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What to do When a Parenting Technique Doesn’t Work

What do you do when you try a new parenting technique and it just doesn’t seem to work? You can use our checklist to evaluate and uncover the root of the problem.

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In our society, we have come to expect results in an instant. We love microwave popcorn, instant oatmeal, remote controls, and Pop Tarts. If a website doesn’t load up within two seconds, we are on to another one. If someone doesn’t answer the phone within three rings, we hang up. We want results and we want them now. But if we hold this mindset when it comes to parenting, we are likely setting ourselves up to be discouraged and disheartened.

The Bible says that we are to train a child in the way he should go. If you watch athletes train, it is not instant success. They have to work hard at the same thing day after day until they get it right. Parenting is an act of training that usually does not produce instant results. Sometimes we will have to shift gears. Sometimes it will be best to stick it out. How do we know which is best?

You can use the questions below to evaluate the situation:

Am I being consistent? 

Parenting interventions are most effective when consistently applied. Are there any noticeable inconsistencies?  Are both parents on the same page?  Studies in behavioral psychology reveal that behavior that is intermittently reinforced is the hardest to extinguish. If both parents are not handling a situation in a similar manner or if you sometimes stick to you guns and other times do not, your child will have little success in eliminating the unwanted behavior.

Does the technique make sense for my child?

Not every parenting intervention works for every child. Removing a prized toy may be very motivating for one child while another child would not be affected. Trust what you know of your unique child, rather than trusting what someone said worked for their child. You know your child best.

Does the intervention make sense for me?

If whatever you are trying to implement doesn’t feel organic to you or if you are trying on another person’s personality and trying to parent like them, it may not go over as intended. You are not trying to be someone else, you are trying to be you. Sometimes parenting techniques don’t work because they are not a good fit for you. If you feel awkward or fake implementing a particular script or intervention, it might be a good idea to consider alternatives.

Have I given it enough time?

It is likely that the behavioral problems you are aiming to address did not happen overnight and therefore will not disappear overnight. Look for incremental changes as your signposts that you are on the right path. Sometimes it can take several days for your child to unlearn an unhelpful behavioral response or to learn that you are going to follow through (particularly if you have not done so in the past).

Have I prayed about it?

When we are struggling at a parenting task, the best resource to know if we are on the right track is to ask God. Ask him to show you where you may need to make adjustments in your heart or your expectations. Ask for patience, wisdom and discernment.

And keep in mind that the struggle may not be about your child at all. It might be about you. Just because you are not feeling successful immediately does not mean you are on the wrong path. Struggles often bring growth. 

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” However, this “good” that Paul speaks of does not necessarily feel good.  As you try to instill godly character in your children, remember that God is often doing the same for you, His child.

If you are struggling to with a parenting intervention and just feel stuck, pause. Take breath. Ask yourself the questions above and then ask God to show you the way. He will.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

1 Comment

  • Thank you, Laura..
    Each child is so different and asking God to help you “tweak” effectively is so key.

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