, and developing eating disorders.”

John UpChurch is the senior editor of and You’ll usually find him downing coffee at his standing desk (like a boss).


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