hero default image

Along the Journey  |  

3 Ways to Ruin Your Child

Wait. Did that say “Ruin”? Yes, it did!

I first read 10 Best Parenting Ways to Ruin Your Child and its sequel 10 Best Parenting Ways to Ruin Your Teenager by Israel Galindo as a young minister, and I continue to use them as a clinician working with families and as a parent myself.

These books playfully encourage parenting out of principles, values, and rules more than emotional reactivity by looking at what parents should not do. These can be helpful in everyday life – and especially during times when we find ourselves having to quickly adapt to working, teaching, and parenting from home.


Here are three ways to ruin your child during this time:

· Put your child’s happiness first as the guiding value in your home

· Do things for your children that they can do for themselves

· Allow your child to see that he or she can make you feel guilty


Sure, we want to be happy and for others to be happy, especially if this means our children will not interrupt a Zoom meeting or important work.

However, happiness is a feeling – and feelings are fleeting.

What makes one person happy one minute may or may not make them happy the next – and what makes us happy may not be good for us.

Galindo states that the consequence is that we can give children “a skewed view of reality – particularly that the world will provide them with happiness”.

Instead, children need parents “who are centered and mature enough to make decisions based on what is best for their children, not necessarily on what will make them happy” (p. 5)”.

The underlying rule is that God is more interested in our relationship than with our happiness.


It can often be easier and quicker to do something myself than for my child to do it.

Galindo warns that this can “rob your child of his or her ability to be independent” and that what children need is to “learn competence and mastery over their world and self” (pp. 14-16).

When do we treat a 4-year-old like he/she is still two? Maybe we are good at enabling independence in some areas but need to adjust in others? This can happen to all of us, especially with the youngest and/or in areas that we enjoy or want to hold on to. This can often be more about us and our needs, then what is best for the child.


I have been hearing about “Mom Guilt”, “Dad Guilt”, and “Parent Guilt” with more frequency and intensity in our current situation.

I too have felt this at times. Parents feel guilty working at home and not giving their children enough attending, not knowing how to be homeschool teachers, missing milestone events, and the list goes on.

The guilt itself is not so much a problem as is allowing “your child to see that he or she can make you feel guilty”.

This has the potential to lead children to think they can manipulate you – and/or others – to get what they want.

It can also give them the illusion that they can control another person’s feelings. This rule highlights that a child needs “to accept direction and nurture form the persons who know him/her best and are responsible for making decisions for him/her, and to respect parents, not manipulate them”.


While these examples can certainly help with our current situation, they can also help with parenting at large.

If you are interested in the remaining seven ways to ruin your child, I encourage you to read the book and/or take the class (10 Best Parenting Ways to Ruin Your Child) offered through Colombia Theological Seminary’s Lifelong Learning class offered this August.

I will be facilitating this class and look forward to helping participants think through how they may utilize these in their families.

You may agree with these, and you may not, and that is okay. They can look different for each family and may be hard to do, especially amid difficult times.

Nonetheless, the changing factor can come when we can get clear about our parenting guiding principles, values, and rules; understand what contributes to these; and utilize them.

Vanessa M. Ellison, MSW, MDiv. is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Richmond, Virginia. She currently works as a Bowen Theory Psychotherapist and Coach at Richmond Therapy Center. She also serves on the faculty of the Leadership in Ministry clergy training program at the Center for Lifelong Learning. Vanessa has clinical experience providing individual, couples, family, and group psychotherapy and community-based services and ministerial experience serving local congregations, missional settings, and non-profit organizations.

Vanessa can be emailed at vanessa@vanessa-ellison.com

If you would like to know more about how you can be a leader that utilizes guiding principles and values to help your ministry and life, I encourage you to check out the Leadership In Ministry workshops also offered through CTS CLL at https://www.ctsnet.edu/lifelong-learning/postgraduate-programs/leadership-in-ministry/

Along the Journey