Parenting Mistake? Let’s Fix It.

Posted January 13, 2016 by

Parenting Mistake? Let’s Fix It.

Here’s a typical situation our coaching team hears from parents:

“Last night was awful. My son came home two hours after curfew and when I tried to talk to him, he started making excuses and blaming me for making the curfew too early. I got so mad, we started yelling at each other. I told him he’s grounded for the next three months.”

Now what? Grounding her son for three months isn’t going to work. But if she backtracks, she feels like she’s giving in to bad behavior. This parent feels backed into a corner.

Luckily there is an effective way to “re-do” a parenting moment gone wrong. Once you master this tool, you’ll use it all the time.

“If you want your child to listen to you, I personally think you need a system in your home in which it becomes the child’s responsibility to listen to you.” – James Lehman, MSW, Creator of Total Transformation

Find a quiet time, the next day or a few hours later, and sit down with your child. Use this template to help you acknowledge the mistake and move forward:

“You know, we had a hard time last night and I told you were grounded for three months. That’s not going to work. I’m sorry that happened. Next time I get upset, I’m going to take a break so we can both calm down.

You’re not grounded for three months, but we do need to talk about what happened with curfew and how you’re going to come home on time in the future.”

Before you start this conversation, take time to think about what you would have done differently. Then tell your child what you wished you had done, and give a modified consequence. You are in control this time around. Admitting your mistake does not diminish your power and it doesn’t show inconsistency or weakness. A parenting mistake does give you and your child an opportunity to learn together.

We don’t expect this conversation to make your child feel happy and compliant. They still need a consequence and they will probably still be mad. If things start to get heated, it might be best to take a break and talk later – this is another opportunity to model the behavior you wanted to show last time.

These moments are uncomfortable, but parenting mistakes are incredible teaching opportunities. If you want another resource for staying calm while parenting, this article is a great place to start: Trapped in a Screaming Match With Your Child? 5 Ways to Get Out Now.

If you need more support, you may benefit from talking with our parenting coaches. Try Empowering Parents eCoaching and receive 7 days of online child behavior help, free. Start a conversation today.


Becky Staples has worked with children and families in a variety of settings including schools, homes, and community agencies. She has a degree in Education and Child Study from Smith College and her Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Becky has been working with Empowering Parents families since 2008.

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  1. Pretty Report

    I really appreciate these parenting advises they really help as I’m having a 14 year boy, just started smoking at a boarding school this year but i talked to him and denied everything. I was reported by class teachers and boarding master. I stopped giving him pocket money, he was having an older friend (20years)a former convict that how it started, he had to join their group at hostel in order to survive. But I decided to take him out of the boarding school and I’m staying with him and he is back on his feet as a sweet child for now but I’m having Faith that he wont smoke again.-

  2. Lyn Perks Report

    My daughter 16 came home later than curfew.  I went to bed.  I put a note on her door that said “You are late.  Wake me up when you get home and tell me what time it is.  Be up and ready to talk tomorrow morning at 10am.”  We talked about the consequences of being late next time and she got a warning.  She has not been late again.

  3. harteca Report

    Help!!! My daughter is 17 and goes to private schools. She is not allowed to get her learners permit because of her grades. My husband leaves his family every week so he can send them to private schools. My junior is so lazy and so unengaged it is causing so many problems.  For the last two years this has been an issue , I just checked her grades and she has 2 d’s and an f. We don’t require A’s and B’s but, F’s and 2 d’s is not acceptable. She hates school, her room is a mess all the time.  She will come home from school and watch you tube or netflix for 4 hours and when I say when are you going to to your homework she says, I did.  She had a test last week I told her I will study with you, She said no I will do it myself then she runs upstairs so I took her door handle off. She got an F on that test that I paid for….I now have to pay for a math tutor because the one the school supplied is worthless. I am a stay at home mom. I drive 35 minutes to get her and 45 to get her sister at a different school. I do not get home usually until 4:30 or 5. If her friend brings her she gets home at 3:50 and of course when I get here at 5, she has not left the computer. My husband works out of town every week for the last 6 years, I am so frustrated with her and her lack of ambition, and willingness to make it better, when we  get into it, its always my fault, we just need to realize she is not smart she says.(TOTal Lie). She just doesn’t want to put any effort in anything. But she can chase boys and accomplish that in no time.  My friend came and got her last night because I was not playing her games. She was very upset but I am so tired of the bs excuses. I ground her when she does this and she thinks I am awful. But she doesn’t change anything! I am at my wits end. My husband thinks the answer to everything is taking the phone away.  Please give me some advise.  She says I am a pro at making her feel like total crap as a person and a daughter. She never follows through on things. she was quite upset last night and ended up leaving and taking a walk….. as usual total avoidance.  Thanks

