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How To Eliminate Pass/Fail Parenting

Tantrums in the checkout line. Tennis shoes strewn across the living room floor. A grade of 55 in the slot for last week’s test. 

Every day we get ample opportunities to exercise our God-given right as parents to shape our children “in the way they should go,” and sometimes, it’s easy to get caught in pass/fail parenting. 

If we are not careful, our daily messages to and about our children become, “Once again you’ve failed to clean your room, to come when called, to heed my advice, to empty the dishwasher and to live up to my expectations.” 

Parenting is a daunting task and the pressures our kids are facing in the world today doesn’t make it easier. When we never seem to hit the mark, or when our children struggle with meeting expectations, we need to ask ourselves a few things. Take your family to heart with us today.
In 2019, parenting is a daunting task, but growing up in this century isn’t any easier. There is enormous pressure to be the smartest, most innovative, most liked and followed godly child ready to right every wrong and do so while creating the perfect college resume.

It’s a lot for our children.

So when our children miss the mark we’ve set for them, we need to ask ourselves:

  1. “Is there something deeper going on?”

If the bedroom floor is perpetually covered in yesterday’s clothes because I haven’t harped on it enough, or could it be that my child is a perfectionist ~ yes, perfectionist ~ and becomes overwhelmed by the feeling of “if I can’t fold my clothes perfectly, I won’t do it at all.”

There can be a myriad of reasons for our child’s “failures”—from hunger, sleep deprivation to undiagnosed disorders. Before drawing final conclusions, why not gently ask “the why” behind what we see.

Nothing honors a child more and uses our time more wisely than choosing to assume the best and ask for better understanding of a habitual infraction. 

2. Have I set my child up to fail?

Rare is the child who wants to disappoint their parents. They live to see us proud of them, and yet if they are expected to intuitively know how to do the things we’ve asked without clear directions, even in the simplest tasks, they can and will become despondent. A few extra minutes spent thoughtfully detailing instructions can save a great deal of heartache for everyone. 

3. Do I want more from them that I expect of myself? 

As adults, we too are distracted. We are addicted to our phones, battling with Instagram comparison, forgetful, cranky, and downright exhausted. Before we perpetuate unrealistic standards on our kids who are also stressed out, full of social-media-driven-anxiety and overwhelm, perhaps we should step back and ponder if we are asking more of them than we are of ourselves. We hope God sees past our less than perfect behavior and into our hearts, but often we don’t take the time to search for the same desire in our children. If we demand adult responses, mature processing, and sage demeanor as soon as they develop language and can walk, we forget to see our children’s journeys in seasons. Everything, all the time, the way it perfectly should be, is a heavenly dream that can create a hellish life.

None of us will get this parenting thing exactly right. Our superpowers aren’t that strong. But neither will our children get this growing up thing perfect either. They need to know that they are not a list of their greatest failures.

Remember, they are fearfully and wonderfully made even if their bed isn’t.

Perhaps instead of pass/fail parenting, we should look to our Heavenly Father’s example of grace-filled accountability. He sees beyond our behavior and into our motives and beckons us to relationship marked by obedience and trust. Our children deserve the same. 



You can find me at denisemcdowell.com or on Instagram @denisemcdowellteatime.

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