FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Ann’s Parenting Mistakes

with Dave and Ann Wilson | September 17, 2021
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Ann Wilson, co-host of FamilyLife Today, gets real about some of her greatest parenting mistakes, sharing advice from what God has taught her.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Ann Wilson, co-host of FamilyLife Today, gets real about some of her greatest parenting mistakes, sharing advice from what God has taught her.

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Ann’s Parenting Mistakes

With Dave and Ann Wilson
September 17, 2021
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Dave: Alright; I’m sort of excited today.

Ann: Why? [Laughter]

Dave: Because we get to talk about Ann Wilson’s top parenting mistakes.

Ann: Oh! That’s not exciting.

Dave: It is for me, because we’ve already/we’ve talked about mine. It’s always my mistakes; it’s like, “Never did Ann Wilson make a mom mistake.”

Ann: I made so many, and I shared them in our book. I could go on for days.

Dave: No, I shared them in our book.

Ann: Oh, yes! [Laughter]

Dave: There is a chapter in No Perfect Parents that we wrote—I wrote—you didn’t write this chapter—it was the top parenting mistakes that I made; you didn’t write any.

Ann: That’s because we were out of words by that point.

Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.

The publisher said we could only have so many words.

Dave: That’s why I’m excited. People are going to hear that—actually, Ann, as a mom—you made some mistakes as well.

Ann: I sure did.

Dave: We’re going to dive into that. Actually, before we do though, I want to tell you about something that’s real exciting—because I know you, like us, as parents—you’re making mistakes; you have questions. We always have questions, and we have something to help you with your questions. It’s called You Asked It: The No Perfect Parents Edition.

Maybe, you’ve got terrible twos—you’re dealing with that—or trying to figure out if your son or daughter should have a cell phone; or “How about dating?”

Ann: Yes; or “Should we allow sleepovers?”

Dave: Yes; you’ve got it. Here is where you go—go to—and there is a free printable download there of answers to those kinds of questions that really help you, because we want to help you; that’s what we are about. You can go there—even right now—and get some answers to your questions. I’ll tell you again:

Okay, let’s talk about some mistakes that you feel like you made as a mom.

Ann: Well, let me first say that I think that we can kick ourselves, and we can have a lot of regrets in parenting. Let’s just start by saying, “Thank You, Jesus, that You give us do-overs: that the cross gives us grace in that we can be forgiven for the mistakes that we’ve made.”

But I do have some mistakes and regrets that I want to share; because I want to help other moms, maybe.

Dave: Hey, let me ask you this as you start: “Do you feel like the mistakes you made are things that really messed up our kids for life?” [Laughter] I’m surprised you have to think about that.

Ann: No; I mean, I can think that—like: “Man, that’s my fault,”—when I see my adult kids struggling. I can actually think, like, “Did I do that?”

Dave: I think it’s one of our biggest fears, as a parent,—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —is they are going to end up derailed; because of some of the mistakes we made as parents.

Ann: But we have also prayed, like, “Oh, Lord, don’t let them remember these mistakes,”—you know?—“Help them to forget the things that I’ve failed.” The good news is Jesus is enough, and God is enough. We’ve asked forgiveness from our kids, and they have forgiven us multiple times.

Dave: Yes; in other words, we’ve had to apologize—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —and say, “We made some mistakes.”

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Some of them really are in their adult years—things that they still are struggling with—and it wasn’t easy for them always to forgive us; right?

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Yes; alright, so let’s talk about it.

Ann: Here is the first one that—I really regret this—and I didn’t know that I was doing it. I felt like I yelled at my kids when they were little, and that didn’t seem like it was a part of me. I think some parents—you are listening to that, and you think—“What?!—you yelled? I’ve never yelled at my kids.” Others of you are thinking, “Of course, you yell. That’s what we do, because they can drive us crazy at times.”