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      What a tough situation. I can hear how disappointed you are
      that your daughter’s grades aren’t all passing. From an adult perspective, it
      does seem as though she’s not really appreciative of everything you and her
      father have done to make sure she gets a great education. Unfortunately, you’re
      daughter isn’t looking
      at it from an adult perspective and, expecting her to step up and improve her
      grades because she’s feeling grateful or appreciative is probably expecting too
      much. Truthfully, your daughter sounds like a normal teen – more motivated to
      do the things she wants to do than doing the things she has to do. One way of
      addressing this lack of motivation and ambition is by developing a daily plan
      that focuses on her getting her work done each day. We have several articles
      that offer tips for doing this. One in particular you may find helpful is Another
      useful one is We wish you and your
      family the best of luck moving forward. Take care.

    • Jennifer Report

      1.It’s not easy and accept it
      2. Do not feel bad if she doesn’t understand you. Most teens don’t
      3. Say what you feel and move on from the subject
      4.approach her differently
      5. She will push your buttons and you need to stay calm she will likewise see you differently
      6. Make effective consequences change the WiFi password if you need too
      5. Remember your in charge

  4. mchughfamily Report

    My son is 17, will be 18 in March.  The last year has been very tough on the entire family.  It started with not doing his school work, then skipping classes to entire days.  It was to the point where he would either have to attend summer school or repeat the year (junior).  He refused to do either so he dropped out.  He was smoking pot and taking pills.  Three months ago he over dosed by taking Xanax and Seriquil back to back.  We took him to the emergency room and they looked him over, asked him questions and released him.  The doctor told us he was not an addict but an abuser.  After that things seemed to calm down. The guy he was getting drugs from moved away to a rehab in Florida and never came back.  Another guy went to live with family in another state for a while and the third guy (not a drug user per-say) just stopped communicating after the over dose.  I think it may have been too much for him.  We were finally getting along and he was spending time with the family. He finally seemed like a normal teenager.  Anyway the guy who went to another state returned home a little while ago and he’s has completely turned around again.  We have drug tested him and he did test positive for marijuana but I believe he may be taking other drugs as well.  We use those over the counter drug tests and I’m not sure I have that much faith in them.  Although he does go to work and he has passed two sections of the GED test.  He has come to a complete stop on finishing the test and shows no signs of interest in pursuing his idea of becoming a mechanic anymore.  When we let him drop out of school, he promised (in a letter to me) that he would get his GED and begin trade school in the fall of this year.  Again, he has come to a complete halt on the GED and expresses no interest in anything concerning his future.  He currently works for a friend of ours who owns a mechanic shop and they love him.  Said he’s the best kid they’ve had in there in a long time.  Even told him once he has his certification from trade school he would hire him as a mechanic.  How can I motivate this man-child to move on with his life and get away from these guys who all seem to make bad choices together?

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      I hear you. It can be quite distressing when your child
      continues to make bad choices and hang out with people who may not be the best
      influence. Your son is nearly an adult, so it may be challenging to motivate
      him to follow through and do what he had said he would do. One thing you might
      consider doing is developing a living agreement with your son that outlines
      what expectations he would need to meet in order to continue living in your
      home once he turns 18. You can find some great ideas for developing a living
      agreement in the articles & There’s
      even a template for a living agreement in the second article that you can
      download and print off. We wish you the best of luck moving forward. Take care.

    • Jennifer Report

      I’m terribly sorry for the news about your son. Talk to your son about the morals you brought him up with. He has a lot of bad influences, it might be healthy for you and him to go on a family vacation just to give him a fresh start when ever he comes back. Acknowledge his friends and his surroundings is always important. If something is ailing him like a breakup or not fitting in at school it’s comprehensible to lash out with these things. What is your son’s passion in life is it art?science? Civil rights? You may want to direct him to those things.

