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7 Ways Parents Injure a Child — Without Even Knowing It

By February 24, 2014Children, Family, Parenting

A couple recent posts struck interest with readers beyond my normal audience. Both posts dealt with ways one spouse injures another. You can read the husband’s post HERE and the wife’s post HERE.

One suggestion I had multiple times was to consider a similar post for parents.

It’s true. We often injure our children unknowingly. No parent sets out to injure a child. Most parents go overboard to give their children all they need or want. We do the best we know to do. We want them to have more, do more and live better lives than we have experienced.

But, the fact remains, and I know it from dealing with hundreds of people who struggle as adults, because of things their parents did — even great, loving, wonderful, well-meaning parents cause injury to their children unknowingly.

Is it life-threatening? Thankfully, most of the time not. Does it destroy the relationship? Again, most of the time not. I’m not addressing extreme situations, such as abuse or neglect, I’m addressing the well-meaning, well-intentioned, loving parents who may simply not realize how some of their actions (or lack of actions) are not the best decisions for their children. And, how they may actually cause injury to the child — not necessarily a laming injury — but injuries most of us would avoid if we knew to do so.

That’s the point of this post.

Granted, my children are grown. For the most part, my daily parenting days are completed. I’m still parenting, but it’s different now. I am in the influencing stage fully. I can’t send my children to their room. I can’t keep their car keys from them. I can only offer advice as they are willing to receive it.

I have two amazing sons. I can see some things we did right and offer them as suggestions for other parents without reservations. But, looking back, I can see some of these we were guilty of doing — and I remain thankful for God’s grace in spite of me.

Here are 7 ways we injure a child — without even knowing it:

Unrealistic expectations – Ephesians 6 tells the father not to “exasperate the child”. I was guilty of breaking this command at times. Unrealistic expectations often build perfectionistic tendencies in the child and often creates co-depency traits. I sometimes expected more of my boys than they were old enough to do at the time. I expected perfection from them too often. A 10 year old boy is a 10 year old boy. Now, there should be some non-negotiable standards of behavior for a 10 year old, but at 10, kids make mistakes. Why should that surprise me? I’m still making mistakes at 50 years of age. Sometimes I wish I would have lightened up a bit on my boys.

Lack of priorities – When everything and everyone else in life has more value than the time a parent spends with a child they know it. And, it hurts them. They may not even know how to verbalize what they are missing. They aren’t always wise enough yet to look at their life and see how important they should be in a parent’s week. They only know they wish they had more time with the people they admire the most. Someday they’ll know what they missed.

Sharing more than they can handle – Children do not have the emotional capacity to handle everything an adult deals with in life. Whether its an upcoming weather situation or a tragedy in the news or it’s not being able to make monthly personal expense, we create unnecessary fear and anxiety in our children when we share too much information. I’m not suggesting we shelter our children. Actually, I lean more the opposite way. We were very open and honest with our boys, but we were careful how, what and when we shared with them. We thought through the way in which we shared information, being very careful to share only what was needed and in a way that provided clarity not fear.

Giving everything – We sometimes set children up for disappointment in the real world when they never have anything remaining on their want list. Years ago I heard a statistic that most children get the majority of what they want these days — that wasn’t always the case, but as adults, few of us get all that we want. If we aren’t careful, we cause children to struggle with contentment in life, because they don’t know how it feels to wait for what they want.

Over protecting – Children need to learn to fail. There will be a day when can’t shelter them from the world. The more we let them make mistakes when we are still able to help them recover, the better they will be prepared when they no longer live under our roof.

Under protecting – This world is evil. Children don’t have your experience. They aren’t ready to make all the decisions that come their way. Many parents delegate too many choices to their children. There’s a time to give them freedom to choose, but when it’s a matter of moral right and wrong, especially in the earlier years of a child’s life, parents sometimes have to be the bad guy.

Missed teaching moments – We sometimes ignore the power of a moment and we may never get it back. Devaluing the importance of “now” causes many parents to miss the best opportunities for teaching life-changing principles. That moment of discovery is huge for a child. It starts by knowing what you want to teach your children — the values you want them to hold — and constantly looking for life situations that allow you to plant them in your child’s heart.

I realize I’m stepping into dangerous territory when I enter into someone else’s parenting. My only aim is to help. I know parents desire to parent well. But at my age, I’ve made enough mistakes I’m starting to learn from some of them. Before I start to forget them I thought I’d share. Apply as necessary.

Let me also say that grace is always available in your parenting — and it’s never too late. Even adult parents can make changes for good in their parenting. I’ve shared before that my father wasn’t always there when I was growing up, but he taught me how to finish well better than anyone could have done.

What are other ways parents unknowingly injure a child?

By the way, there will be a companion post to this soon with some suggestions to avoid some of these injuries. Feel free to offer some suggestions in the comments.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • Debra says:

    My husband pretends that he is deaf when either of my teenage sons tell me to shut the f’ up. When I ask him why he doesn’t reprimand them for their disrespect, he says that I need to find out WHY they are being disrespectful by asking them. I highly doubt that my teenage boys comprehend that they are treating me how he treats me and can verbalize this. In other words, my husband blames me for my boys’ disrespect with justifications such as, Well, he wasn’t really in the mood to talk right then.

