I suppose all parents/caregivers may feel this way from time to time, but when a child does not listen to you or you have had a "parenting fail" so to speak, how do you deal with this?



A four year old developed a habit (a long time ago) of climbing on top of cars.

One family member has a habit of flipping the f--- out! when the child climbs on top of a car.

As a sort of "overcorrection" to this, I calmly ask the child to not climb on top of the car, and this used to work.

However, the particular incident I am citing had this child climbing on top of the car, and me not doing anything about it, except calmly asking the child to stop climbing on the car. I'm not sure why I wasn't doing anything else about it, but I wasn't. Finally I warned the child that the glass on the windshield could break, and he would be injured if it did. So the child proceeded to stomp on the windshield, at which point I took him off.

Of course, this wasn't without consequence, and the windshield had a hairline crack after that.

I was really mad. See my answer for my resolution.

  • 4
    Just let it go, and tell yourself to do better next time. Commented May 6, 2012 at 21:01
  • 2
    Could you make your question more specific?
    – amcnabb
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 22:44
  • 1
    Apologise to the child and try to be a better listener next time. Commented May 7, 2012 at 7:44
  • 2
    Why on earth does the child get an apology?
    – tomjedrz
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 4:58
  • 2
    No the child does not get an apology, he wouldn't understand "underreacted" anyway. You can't explain certain things to a child, you just do what is best.
    – bobobobo
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 20:15

5 Answers 5


A very good friend of mine helped my wife and I cope when the strain of a strong-willed toddler.

One of his key pieces of advice ... "Parenting is like baseball, you get lots of at bats. Keep swinging. You won't get a hit every time, and you don't have to hit a home run every time to be awesome."

You will make mistakes. You will not discipline properly. You will lose your temper. You will not react appropriately. When you do, get over it and figure out how you will handle it next time. The next chance will come soon enough.

For those who don't understand the baseball reference ... an "at bat" is a turn attempting to get a hit. The very best hitters in baseball will get roughly 500 at bats in a season and perhaps 165 hits. So the very best hitters are successful roughly 1/3 of the time, and 2/3 of the time, they are unsuccessful. And even the most powerful hitters only hit a home run one out of every 12 or so at bats.

On a related note .. how many times are you going to tell the kid not to do something before you apply consequences? You speak, kid doesn't listen, kid gets punished. A few iterations of this and the kid will listen.


Parenting almost entirely involves dealing with situations you've never had to deal with before. Failures are inevitable. I'm pretty sure I screw up one way or another every day. The key is in rationally recognizing those moments and learning from them so that your next mistake will at least be a different one.


"Pick yourself off, dust yourself off, and start all over again."

I fail and I fail and I fail. I try to learn from each. But none of us are perfect, you know? So don't be too hard on yourself.

If you're lucky, your partner will help you learn from what happened. Kids are resilient, though, and sometimes they don't even notice what you think is a major gaffe.


The resolution I made to this was REACT.

This isn't an acronym, this isn't a cheesy resolution either. It's to clearly define totally unacceptable behavior, that could cause injury or other such things, (such as climbing on cars) and to react immediately to that unacceptable misbehavior when it occurs.

I think my failure was my overly-small reaction to the misbehaviour. Because the child could injure himself, I should have taken strict and swift action to totally stop the misbehavior when it occurs, which I intend to do in the future.


Well, it continues to happen. Actually there is an addendum to REACT, its "Always Be Vigilant". You have to be really watchful and react immediately.

  • You should be strict with two thing, never hurt people, never break things. Depending on the age, you can say "If you can't control your body, I'll have to do it for you". About your "fail", don't worrie to much, parenting is mostly about failure and fixing.
    – the_lotus
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 15:49

I don't see the fail. He stomped on a car window and cracked it, and you got angry at him and took him down. As a child, he will do stupid dangerous things from time to time. It's within your remit as a parent to get angry.

You're also human, you're not a stimulus response machine, you have emotions and this is acceptable.

You do need to make sure your relationship is not damaged though. My advice would be to wait a while till everyone is calm, then cuddle and make up. Explain the problem, tell him you are sorry you were angry, get him to apologise, cuddle a bit more, then move on and have a fun day.

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