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Wisdom from Parenting Survivors: Regrets and Tips from 400 empty-nesters – Guest Dr. David Schramm. Episode 73.

Is parenting without regrets possible? Since perfection is impossible, so is perfect parenting.

How does that Frank Sinatra song go?  

“Regrets, I’ve had a few,  but then again, too few to mention”

For parents, sometimes the fear of potential regret is more exhausting than the actual regret itself.

Personally, I dread getting the parenting thing totally wrong and then having to live with the knowledge that ALL of my kids are in prison and it’s ALL MY fault.  If only I would have listened to Dr. Phil and loved a little less and let them walk all over me a little more…or is it the other way around? I always get those confused!

Which road to take???

That’s the problem with parenting isn’t it?  It’s all experimental and we don’t know until it’s too late whether we took the right “parenting road” or not.  For instance, I have a…shall we call her…fiery and determined little 3 year old.

She gives me plenty of “opportunities” in a given day to discipline her.  The younger version of Camille would have called down the powers of heaven and fought fire with fire on a regular basis.  I certainly did with my oldest (who most resembles her personality). However, the older more experienced version of Camille has learned that most of this is a phase and she will grow out of it.  She is only 3 after all.

The Parenting Dilemma

So here’s the dilemma:  I like how my oldest has turned out.  He’s an amazing 18 year old who I love to spend time with.  Is that in part because I chose to go to battle with him regularly or in spite of it?  Who’s to say? If I choose the same route will she come out similarly? Or conversely, if I have more patience and keep my fire in check while hers blazes on will she become a spoiled and crazy person rampaging down city streets scaring the helpless and elderly?  It’s a definite possibility.

These are my personal examples of hard questions we, as parents, plague ourselves with.

The wisdom of experience

Dr. David Schramm is a researcher and an assistant professor of Family and Life at Utah State University. As he was in the middle of raising his children, he conducted what he called a “selfish study”.  As he was pondering dilemas like the one I illustrated above, he decided that the best experts on the subject of raising kids would be empty nesters who had raised their kids (and survived)! Dr. Schramm wanted to be the best dad he could possibly be, so he interviewed nearly 400 empty nesters from across the United States and asked them questions pertaining to what they felt they succeeded at and what they regretted as they looked back at their parenting.  The results were fascinating.

The study was broken down into 3 categories of children’s age ranges:  0-5, 6-11, and 12-18. Within each category empty nesters’ answers were compiled to determine the advice and regrets given most often.  If you would like to hear the in-depth answers to this study click on the link above to listen to the episode.

So now what??

As we discussed all of Dr. Schramm’s findings we asked him what he learned from doing the study that impacted his parenting.  He said that he learned to “Slow down and be in the moment.  Savor this time.”

He said that he began telling his kids that he loved being their dad.  

I think that’s one of the keys to parenting in this hectic day that we live in.  It’s so easy to always be too busy for whatever it is your child wants at the moment.  Making a deliberate decision to say no to more things and yes to more time with our kids isn’t easy, but it is worth it.  

As far as parenting regrets go……….well, I love something Dr. Schramm said.  “It’s important to look in the rear view mirror. Just don’t stare.” Don’t focus so much on parenting without regrets, just focus on learning from mistakes and moving forward. Experience does teach us better ways…if we are willing to learn.  It’s easy to second guess and beat ourselves up…but to what end?

We all do the best that we know how and then we move forward and pray for the best outcome.  I really do believe that parenting is the holiest calling on this earth, and so parents are given Divine assistance. Sometimes that assistance comes in the form of inspiration to our minds and hearts of how to act or what to say.  Sometimes that assistance comes in the form of helping our kids to succeed even when our best efforts are flawed. Either way, I rely heavily on that divine assistance and just pray that in the end my kids can soar!  So here’s to a quick glance in the rear view mirror and full steam ahead in life!

Your friend in the mess,


Mom Squad Challenge

Make time for 9 (meaningful touches and conversation).

  1. 3 minutes in the morning
  2. 3 minutes after school
  3. 3 minutes before bed

To learn more about Dr. David Schramm

Dr. David Schramm is an assistant professor of Family and Life Extension specialist in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Utah State University.  He also serves on Utah’s Commission on Marriage.

You can find him on Facebook @ Dr. Dave USU

You can also catch him on Fox 13 as a regular contributor.

Or visit

Books we discussed in this episode (Click on the image to purchase)

The Book Thief

The Hiding Place

If you enjoyed this episode, check out similar episodes we’ve done:

Loving Kids When They Act Unloveable, NO MATTER WHAT! – Guest Brenda Garrison. Episode 69.

How to be a Miserable Mom: 7 Traps that steal your JOY – Guest Tracey Eyster. Episode 60.

The Survival Guide For Grandparenting… How To Love It! – Guests Richard and Linda Eyre. Episode 57.

Loving Your Kids Just The Way They Are- Guest Jill Savage. Episode 52

Parenting With Love and Logic – Guest Holly Thurgood. Episode 38

Creating Highlights With Our Kids – Guest Rachel Nielson. Episode 25

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