A 12-Step Program for Parenting


If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve made some terrible mistakes with your children. You’ve been critical, unreasonable, and a flat-out bully more often than would be wise to admit. Perhaps you’ve raised your voice louder than necessary to make the point or said words you vowed you would “NEVER” say or worse.

Such behavior comes as part of the "parenting territory." None of us are perfect.  (If you are, feel free to skip today's post. But thanks for stopping by!)

For the rest of us, even with our great intentions, we have terrible days.  Maybe you feel your terrible days seem more routine than not (particularly if you have a three-year-old in the mix!)  Unfortunately, if you're like me, you may share my biggest fear that the terrible days will leave a mark and drive my children into years of therapy.

The concern feels common.  I have some friends who are so worried about their parenting mistakes they are paralyzed by their failures; they barely know how to begin their recovery to sanity.

I was having a chat with one such friend recently and realized every piece of advice I was giving her tied back to a 12-Step idea ( from Alcoholics Anonymous and other addiction "fellowships").

And so, with apologies to “Bill W,” here’s an edited version of parental recovery!

1.  We admitted we were powerless to control our outbursts—that our tongues had become unmanageable.

2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Godas we understood Him.

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other parents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.  (emphasis added!)

Of course, 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, or Over-eaters Anonymous are for recovering addicts and their family members, but the idea of practicing these steps “in all of our affairs” is the final step and seems more than appropriate for those of us who are ready to admit that we need God’s help in our parenting journey.