It’s not just that I yelled; but the thing that I regret is the reason I think I yelled, when they were really little, was it was displaced anger and frustration about our marriage. [Laughter]

Dave: So, somehow, this comes back to me. [Laughter]

Ann: No. [Laughter]

Dave: You’re saying the reason you yelled at our kids is because of me; that’s what I just heard.

Ann: I think that I let—and we let—our marriage slip. I did; I’m going to take full responsibility. I really feel like all these regrets go together: I feel like I put our kids first—and I didn’t mean to—it’s just hard, as a mom, to not put your kids first; because they are so demanding. Their needs are so great, especially, when they are little. I found myself resentful that you weren’t helping more, or resentful that you were gone; and I felt like, “I am doing everything around here!”

I don’t know if any of you moms have done this—that are married—but I would find myself, in my head a lot, really degrading you/complaining about you in my head. Did you ever do that about me? I don’t think men do this much. [Laughter]

Dave: I don’t know if I did it as much, but I know I did it. I do know—we’ve talked about this—I did feel second.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: You know, like the boys were first; and I know it took a lot of time and energy. You were exhausted, especially, when they were babies and toddlers.

Ann: Sometimes, I liked them more than I liked you; because I was resentful that you were gone a lot.

Dave: I mean, I just wonder how many husbands feel that way. I know I felt it; I don’t feel it now—there are times I can feel it now, even with the grandkids—they are pretty important. [Laughter]

But I do remember—I mean, I don’t know if you remember this—I remember your dad being up at our house, and he sort of said that to you.

Ann: Oh no! You’re going to bring this up?

Dave: His name is Dick Baron, and Dick and I had never talked about this; but we’re sitting at the dinner table. He just makes this comment.

Ann: Yes; we are eating. I had made a nice meal for everybody. My dad said, “Wow! I feel sorry for Dave.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “You treat your kids way better than you treat Dave.”

Oh! I was so defensive; and I said, “Oh my goodness, Dad! That is because Mom spoiled you rotten, and you were like the king. She was like the doormat.” I said that to him; I was so mad. I said, “I’m not treating Dave poorly.” He just said, “Okay.” [Laughter]

Dave: All I know is I loved that man at that moment. [Laughter] I was like, “I can’t believe he is saying that,”—because, like I said, we had never talked about it—but he obviously noticed something.

Ann: Well, I remember going to bed that night and praying. This is the great part of God: He such a good Father; and He is a gentle Father, but He is truthful Father. I prayed that night; I said, “Lord, if that is true—I know that Dave and my marriage is supposed to come first—so if that is true, I pray that You would reveal that to me. I don’t know—give me a sign—let somebody say something; show me in the Word.”

Dave: Somebody already did say something; it was your dad. [Laughter]

Ann: Well, I needed confirmation; so—

Dave: Oh, yes; I remember this too. This is sort of fun.

Ann: Just a few days later, this letter came in the mail from my dad. I had never, at that point, received a letter in my life from my dad. I thought, “This is crazy! Why would my dad be writing me?” I opened this letter, and it’s one of those old Ann Landers newspaper clippings. In this newspaper clipping, a man writes into Ann Landers, not knowing what to do, because his wife treats his kids so much better than him. Then Ann Landers goes on—and I’m not saying she is the end-all—she’s not like/I don’t know where she is spiritually—but she says, “This is a real temptation to so many women—to treat your kids better than your husband—but we need to put our marriages first.”

I put that clipping down; and I just kind of said, “Lord, is this really from You?” [Laughter] I really think it was. It was a real eye-opening experience for me, that I felt like God was really speaking to me.

Dave: Yes; so you’re saying that part of your frustration with the kids was really an extension of your frustration with me.

Ann: Yes; I was frustrated with you—I was frustrated that we didn’t have enough time together, frustrated that I didn’t think you were helping as much—so I would just yell. I would be frustrated with the boys more. It’s really easy to be in our heads and complaining in our heads. We might not be verbally speaking it out loud, but it starts in our heads.

Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Matthew 15:18 says, “The words you speak come from the heart.” I was thinking about that this one day as I was folding clothes. I did this a lot—I’m folding clothes, and I’m complaining about my marriage—“Dave’s not home enough,” and “He should be doing this…” and “I wish he was with the boys more.”

I felt this nudge, and I had this thought in my spirit: “I wonder what would happen if you would pray for Dave as much as you complain about him?” That stopped me. I stopped folding clothes, and I just sat there and thought: “Is that from God? Is that…” I really thought, “My marriage would probably be a lot different,” because what I was thinking in my head, it eventually came out of my mouth with our kids and with you.

Dave: So what happened?

Ann: I don’t know; do you think I got better? [Laughter]

Dave: I know you got better; I don’t know when—I can’t remember—it was a long time ago.

Ann: I think it was a process.

Do you see?—I feel like there is an enemy of our soul, who is continually whispering these thoughts into my head, complaining. Then it’s like this little seed; and “Will I water it and let it germinate to sprout?” God is saying, “Take your thoughts captive”; because what we think, we will say.

Dave: What would you say to the mom and the wife, who is struggling right now—same thing you [were]—they are complaining about their husband: “He doesn’t do enough,” “He’s not home,”—whatever. It could be similar to ours, and she is really taking it out on the kids as well.

Ann: I would say: “To start listening to your thoughts,”—like—“What are you thinking about in terms of your marriage/your relationship? What’s going into your mind?”

I would also say, “Put on praise music. Start your day by saying, ‘God, I give You my day. Help me to see my husband and my kids the way You do, and help me say the things that You would say to my husband and my kids.’” That’s really helped me.

The other thing I would do is my next regret: I wish that I would have had older women in my life that could speak into me and mentor me—I did have older women—but I didn’t have any in close proximity to me. I had peers alongside of me; but honestly, what happened is we would get together, and we would be like, “So how are you doing?” Then we would have this complaining session about how our lives are so hard, our work is so hard, our husbands aren’t helping as much. We tried to be accountable; but there is something about going to an older woman, who can really speak truth to you.

I would save that up—and I can remember going to our speaker retreats for the Weekend to Remember® conferences, where all the speakers would gather—we would kind of do training and kind of catch up with everyone. Barbara Rainey was always there and so was Susan Yates—older moms in the stage ahead of me—I would sit down at the table with them, and like: “Okay, here are my questions…” “Here is what is going on…” I would just dump a lot of stuff and get phenomenal answers.

But I wish I would have had somebody—maybe that I would meet with once a week or call once a week—somebody who could say, “I hear you,” and maybe, speak some truth to me, like: “Ann, this isn’t about Dave. This is about your walk with God,” or just some simple truths. And somebody [to] say, “I hear what you are saying; I know you are venting. Now, let’s really pray and ask God to give you direction.”

Dave: How would you encourage a mom to find that woman? Obviously, I agree; I can remember doing the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember in Hershey, Pennsylvania, with Bob Lepine and Dennis Rainey and us.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: We had adult kids, and they were married. Saturday night, when the couples went out on a date, we went back to the hotel room with Bob and Dennis; and we started talking about being parents of married children. They shared wisdom,—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —struggles, highs, lows. It was like, “We are talking to somebody, who is a little farther ahead of us.” We’ve always said: “In discipleship, you need somebody in front of you, and somebody beside you, and somebody behind you.”

Ann: Right.

Dave: Every disciple needs a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy:

  • Somebody that can help them; they are a little farther down the track, and they can mentor and guide.
  • Somebody beside you, who sharpens.
  • And then somebody behind you, who you are pouring into.

You’re saying that about a mom; how do you find that?

Ann: Well, we didn’t have that. One of the reasons—and this shouldn’t be an excuse; I should have gone and found a person—but we started our church, and we were some of the oldest people. I think we had one couple, who was older, and that was it.

