Creating A 12-Step Program For Parenting


I attended my first AA meeting in college. I was there to encourage a friend who was receiving her one-year chip, a marker of being sober for 12 months.  That milestone, and walking through her journey, was an emotional and memorable experience.

In fact, seeing the 12-Step program in action framed much of my life's perspective. Admitting that you're not in control,  acknowledging a "higher power," and owning the wrongs you commit--these aren't just valuable ideas in the recovery process, they are important in life.

In fact, when I think about parenting, I think it's helpful to pull my situation through the 12-Step filter.

Of course, there's no parent adaptation to these steps; having kids isn't an addiction or anything close to that kind of trial, but it IS a challenge and the consuming nature of parenting benefits from 12-step principles regardless.

And so, with apologies to Bill W, I thought I'd restate the steps with a few modifications..

  1. We admit we are powerless to control the bumps, spills, heartaches, loneliness, outbursts, or inevitability of pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school — that our lives as parents will always be slightly to fully unmanageable.
  2. We have come to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We make a decision to turn our will and our children's lives over to the care of Godas we understand Him.
  4. We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and how we relate to our family.
  5. We admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, including our children, the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. We humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. We have made a list of how we have harmed our children, and are willing to own our faults.
  9. We will make direct amends to our children wherever possible, and agree to attend or pay for therapy as needed.
  10. We will continue to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admit it.
  11. Through prayer and meditation we seek to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and our family and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we will try to carry this message to other parents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The beauty of these steps is they are ACTIVE.

Your job as parent is never finished and neither is your need to "work the program."