How Can I Be a Better Parent Than Mine Were?

There are no perfect parents. We all carry the scars of our childhood. You might still be processing the failures of your parents. You worry--how can I be a better parent than mine were? How does a parent pick a path different from the one on which she began? As you close your eyes and remember the pain consider whether this is the way God meant it to be? How might God use that pain to build something better?

Grieve the losses

You close your eyes and remember being small. A hand raised or a harsh word. Feeling less-than. Failing soundly. A childhood of brokenness and pain can play back behind your eyes. How does one process undeserved pain? How does one who was raised in hurt find a way to create a family of love? It starts with recognizing that the brokenness you have experienced has broken God's heart as well. He understands your fears and will give you the very things you need most to find a way to walk a new path as you learn to create a family of love. Processing the pain with a counselor can help you make sense of the past to avoid repeating it in the future. Lament gives voice to the pain and frees us from it's control.

Seek God's grace

God's grace came to us in the form of a baby lying in a manger. God took on our flesh to carry our pain all the way to the cross. Because of Jesus we can anticipate a better future. If God would choose a newborn to save the whole wide world, might God also find a way to supply us with grace as we begin this parenting work?

  • Might God give us eyes to see the wonder of life and a desire to protect it well?
  • Might God give us patience to see that children have needs that we can fulfill?
  • Might God give us vision to dream about the impact that love can have on a child?
  • Might God shine a light on a brand-new path that diverts us and our babies from hurtful words, hands that sting, and messages that diminish?

Follow his redemptive path

Throughout the whole of Scripture we can see that the desire of the Creator is to save and to love. This truth is whispered in the wonder of Creation, in the redemption of the flood, in the gift of Jesus to a world in need. He reaches in for his beloved children and seeks to draw them close. God has shown us throughout history, in thousands of ways big and small, that He can set right that which was broken and heal the hurt we endured. It is His will and within His power. God is the restorer of his creation.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5a).

You may close your eyes and remember horrible, hurtful things. You may find your brokenness threatening. But this is not the way it should be. This is not the desire of God for your family or for yourself. There is grace in His arms and it is a gift for you to give away to others. As we experience God's grace, his compassion overflows to others.

Rely on the Spirit

We may feel ill-equipped but God's Spirit empowers us for the work ahead. Regardless of the words that were given to you in your childhood, you can give words of love. The fruit of the Spirit can be cultivated in our lives. We need only ask and accept these gifts. Pray for the Spirit's direction to guide you. You can experience the healing that is meant for you and respond in a way that gives life. Because God offers grace and teaches us how to love one another.

Pass along the love

You can see the grace that God gives every day and choose to give that to your child. The baby you are holding, the child you adore, has been entrusted to you to raise in love. Let God's love flow through you. You can be a better parent than your parents were. You can avoid your parents’ mistakes. The grace that you need has been given to you.

Offer that freely to the child that you love.

About the author — Nadia Swearingen-Friesen

Nadia Swearingen-Friesen is a writer and national speaker with a passion for empowering parents to approach their families with great intentionality and grace.  Nadia and her husband, Mark, are the parents of four children and live in the Chicago area. Nadia also blogs at

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