I think the way to do it is—one, your church—I think there are older moms/older women, who have been through it. Maybe, they are not perfect—none of them are, actually—but they have a lot of wisdom. I would be so bold as just to ask for that; if you find a mom, and you think: “Man, she’s been through it,” or “She’s just a stage ahead of me,”—call her, text her, ask her—“Hey, can I text you? Or can we get together, once in a while, for coffee?”

Dave: I remember, when our boys were really, really little,—again, we were starting our church—I didn’t know how to be a dad; I never really had an example. I would literally look for teenagers, who I hoped our kids would be like when they were teenagers,—

Ann: I remember this.

Dave: —and find their dad, and say, “Can I buy you lunch?” Every guy said, “Sure,” because everybody wants a free lunch. I’d take them out, and I’d ask them questions; and they mentored me.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Some of them stayed in my life for years as a mentor. I mean, in some ways, it’s on us to go ask.

Ann: I remember asking Barbara one summer—I said, “Our kids are in this stage, where they are just hitting each other/these three boys. I feel like it’s insane at our house.” She kind of shook her head; and she goes, “Oh, yes, that’s just a stage. It’ll get better.” That just took off all this pressure that I was doing something wrong. I can also remember asking her: “Hey, so our boys are going to get married soon; any advice?” I’ll never forget this, she said: “Oh, you have daughters-in-law coming in. It’s going to take several years—years—until that adjustment period feels a little more comfortable.”

Dave: We mentioned it earlier in the broadcast, but this would be a great chance to go to and let us be a mentor to you. Let FamilyLife—I mean, that’s what we are here to do is to help you—so you can do that.

Okay, we are talking about the mistakes that Ann Wilson made as a mom. [Laughter] You’ve already covered a couple. We’ve got time, maybe, for one more.

Ann: Okay; our son was going to a Bible school, and he called me. He said, “You know, I’ve really been struggling; and I’ve really been getting into my past junk.” I’m like, “Okay; yes?”

He said, “Mom, I feel like you so often cared more about what I was doing right or wrong in high school and in middle school—like, you didn’t care about my heart as much as if I was getting in trouble or not, which then made me think, ‘Do you care more about your image, or do you care about my heart?’ You were so scared.” He goes, “Why were you so scared?” I said, “I thought it was because I didn’t want you to suffer consequences; and maybe, it was because I cared what people thought of us and our family and, honestly, just my parenting.”

I asked him, “What do you wish I would have done?” [Emotion in voice] “I wish you would have asked me what was going on in my heart more instead of [intensity in voice]: ‘What are you doing?’ ‘What did you do last night?’ ‘Are you struggling with porn?’ ‘Are you doing stuff with your girlfriend?’” I didn’t ask it like that, but I think that is how they heard it.

I don’t know if he would have—or they would have had—the capacity to say what was going on in their hearts, but I wish I would have dug down a little deeper and asked that. Even after that, I think I was a little bit defensive, in like, “Well, you know, as a mom, it is scary.” I stopped; and I just said [emotion in voice], “Okay, I just need to say, ‘I’m really sorry. You’re right. I was petrified of hearing stories of kids that have done things that had really wrecked their lives, and I was really scared that you guys could fall into that; but Jesus is bigger than that. Please forgive me.’”

[Emotion in voice] They were great; they’ve all been really great with forgiving us and me. I thank God that they are dealing with that and that they have come to me and said those things.

Dave: I tell you what: we’ve had several conversations like that with our sons over the dinner table or on the phone. Recently, we sat down with our youngest son, Cody. He shared some of his thoughts on parenting and some of the things he’s actually said to us. You get to hear some of the things that we did that were hard for him. He was honest with us, and we recorded our conversation. I think it would be really, really helpful for parents to listen from a perspective of a son; and that’s only found on our FamilyLife app. You can go there and listen to that conversation; I think it will be life-changing. Maybe, it’s something you want to listen to with one of your kids.

Ann: I would really encourage you, as parents: “Sit down with your kids and, as they are sharing, really listen.” I think about our middle schoolers/our high schoolers—the temptations, the struggles, the pressure they feel—they feel incredible pressure to perform, to have friends, to know, “How do I live the Christian life when it feels like it’s going the opposite way of culture?” They have so much that they are feeling and dealing with. I think that we need to really dig down and ask them some great questions and then try not to parent out of fear.

