Parenting the Wrong Child

Parenting the wrong child

Back when my kids were little, I used to have a saying I’d save for those really rough days: “I know you are the best little person you can be. Some days are better than others – but today isn’t really one of them, is it?”. Some times I could catch myself before I started yelling about who knows what and I’d say this mantra out loud for everyone in the house to hear.

Making the effort to say “I know you are the best little person you can be” in the worst of times was a conscious choice to send an affirmation to my child. I wanted them to know that I acknowledged their inherent worth and that I was separating their fundamental being from whatever intensity that was rearing its ugly head in the moment.

Then, there were other times and, well, I’d lose my marbles. I’d eventually regroup and I’d get the words out. It was during one of these less stellar parenting days that I realized this affirmation applied to me, too.

In my 24 years of parenting, not to mention the professional work I do with attorneys and families dealing with divorce and custody cases, I could write a book about all the things you should NOT do, if you’re striving to be a good parent.

Generally speaking, I find most “Best Parenting Advice” about as useful as “Best Homeschool Curriculum Advice” – which is not at all.

Take the classic homeschool power struggle: You expect Assignment X to be completed by 12.30pm so you can hit up chess club or weekday roller skating or whatever your social outing is [that will also mask as PE in your homeschool planner]. Noon rolls around and not a lick of work has been done by the kids. What do you do?

  1. Beat your child a la Train Up a Child style to teach them your special brand of respect
  2. Cancel the outing and stay home
  3. Go on the outing and worry about the work tomorrow
  4. Go on the outing – but bring the work along and said child gets to sit by themselves and do their work before they get to participate

What you perceive to be the best advice from this list of options will be based upon your personal beliefs, your parenting philosophy, and the general life goals you hold for your children. The confidence you have in yourself as a decent, capable, and distinct human being will also play a role in the parenting choices you make.

So, what happens if you find yourself picking an option but then resent the outcome or feel guilty about it? Or, what if you look at the list of choices and honestly don’t know what you should do?

Well, for starters, let me say that you are not alone.

Let’s face it, there’s a segment of parents who choose to homeschool because of the trauma they experienced in brick and mortar schools back when they attended. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that motivating factor, I will kindly suggest that it might be worthwhile to spend some time reflecting on how well you may have sorted through your own issues – and how well you are doing keeping your baggage from becoming your own child’s schtuff.

If you find yourself making parenting or educational decisions because you’re trying to avoid the pain you experienced decades earlier – but then you second guess your decisions – it’s wholly possible that you’re actually parenting the wrong child.

Shakespeare’s Polonious said it best: This above all: To thine own self be true.

Taking the time to do a self-inventory of what’s working with your family and what’s making matters worse is always a good idea. Investing the effort in learning some new parenting skills is definitely worth the time. Many moms have walked this path before us and there is much to learn from their collective wisdom.

But, honestly, if you don’t take the time to first reset your sights on yourself, then no amount of advice is going to help you be a better mom – especially if you have unresolved issues lingering in your heart and mind that distract you from the here and now.

Here’s another old adage: If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Society does not encourage moms to make time for themselves to engage in self-care. Doing so seems selfish . . . as if those 30-minutes a day of journaling or yoga or going for a walk by yourself or having coffee with a friend will somehow keep your child from getting into their top college choice.

If there were ever an alternate universe, in which I could go back in time and give myself one best piece of advice it would be: You are being the best Mama you can be with the skills and knowledge you have today. Don’t beat yourself up for having a bad day, just aim for a better tomorrow.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t lose sight of who you are and the fundamental value you have in life. In fact, take a day off from parenting and remind yourself of the small joys that make YOU smile. Keeping yourself grounded in your own identity and continuing to live your own life, rather than living life through your children, will actually free you to grow into being better than the best parent you can be, more days than not.

GHF Parenting advice blog hop
This blog post was part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum’s October 2018 Blog Hop. If you have a gifted child and you homeschool and you’re looking for other ideas, experiences, and advice from parents who have walked this path, check out GHF’s blog hop page.



Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed. homeschooled her children from kindergarten into college. Over the last 15+ years, she has also worked with families in creating individualized learning plans. As a professional curriculum developer, Alessa has created afterschool youth development programs for a Baltimore-based nonprofit, as well as teaching materials for homeschool parents and brick and mortar school teachers.

2 thoughts on “Parenting the Wrong Child

  • October 22, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    “Generally speaking, I find most “Best Parenting Advice” about as useful as “Best Homeschool Curriculum Advice” – which is not at all.” <—I love this! And it is just so true! Your entire article is so full of good advice–thank you so much for this Also, I love the title–so wonderful. <3

    • October 22, 2018 at 11:28 pm

      Thanks, Celi. Your kind words are appreciated.

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