Can I Ever Make Up for Bad Parenting?


Reader Question:

I made some mistakes as a parent. As a broken, often-alone, and abused mother, I believe I did the best I could with what I had at the time. Since coming to know Jesus, I have spent years pouring into my daughter with the hope of making up for any hard places my daughter ever experienced as a result of my choices. But I over-compensated; for years, I didn’t let my daughter face her own consequences {thinking I was helping her}. I ran ahead, always trying to fix things for her.

As an adult, now with her own family, my daughter has come to expect that behavior from me {fixing everything}, and it seems any time I do not do exactly what she wants or I don’t act in a manner she expects, she drags me back to our past and reminds me of anything that I did wrong, or anything she thinks I did wrong, and how I’m not a good parent because I’m not doing what she wants. I’ve done everything I know how to do for at least fifteen years—why does she choose to see me as the person I was then and not the person I am now?

How do I break this cycle? How do I learn to establish my own boundaries and not to let the opinion of my daughter rule my life and our relationship?


Counselor Answer:

It sounds as if you might be in a co-dependent relationship with your daughter; you will want to learn about the snares of co-dependency. Melodie Beattie teaches about it in the book Co-Dependent No More. Also, I will be having Dr John Townsend on my podcast at the end of June so watch out for that show on my site. Read his book is you haven’t already.

Your daughter is manipulating you with the past. You have obviously tried to be a good mom and you are not the person you used to be anymore. You have to walk in that truth. That means you will have to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable when she tries to manipulate you. It may mean she will be angry or say mean things, but you have to have some biblical counter-statements prepared to gird you against those lies. Find them, write them out and meditate on them.

Try using the Spiritual Disciplines as a way to connect to God. A  great book is Richard Foster’s  The Celebration of Discipline.

I’m sure she does see you as loving, but she is reacting out of her past hurts and woundings. I am sure you have asked for her forgiveness, but if not, that is a must. Once she see’s a change in how you respond to her manipulations, she will either have to change or stop doing it if you don’t take the hook.

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