    • MotherofTwo76 Report

      Hello, I’ve had some similiar experiences with my son who’s 17. He had same pattern with grades, skipping school, not telling the truth. Its actually a long story. Im not sure where you live. I’m in Idaho. They have a great program for kids 16-19 I believe. It’s called IDYCA (Idaho youth challenge academy). Its a 5.5 month program in a military type setting. I know some people think this is extreme. I’d just encourage you to atleast look into it. It could make the diffetence of him graduating, getting a Ged, or catching up on credits. I believe you can get up to 14 in that short period of time. This program is funded by the National Guard & parents pay for supplies only needed for their stay. The money goes back into gov as the kids work in community buliding things, fisheries, spending time with veterans. Anyways, check it out if you’re interested! Good luck!

  5. kattia Report

    Hi I’m having a situation with my son he is 20 years old he is know on jail because he violeted his probation he had a curfew wish he wasn’t do it so I decide to put him at San matew house because he wasn’t not obedience my rule and the rule from his Provecho Officer either after that what happens he wasn’t fallow the rule on San Mateo house either know he is on jail I talk to him and explain he is the only one that has to go true the consequences of his action he listen but he don’t do I really desperate I’m don’t know what to do and sometimes I feel guilty

    • rwolfenden Report

      am so sorry to hear about the legal trouble your son is now facing as a result
      of his choices not to follow the rules and guidelines he was given, by you, his
      probation officer and others.  It’s also common for many parents to feel
      guilty about the circumstances in which their kids find themselves.  The
      truth is, though, that your son is now an adult, and is responsible for the
      outcomes of his choices and actions.  At this point, it could be more effective
      to focus on forgiving yourself, so you can move forward more effectively with
      your son.  Our article,, offers some tips and
      advice which you might find helpful in this process.  Thank you for
      writing in; take care.

      • kattia Report

        Thank you Rebecca for take a moment and answer me , is hard for me because I don’t have anybody to talk about this my parents are to old and I don’t want make worries about it and my husband he understand but at the end we dont agree sometimes thanks for the support

  6. Cinderella and her fella Report

    When my daughter gets grounded. I offer ways to pay off the grounding. I get her to vaccum for 1 day of punishment. Dust for a day ect.
    For us this is a win win.

  7. Charityss Report

    I have 2kids, boy-14,girl-9, i was so upset earlier because they did not study first, today and tomorrow is their exam, but thhe girl went to her friend and the boy play computer.I told them that next school year I wil trnsfer them to gov’t school since they did not show interest inn studies.
    Am i right? What should I do?

  8. rwolfenden Report

    Anne Nguyen 
    Thank you for
    writing in, and reaching out for support.  I hear how concerned you are
    for your nephew, and want to help him and his family to address this
    increasingly aggressive behavior.  If it hasn’t already been done, it
    could be useful to check in with his doctor to rule out any underlying factors
    which might be contributing to his behavior.  We have some additional tips
    in our article  I recognize
    how troubling this behavior is, and I wish you and your family all the best
    moving forward.

  9. WMB Report

    Hi, Just remarried, as my late husband passed away 6 yrs ago now .Brain anurisem.
    Have two beautiful boys, 18 and 13 and now have my new husbands children as well.
    Girl 18 and boy 17.
    Have the 3 boys full time and they get on amazingly, Daughter, when she feels like i, or wants money..
    All fine, except when Daughter comes. Have worked out she doesn’t want to share her Dad.
    Understand, but now its bring me down, She has told her grandparents that We are never going to be Family and wants things to go back to the same way it was before my family came along, And her attitude is not going to change!!
    Her Dad and her have a lovely relationship, But one way. He will do anything to make her happy. And the 3 boys get most upset because they can see it, she gets special treatment when she is around because she lives with her mother full time.
    Her mum and new partner and  i get on very well no problems there
    What do i do to make my life not so stressful  Tried to talk to New Husband but he can see it but wont do a thing about it, cause he is scared of loosing her

