I know this sounds like a tall order, and to do it right, you absolutely cannot do this on your own. This is why you need to be constantly seeking God and asking Him for wisdom, for power, for understanding, and for Him to grow you into the roles that you need to fulfill with your older children and teenagers. Parenting cannot simply be a hobby which is how some parents approach it. Some parents don’t want to do the hard work nitty-gritty of parenting. They prefer to just flit in and out of their children’s lives, not really getting to know them, not really talking to them, not getting involved in their children’s interests, not bearing their children’s burdens. In short, such parents know very little of their children’s lives, treating them like a hobby rather than the very serious vocation that it is. Of course, the flip side of this is the so-called “helicopter parenting” in which the parents constantly hover over their children, not giving them any freedom, telling them what to do at every step of the way rather than letting them figure things out for themselves, thus learning to operate independently as adults. Helicopter parents are controlling and manipulative, using every tool at their disposal to shape the child rather than letting God shape the child and letting God guide the parent into the correct methods of training and discipline. This is a very dysfunctional style of parenting that will hobble your children and keep them “under your wing” for most of their lives. Or they will be absolutely unready for adulthood when they leave the nest and likely to stray off the path once they are out from under the thumb of their authoritarian parents. Many such children have not been gradually prepared for the freedom and autonomy of adulthood, so when they finally get their freedom, they tend to go too far with their privileges, perhaps drinking too much, perhaps making bad, irresponsible choices, because they were not ready for their freedom, having been told what to do every minute of their lives while they were at home. To be honest, though, it is entirely possible and has happened that parents do everything right for the child, but the child still goes astray. There is always free will within the human heart, and the choice for right or wrong. It is a mystery as to why some children simply go the way of sin, giving in to their flesh despite having had all the right training. But that is life. God, in His wisdom and love gives us all choices to obey or disobey.
Some other parental behaviors that can be destructive are treating children differently, perhaps favoring one child over another, or pitting the children against each other by comparing them with statements such as, “Why can’t you be like your brother (or sister)?” Either or both behaviors are very damaging toward your children. If they are on the losing end of such behaviors, they will reason that they are not good enough or not worthy of your love, or that they must earn love even though they will never be good enough to really earn love. The result of such treatment is that the relationships between the siblings will most likely always be damaged. They will not benefit from the lifelong friendship of their siblings because they will always view the other as an competitor or an antagonist. Another result is that the child will never be sure of the parent’s love, no matter how much they age as adults, no matter what they achieve as adults. Furthermore, perhaps the worst result from this childhood treatment is that the child will never be sure of anyone’s love as an adult. They will most likely develop dysfunctional behaviors in their adult relationships. You just cannot underestimate the amount of damage that bad parenting can have on an individual child, even lasting a lifetime. Those early lessons of childhood go very deep into the heart and spirit, sticking with them long into adulthood, because these lessons come when they have little experience to put things into context, when the world seems so large and they are so small, and when they have so little power. This is why parenting is so important. You just absolutely must get it right. Not only will you answer to God one day for the wrong things you did in parenting, but you may also set the tone for your child’s entire life, either giving them great courage and confidence for tremendous success, or hobbling them irreparably, paving the road to a life of dysfunction and destruction.