  • Nicole says:

    I can say I am one who has never had a moment of wow-that-touched-me, or I’ve seen the light – I’ve been waiting for that my whole life, until tonight. Your piece on “Lack of Priorities” for the children’s blog really touched me. I LOVE MY CHILDREN MORE THAN ANYTHING LIKE ALL PARENTS! It just made me realize maybe I don’t spend the time with them I should. Maybe I don’t need a few beers on a bad day, or make sure every dish is clean or all the clothes are washed, the house can be cleaned some other time, I just need to say, “My kids will only be young once, enjoy their innocents while I can!!” Thank you so much. I truly believe the day they move out, “The silence will be deafening & I want all the noise I can hear from my two beautiful children while I can”.

    • ronedmondson says:

      You're a teachable spirit. What a great parent!  

      • Brittany says:

        I have only one child. I have to share 50/50 custody of him with his dad. My marriage is pretty much falling apart. I was always a stay at home mom and house wife and I completely relied on him for everything. We have been staying in motel rooms because of him letting everything go. I already don’t get to have my son like I would like to and because of everything he is at my parents house while I am in a motel room with my husband. My week started with him again today. I probably won’t get to see him until later in the week. I really have a lot of resentment and animosity towards my husband because of it even though I do still love him. Maybe I really do need to stop being here so much and be where my son is at on my week instead of still being angry I’m not really getting to raise him now like I had been up until three years ago

    • Nubia says:

      I only have one child and I try to enjoy her as much as I can and do things with her. I also dread the day when she leaves the house and I don't have my special companion by my side. Or go kiss her in the middle of the night just to feel her warmth. I want to enjoy every moment with her and treasure them in my heart.

  • Milexis Feo says:

    Great article!!!!
    I love my kids and my husband and after reading this I realized how much I'm hurting my family without even knowing it, I have no time to waist and lot of work to do.

    Thanks so much !!!!!!

  • Sara says:

    Lovely article. Very true. Thank you. My mum did most of these things to me as a child and still tries to. As an adult i resent her terribly. Thats so sad. But i am patient with her.

    Also the comments have great points.

    I also like your article about how husbands and wives hurt each other.


    Thank you so much!!

  • Justin Henne says:

    Very insightful Ron. I will definitely make more of a conscious effort to apply these to life with my little girls. I miss your wisdom at GCC!

  • Perfect Idea. We sincerely enjoy with your posting, thank you very much for share info with us, best wish for you.

  • Phyll says:

    put down those phones!! you have been away from your child all day and pick him/her while talking to someone else; yeah, makes me feel important. Have your time to catch up with news, whether paper, tv, or whatever, but discuss it with them, find something they can learn and understand – don't ignore them. The TV and I Pod is not a babysitter that makes up for your attention. Bring the child into your world and let them talk and learn to wash dishes, put away clean, hand your things, beat eggs, stir ingredients, etc. Make them fell included in decisions on most everything the family is in to.. My grandson loves breaking eggs and scrambling them. Stirring the tea, getting ingredients together, sweeping, vacuuming, scrubbing the sink, messy yes, but memories and abilities make them feel confident. Tomorrow he will help me choose between two license plates. Then he feels included and honored, loved and useful. They learn the importance of donating clothes, food, caring for those who don't have; God's teachings thru doing. A career in teaching and working with GA's, Choirs, traveling on mission trips with teenagers has taught us so much. God is good.

  • bryankr

    Thank you, so much, for this post! As a Youth Worker, I see the results of what you spoke of. More often than not, they will come into the Youth Dept. and the parents are at THEIR wits end because of the behavior of the kids! Mostly, the kids just want somebody to give ONE set of rules, a set that stays the same, regardless of the day or the person!

  • Ron,

    Thank you for your post.
    I especially resonate with point #2 – Lack of Priorities. Even beyond the busyness and lack of time we give our children from time to time…or if we're painfully honest, more often than not…is also the importance of truly "seeing" them and acknowledging them. This past Sunday, i was in the midst of setting up at church and my son came, saw me, I gave him a quick high five and went about my business. Later I see him a little down trodden talking to my wife. I asked what was going on, and he looked up and said, "all you did was give me a high five and walk away." My son is 7, and in that moment, he definitely felt the task at hand, whatever that may be, was taking priority over him. To change that, I now try and lock eye to eye with him, with a big smile on my face and full hug each and every time. Thats all he needs, he wants to know his dad sees him, cares about him and wants him. He then runs away with a sense of renewed confidence that only I could give at that moment. Its not much different from what we receive form our heavenly Father when we spend time with him. Confidence, identity and security. Wish I didnt mess up so often! 🙂 Great post.

  • Mary K says:

    Another way parents harm children:

    Fighting like children instead of discussing like adults. Children need to see adults who are arguing discuss their opinions rationally and calmly, and observe how adults manage these differences of opinion. Never seeing parents “fight” sets the child up for unrealistic expectations in future relationships. Seeing parents “fight” responsibly role models the appropriate behaviors needed for heated discussions: no name-calling, no violence, no deviations into previous arguments, and resolution. They need to be able to see that their parents get along and still love each other even if they don’t agree.