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Along the Journey  |  

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.

Here are three examples from the books on ways to ruin your child:


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

We all want our children to be happy from the moment we hold them in our arms for the first time.

Many of us want our children to have better lives and more opportunities than what we had. Or maybe we just want a moment of peace and quiet, attend a Zoom meeting without any interruptions, or for our children to “get off our backs”.

So, we find ourselves doing things to make our children happy.


There is nothing wrong with this per se, but 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.


Do things for your children that they can do for themselves

It can often be easier and quicker to do something ourselves than for our children to do it.

Or we perhaps treat 4-year-olds like they are two, or 16-year-olds as if they are 10.

Maybe we are good at enabling independence in some areas but need to adjust in other areas.

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, however, can often be more about us and our needs, then what is best for our children.

Galindo warns that doing things for our children that they can do for themselves can “rob your child of his or her ability to be independent” and that what children need are to “learn competence and mastery over their world and self” (pp. 14-16).


Drop your child off at church and leave…or take responsibility for your child’s spirituality

These are too extremes – one where parents do not take enough responsibility – and the other where we take too much.

Where one is under-functioning, and one is over-functioning.

If you drop them off at church and then leave, what is the metamessage of what you are really saying?

What are you showing is important to you?

Similarly, when we tell our children what to believe, especially as they grow and become adolescences and young adults, we begin to take on responsibility for their spirituality that is not ours.


There is a difference between taking responsibility for spiritually and taking responsibility for nurturing spirituality.

Taking responsibility for your child’s spirituality can lead to stunted, ineffective faith and/or rejection all together.

Nurturing and coaching can lead to mature, strong faith that is owned, not borrowed, by the young person.

Galindo encourages parents to participate in a healthy faith community, focus on one’s own spirituality more than your child’s, and trust that God is at work in and with your child.


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 offered through Colombia Theological Seminary’s Lifelong Learning this February 2022.

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.

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. EllisonMSW, MDiv. is Bowen Theory Psychotherapist and Coach in Richmond, Virginia. She also serves on the faculty of the Leadership in Ministry clergy training program at the Center for Lifelong Learning. Vanessa has clinical experience with individual, couples, family, and group psychotherapy and community-based services and ministerial experience serving local congregations, missional settings, and non-profit organizations.

Along the Journey