  10. MaryWilsonKendall Report

    Perfect timing with this article!!
    My 10 year old daughter and I melted down on each other this morning… She decided 5 mins before leaving for school that she didn’t like what she was wearing and nothing I offered worked for her… Meanwhile now we are running late and she is just standing there crying!! I lost it! She has been acting out ever since coming home from her dads at Christmas. Every argument ends up the same way…. “I want to go live with daddy” and she knows this pushes my buttons!! Daddy lives about 8 hours away with his wife and new baby. i have told my daughter she will never live with dad. He has issues and is not exactly a hands on dad. The problem is he feeds this game with her. When she says she wants to live with him he tells her she needs to ask me. He has never asked me for her and I know he doesn’t want the responsibility of her. He knows I wouldn’t let her and he banks on that so he can look like the good guy. I don’t push the issue because I don’t want her heart broken.
    My question is… How do I talk to her about her dad? This is why she acts out and misbehaves.. She is trying to be bad enough for me to let her go! How do I get her to understand and know this is off the table when he keeps giving her hope?

    • rwolfenden Report

      It can be very
      challenging when a child acts out and talks about living with another parent as
      a way to solve her problems and avoid responsibility.  I encourage you to
      stay focused on the issue at hand, which is not being ready to leave for school
      on time this morning, and how she will follow the rules moving forward.  You
      might find our article,, helpful
      in structuring this conversation with her.  I recognize how difficult this
      situation is for you, and I wish you the best as you continue to move forward.

    • ChrisDowney Report

      MaryWilsonKendall It’s a tug of war with your daughter in the middle isn’t it?  Yes she knows how to push your buttons AND his.  Instead of being so concerned with talking to her why don’t you focus on talking to him.  This issue is about parenting.  You and her father are the parents.  Reach out to him and come to a common ground about what is best for her.  Telling her that she will “never” live with her dad hurt her feelings and pushed her away from you.  I know, I know he has “issues”, he’s a jerk, or whatever negative justifications you have about him but he’s her dad and she loves him.  She’s a 10 year old struggling with how to process all this.  You and her dad really need to set aside your issues with each other and communicate for her best interest.  Be honest with each other about it.  Find out in a conversation if he really doesn’t want the responsibility of taking her or are you just assuming.  Find out his true intentions.  Finally, yes she acts out to gain some sense of control over this situation.  You both have to parent her and be at least close to the same page.  It takes work from you and him.  Easier said than done.

      • MaryWilsonKendall Report

        Thank you so much for the advice.
        Actually I did end up talking with him briefly yesterday and asked him to speak with me and not her when she says she wants to live with him. I asked him why he tells her to ask me instead of him asking me? I told him it’s not for her to decide so that would be an adult conversation between you and me. He didn’t answer the question and said he would stop saying that to her. I responded with .. Well, are you going to talk to me about it or do you really not want her to live with you? He suddenly had to go. Shocker!!!
        He doesn’t want the responsibility but he wants her to believe it’s my fault she can’t go.
        You’re right that I should’ve stuck with the task at hand that she wasn’t ready on time. My feelings got the best of me when she threw that old “I want to live with daddy” out at me when I was already on the verge of snapping lol.
        And saying never was wrong. Ugh… I felt so bad after dropping her off. When she got home she apologized and I did too. She felt she didn’t get enough sleep the night before 😊💤.
        We talked about daddy and I explained that the next time you and dad have a conversation about you living with him tell him that I am happy to talk with him about it and he can give me a call.
        Was that ok? I felt it was letting her know that her feelings were validated and that I am at least open to discussion about it.
        Though I know he is not going to call me.

  11. Chris Report

    I have a 16 year old daughter. I basically raise her by myself. Not going so well . I get the you workrooms h and do y care about me.
    She hangs with the kids that drag her down and she knows how to escalate things into a fight. Have her in counciling and seeing psychiatrist for her add. Of course she wants nothing to do with me , I get it I was that age before. Any suggestions help. Chris

  12. Rita Edwards Report

    Need. Some parenting tools to help out with age 3
    Interested in one-on-one coaching
    I bought the program because the lady said it would help my grandson was only one at the time,But that will come in handy when he gets older I need something for his appropriate age now.. thanks

  13. ChavaB Report

    This is great! It’s good to let our children know that we are only human, too, and can make a mistake sometimes.



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