What is the worst thing a parent can feel, in your opinion? I’ll give you a few seconds to think about that before I give you my answer.

From my perspective, the worst thing a parent can feel is “hopeless.” This is when you’re feeling like there’s no hope for you, your child or your family because everything, absolutely everything, is going wrong and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

I’ve talked with many parents who have been on this road; I’ve been there myself.

You’re standing in a spot, looking toward the future and everything you see is bleak. The only word that can describe how you see yourself as a parent is “failure.” It’s a pretty awful feeling.  You wake up in the morning and as soon as your daughter sees you, you get some sort of negative, snarky comment.  Or, you go into your son’s room and see he still hasn’t cleaned up the mess that’s been there for weeks (months!) and when you ask him about it, you get a “F-you, Mom” as a reply. There is a fear that seeps into everyday life that your children will never develop the skills to be productive members of society. The responsibility of it all can make you feel overwhelmed and defeated, and your day hasn’t even really started yet.  It can be enough to make any parent wonder how you could have ever thought having children was a good idea.

What can a parent do to change this seeming downward spiral?

Most of us are trying to raise our kids using the same tools and techniques our parents used. And, while those techniques may have worked with our generation, they are not very effective with this generation of kids. Where I would never even consider talking back to my mom (at least not while she was in the same room as me), kids today are growing up in a different culture, one where disrespect and defiance towards adults are much more accepted and often glorified in media. The line between children and adults has become blurred, with many kids not seeing the boundary at all.

When working with parents on the Empowering Parents parent coaching service, we talk about how it all starts with assuming control and conveying the calm self confidence of an empowered parent. Does this mean you will actually feel like you are always in control? No, probably not. When I’m faced with a situation where I’m not really feeling in control, a saying that we used a lot when I worked in a residential facility comes to mind: “Fake it till you make it.” In other words, act as if you are in control even if you’re not feeling like you are. You will get to a point where assuming control comes naturally and you’ll no longer be acting.

Let’s say you are asking your son to clean his room for the umpteenth time. Be clear with your expectations and let him know that, until he cleans his room, he’s not going to be able to use the car.  Link the task to one of his privileges. Start having him earn those things he considers rights by linking them to what you want him to do.  He may respond to your request with “Whatever” or something equally irritating. How do you respond? If you’re like many parents, you might jump into the fray, feet first, saying something like “How dare you talk to me that way? Who do you think you are? Let me tell you something…” He responds with something even more disrespectful, and a fight begins. Now, the issue is no longer about whether or not his room gets clean. Instead, it’s about the power struggle you are now fully involved in.

So, try something different. Instead of getting into that argument, ignore the remark and walk away.  Go into another room, go for a walk, do anything other than get into an argument. Even though it may feel like he’s winning, the truth is, you’re still the one with the power. He’s not going to get the privilege until his room is clean, so what is he actually winning?

There are many other tools in The Total Transformation Program that will help you respond to your child’s behavior more effectively, helping you turn what seems like a hopeless situation into one with a much more promising outlook. Believe me, there is hope — I help parents find it every single day. All it takes is a little courage on your part to start doing things a little differently, so you can assume control of your parenting and your family.

Related Content:
“Am I a Bad Parent?” How to Let Go of Parenting Guilt
I Love My Child…But Sometimes I Can’t Stand Him

Empowering Parents Podcast:
Apple, Spotify


Denise Rowden is a parent of two adult children and has been a parenting coach since 2010. She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Maine and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from the International Coach Federation.

Comments (8)
  • Robyn
    I feel like the biggest failure to my children, especially my oldest who is 10. We have not had a stable home his whole life, we finally have some stability. Now my son goes to school and comes home saying how much his friends have. He has a friend whoMore has 3 guitars, a big home, a dog and his OWN room. It kills me inside knowing I can’t provide that for my children. I know we finally have a nice duplex, him and his 5 year old sister, share a room. They don’t have dressers or even a bed frame. I feel like I should have given them more, even when I didn’t have it. My son even questioned if I loved him recently. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I have failed his whole life and even when I’m trying to make it better, I feel like I just failed even harder. I’m tired.
  • Fedup

    My heart goes out to those parents who posted their stories here, & to those who probably didn't have the energy to do so.

    I really dont like my two oldest daughters (teenagers) at all - they are all what has been described, & some.

    Parents dont be too hard on yourself - if you've exceeded your ability to cope it is understood.

    Anthropologists in then future will try & explain the parent v kids (I)generation we now see.

    Try & own part of your own life. Unfortunately I've got to teh point where I've given up - was going to say to keep my sanity - but that's gone - to try & get some back.

    Sorry, but if your kids are horrible - let them deal with life on their own - be there for them if they really need it - but its time parents fought back (figuratively)

  • Garrett
    My daughter had/has a detached relationship with her mother. Tried for years to help process that but all it did was make her resent me to the point of no control. Every relationship I've attempted has been sabotaged by her behavior, with my "current" one seeing the same behaviors. WhenMore she made a parenting comment, it cemented my feelings of how much a failure I have been as a parent when all I tried to do was help and be a good example to follow.
  • Twyla
    I feel like a complete failure, especially when my friends and relatives brag about their children and I just sit there with nothing positive to say about my child. I tried to be a good parent, told her I loved her every day. I'm a loser as a parent.
  • TQ
    I am a mum of 4 teenage boys age range 14-18. I feel like I am losing complete control, there have been days where I literally go on a psychotic rant because I feel they are ganging up on me and this is my only way to vent myMore anger. I come out feeling the worst and looking the worst. I am an emotional person anyway and at 51 going through the menopause which doesn't help, but I worry when they are out (older two) at night and won't answer my texts or calls. I have felt completely hopeless and like a complete failure as a mother. I am left feeling so low the next day. I don't know how to change this cycle. I have tried to set boundaries and rules about going out at night socialising and setting a home time, but nothing is ever enough, telling me we are 18 (twins) now and can make our own decisions, they push and push until I snap. I am married and my husband seems to have given up because he says he is not being respected in him own home. I can't give up they are my children whom I adore with all my heart but at the moment I feel like they are breaking my heart.
  • Had enough
    What if the “snarky comment” isn’t just a comment and the child is extremely physical? How do you just walk away and ignore that? It doesn’t matter what privileges have been taken away or what rewards are lost my 7 year old gets physically aggressive when things don’tMore go her way. I’m so fed up at this point I don’t even want to be around her and that breaks my heart.
    • Denise Rowden, Parent CoachEP Coach

      I am so sorry you are going through this with your young son. I can understand your distress. You may find this article helpful:https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/hitting-biting-and-kicking-how-to-stop-aggressive-behavior-in-young-children/.

      We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents. Community.

  • Whathappened
    This is exactly how i feel "This is when you’re feeling like there’s no hope for you, your child or your family because everything, absolutely everything, is going wrong and there is no light at the end of the tunnel." Also i am a single parent with no support system.More I am beyond worn out and exhausted. I feel so sad because i dont even know what to do anymore and feel like a failure.
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