How to Parent Without Regret


If you are a parent then you have likely been in the midst of a moment of profound weakness. With a prolonged sigh and a personal massage of your on forehead, you say, “I’m overwhelmed.”

I can relate. With six kids ranging from 5 through the early 20s, I’ve had several sighs as I come face to face with my own personal weakness.

But what do we do after the sigh? What’s next after we push away from the table and get up and get to work? How can we parent without regret?

Try Your Best to Do the Right Thing

I remember sitting at Wrigley Field in Chicago for an early April baseball game several years ago. I was around 30 and had the opportunity to visit with a dear brother who was a few laps ahead of me in being a dad. I love this guy because even though his kids were grown and according to him “not perfect” he seemed to have unshakable confidence in God. I asked him straight out how to not live with regret as a parent. With his customary pause before speaking my friend said, “Do your very best to do the right thing—based upon everything you know at the time.”

He went on to explain how at the time you don’t know the challenges your 10-year-old will face when he is 21. It’s unhealthy for you to paralyze yourself with fear. Instead, evaluate the situation, seek godly counsel, pray, and do what seems best. He said it with the casual sagacity of a middle-aged man in a Cubs hat eating peanuts. I realize that mistakes (on both the parent and the kids’ part) are inevitable. However, regret doesn’t have to be. Love your kids, do your best, and learn from your mistakes.

Pray Like You Can’t Save Your Kids

It is the priority-setting burden that our kids come to know and follow Jesus. Like John we Christian parents would have no greater joy than to have our children walking in the truth (3 John 4). But how does this happen? Is there some secret recipe or formula? Of course not. There is no silver bullet for us to fire. The kids simply will not be saved apart from a sovereign work of regenerating grace. Do you believe this?

Then what do we do? We pray. And we don’t just pray, we pray like we are desperate. We pray like their souls are the most pressing priority on our minds. We plead their case to God and relentlessly ask him to arrest them with saving grace. Parents, be relentless on your knees for your children. Carry them to the throne of grace daily as you petition the sovereign and good God of the gospel for mercy. Pray like you can’t save them.

Parent Like You Can Save Your Kids

But don’t stop at prayer. This is not our only work. God has also called us to faithfully bring the Scriptures to them in regular study, instruction, and application to their lives. Have regular times of family devotions and conversations about God. Prioritize the Lord’s Day and the life of the local church. Also, be sure to integrate the glory of God in all manner of life and thinking. Bring the matchless beauty of Christ to bear on everything that you can.

Another aspect that sometimes gets overlooked when we are convinced of God’s sovereignty is the need for us as parents to carefully consider how to protect what and who is influencing our kids. This involves everything from their friends to what movies they watch, music they listen to, what they read, and whether or not they have a smartphone (and if so, how it is used). While these things don’t save or damn our children they certainly are still important. Parents who embrace God’s sovereignty must also appreciate how he has given them the responsibility to raise children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

Rest in God’s Sovereignty

All of this would be of little encouragement if our good and gracious God were not also sovereign. He can and does turn our mistakes as parents into blessings for our children. Each night I can lay my head on my pillow and close my eyes knowing that God is working all things together for his glory and my good. I can be sure that he delights to save and sanctify people. Nothing and no one can thwart him. Whatever pressure point I am facing this particular day it must, after all, salute the absolute sovereignty of my glorious King. Resting in God’s sovereignty is a tremendous comfort to a sighing parent.

What do you do after that next long, weighty parenting sigh? How do you parent without regret? Pray like you can’t save your kids but parent like you can, try to do the right thing, and rest in God’s sovereignty.