How do I start being a good parent?
I am a babe in Christ. I was just baptized last month. My life has changed very much since then, and I have no desire to go back to the way I was. I still have struggles, but I am trying to live a Christian life.
A major problem that I have right now is with my parenting skills. I've never been a good parent and I've never been good at enforcing rules. My daughter is 14 years old and I've pretty much let her watch and listen to whatever she wants to and wear whatever clothes she wants. I've put her through a lot of stuff including the sinful relationships I had in my past that had a negative effect on her. Also, I used to have what I would call an Internet addiction which took a lot of attention from her. She hasn't seen her dad in years.
At this point, I don't know how to start making rules and consequences for her as I haven't done much of it until this point. She is currently on depression medication and in therapy. She was hospitalized at the beginning of this year due to a suicide attempt. I want to give her rules but I am afraid of her hurting herself. She gets upset when I ask her to wear a longer shirt or longer shorts or when I ask her what she is watching on TV or what she is doing on her phone. I can't fully take her phone away as sometimes I have to leave her alone while I go to church, work, the store, or for a walk. It is hard for me to get her to leave the house. I really don't want to keep her from communicating with her friends as she is not around others very often.
She absolutely refuses to go to church and says that she does not believe in God. I've tried to convince her otherwise. I have sent her links from the church of Christ site and even handwritten reasons she should investigate. I thought she might be more willing to read it that way. She made the comment one day that she would go to hell anyway because she likes girls. I'm not sure if that might be the reason that she says she doesn't believe in God or if it could be because of something I have put her through. I also read somewhere that an absent father can be a factor in someone saying they are an atheist. I don't even know what exactly she means by liking girls. I think she says she likes both, but to the best of my knowledge, she's not been sexually active with either.
Part of me thinks maybe she might see the change in me and want to change. I am not as hopeful of this as I was for the simple reason that I get depressed sometimes lately. I get depressed because I know that she is lost. I get depressed because of worrying about hurting people's feelings because I can't be the way I used to be, even have the same kinds of conversations I used to have. It's really hard sometimes just to converse because of fear of saying something wrong, getting involved in gossip, or other things. I'm still learning. I don't want to be a stumbling block.
I just really need to know what I should do with my daughter because I feel I need to change the way I parent her, but I am not sure how with her age and her mental health status. I'm also trying to communicate with her more, but she doesn't seem to be very interested.
Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate what you do. I've read a few of your answers and they seem to be helpful.
Generally, the damage that we do in our pasts because of our sins is not fully repairable. We try to lessen the impact and reduce some of the damage, but the reason sins are wrong is that they cause damage to ourselves and to others.
You have your children for about 18 years and then they are on their own. It is just not practical to expect to fix 14 years of problems in the few remaining years.
From your daughter's point of view, your change is new. How does she know you really changed? How does she know it isn't just another fad that you're trying out? Words alone are not going to convince her, so you have to prove it with your life. What Peter told wives can also apply to mothers. "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior" (I Peter 3:1-2).
You mentioned that you spent too much time ignoring your daughter, while you can't make up the lost time, you can make sure you use your available time wisely. Make an effort to talk with your daughter regularly and do things with her. She is likely to reject your offers at first because she won't believe it is real, but do what you can and try not to get upset if she turns you down. "This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20). Listening to your daughter will take some of the volatility out of the relationship.
Yes, your daughter is going to get upset when you correct her. "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:11). You can't base moral choices on how you think someone might react. For example, stealing remains wrong even if the one stealing gets upset about being told it is wrong.
Instead of making a huge number of rules, consider which one or two things need to change. Then discuss with your daughter why the change is needed. Not often, but sometimes, she might have a suggestion to modify the rules to better suit the situation. Discuss also the consequences if the rule is broken and then be prepared to stick with it. Common mistakes are to not be consistent in enforcing the rules or to change the consequences to be more severe because you are angry.
So let's say she needs to dress better. Then determine what are acceptable limits and talk to her about both what the limits are and why they are there. For example, if she doesn't want male attention, dressing to gain the sexual attention of men is not consistent. Consequences are that offending items of clothing are going to quietly end up donated to Goodwill.
Making your daughter attend church services won't necessarily work at this late time, but let her know that she can join you anytime.
Her statement of "liking girls" can be caused by several things:
- She thinks it will annoy you.
- She saw all your problems with men and decided she didn't want the same problems in her life.
- She was sexually abused by a male and has generalized it to hate all men.
- She is just at the age where she is more comfortable with people of the same gender and interprets this as sexual attraction.
I would suggest not taking the bait and getting upset about it. Likely she'll change before too long. Meanwhile, talk as if you know that one day she'll end up with a husband and children. Nothing overt, just a way you see the future coming to pass. If she disagrees, you can talk about why but don't get mad about her current views, just politely and firmly state that you think she can do better than that.
Thank you for your response. I know I can't fix all the damage done, but I'd like to do what I can.