Dave: I would just say to the moms and dads—it’s hard to do—but every decision your son or daughter is making is based on a reason.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: There is something behind that behavior that is driving that. What we learned is we sort of missed going for the heart.

Ann: Right.

Dave: By the way, every decision we make—same thing—there is a reason. As a parent, man, do the extra work to lean in and say, “Why are you making that decision?”

Ann: I love what our producer, Jim Mitchell, says to his kids; he usually says, “Tell me how your heart is.” I love that; I’m like, “Oh, I wish I had done that!” That’s a great question: “How is your heart doing?”

Dave: That could be homework—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —for some parent today/tonight. Sit down—go out to lunch, take your son or daughter to dinner—and really listen for their heart. It could be life-changing.

Ann: Yes; and let’s thank God for the grace of the cross—

Dave: Yes.

Ann: —that Jesus offers us forgiveness; and He offers us do-overs; and He loves us, regardless of what we’ve done, or said, or what we’ve missed. He is there for us.

Bob: It is so easy for us, as parents, to be focused on our children’s behavior. I mean, we want them to act right; we want them to behave. Yet, as Dave and Ann Wilson were saying, it’s really the heart that matters; and that’s where our focus needs to be as we’re raising our children. Then we need to remind ourselves of the grace of God for the mistakes that all of us will make. There are no perfect parents.

In fact, that is the title of Dave and Ann Wilson’s new book, No Perfect Parents: Ditch Expectations, Embrace Reality, and Discover the One Secret that Will Change Your Parenting. We have copies of their book available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We also have a small group series for moms and dads to go through with other moms and dads. It’s called the Art of Parenting®, and it’s a six-part series that helps you get to the core of the key issues we all face as parents.

Find out more about the book, No Perfect Parents, and the Art of Parenting video series for small groups; go to If you buy both of those together today, they are available for a special price. Again, go to for more information. Order from us online, or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number; that’s 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and the word, “TODAY.”

We’ve got David Robbins, who is the president of FamilyLife here with us. David, I know you and Meg are raising your four kids right now; and I know, as parents, you are always looking for resources, things like the book that Dave and Ann Wilson have just written, No Perfect Parents.

David: Oh, yes; we are in the thick of it. The great thing about Dave and Ann, and the book that they have written, is that they always come from a really honest place. There is no posturing; there is no prescriptive ways that it all goes about. There is honesty, and honesty that is met with the truth found in the Word of God, and how those two things meet in real life.

What I say about the Wilsons often is: “They are like Sherpas, who have been there before, but then they journey with you again. They take you to a place that you haven’t been yet, and they are not just talking down from the mountaintop at you. They are actually with you—still in the trenches—yet, taking you to a place that they have seen before.

I’m just so grateful for them in our own lives, and I’m really thankful that they are part of the team. I’m thankful that you get to hear from them every day—who they are, when it comes to bringing biblical truth and how that meets in everyday life, and helping you pursue the relationships that matter most—is one of the biggest reasons why I am so grateful they are a part of the team and you get to hear from them every day.

Bob: I think this is the first time I’ve heard them referred to as Sherpas—but I like that—that may stick. [Laughter] Thank you, David.

Thanks to those of you, who make the ministry of FamilyLife Today possible by supporting us financially. You are the ones who are providing the help and the hope for so many people/so many couples all around the world through your financial support. We’re grateful for that.

And we’ve got to wrap things up this week. Thanks for joining us. Hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when Dave and Ann Wilson are going to talk about what we do to strengthen our marriage in the middle of challenging times—I mean, whether it is personal challenges or the kind of challenges we’ve all faced, as a country, over the last couple of years—“How do we build a stronger marriage in the midst of that environment?” That comes up Monday. I hope you can be with us for that.

On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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