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Why I’ll Break My Daughter’s Heart Over and Over Again

The words from my daughter's mouth stung but I realized that in order to be a good mom, I'll need to break my daughter's heart over and over again.

I stood at the kitchen counter chopping strawberries for dessert.

Tears trickled out of the corners of my eyes as I replayed the scene of sending my youngest daughter to her room. As I reflected, I asked myself the timeless question muttered by many mothers before me…

“Am I a good mom?”

I heard my four-year-old’s footsteps and felt her arms wrap around my legs.


I looked down at her and couldn’t help but see my pain reflected in her face.

“Momma, I’m sorry.”

I crumpled to the floor and let her crawl on my lap.

I paused while I held her in a tight embrace.

My mind searched for the words I needed to say. I must follow through and let her know why I was upset. I need to tell her what she did wrong and suggest how she should behave in the future.

While this makes sense, it’s a daunting task when it involves a precocious and headstrong four-year-old.

I took a deep breath.

“Do you know why I was upset,” I asked her.

She nodded.

“I bit you,” she whimpered.

“I don’t like to be hit or bit,” I continued.

She nodded again. The corners of her mouth turned down, and tears tumbled down her cheeks. She looked up at me with a pained expression.

“But you broke my heart,” she cried.

The air left my lungs, and I could almost feel the life being sucked out of me.

The words hung there.

I broke her heart.

It’s the last thing I want to do.

I want to fill her heart up. I want her to be happy. I want her to know that I love and delight in her, even when we have tough times. Isn’t this what all moms want?

I broke her heart.

In this parenting journey, we have critical decisions to make, and each choice impacts our children in many ways. We are responsible for teaching our children right from wrong. We are to lead our children and raise them to be future citizens. Our direction sets a precedent for how our children will behave tomorrow, next week, and next year. Our guidance is the map by which they will navigate life’s challenges and disappointments.

How do I discipline my child this without breaking her heart?

How do I guide and direct this sensitive child? How can I respect her emotions but still ensure she’s learning right from wrong?

As I asked myself these questions, the answer became clear.

My daughter needs a parent more than a friend. She needs a guide more than a companion. She needs structure, not complacency.

I held her in my arms a bit longer, and we talked about proper ways for her to express her frustrations.

As we sat on the floor, I realized that this was a critical moment for me as a parent.

I’ve been entrusted to care for and raise this little person to adulthood. The years ahead will probably have far more challenging times. From four to eighteen is fourteen years of learning, pressures, experiences, growth, and God help me… puberty.

Moments like these greatly impact how my daughter will handle future issues.

Yes, I will continue to break my daughter’s heart over and over again. I do this because I have to. I do this because I need to. I do this because of the greater than anything love that I have for her.

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Jennifer Bly
Jennifer Bly
Author of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool, creator of The Deliberate Mom, Deliberate Homeschooling and regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Jennifer writes about parenting, her faith, and life with her husband and two girls. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care. 

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36 thoughts on “Why I’ll Break My Daughter’s Heart Over and Over Again

  • Janine Huldie

    Aw you said this perfectly Jennifer and I will admit I have totally had my fair share of moments like these with my both my girls. Like you, I will also continue to break their hearts for the greater good that will come out of it as I want mine also to grow up knowing right from wrong and see that I did stuff like this not because I don’t love them, but because I love them more than words can even express. Thank you for sharing and wishing you a wonderful week ahead xoxo.

    • Jennifer Post author

      Yes, one day they will understand that it’s our love that compels us to discipline them. I distinctly remember having that realization when I had my first daughter. All that time I thought my parents were “unfair” and “hard” on me but once I had kids of my own, I knew they disciplined me because they were raising me to be a good person. I’m so thankful for that.

      Wishing you a lovely week as well my friend.

  • Life Breath Present

    I couldn’t agree more. And though the may be no greater love than what I have for Baby boy, I will hurt him. I don’t want to, but he will be mad, angry even, with me and that’ll hurt. But, I’ll be his steadfast parent no matter what, as I teach him to navigate through the world. Because, I won’t always be by his side and I want him to be successful in all his relationship, too :)

    • Jennifer Post author

      Yes, it’s vital that we lead and guide them… even if it hurts. That’s our job as parents. One day they’ll recognize that we did it all out of love.

  • Meg

    Oh goodness. Just reading this I burst into tears when she said those sweet words. These little people of ours really FEEL don’t they. I am so glad I have you to help guide me through this parenting journey, there are so many moments to be a mindful mum, (or deliberate too!!) and I love that you take the time to write them down and share them. Your girls are just precious. xx

    • Jennifer Post author

      Great… I made a pregnant lady cry *wink*. I cried while writing this, but I thought it was an important moment to document and remember. I’m raising some pretty sensitive little people. It’s hard to break hearts but one day they’ll know that my guidance really IS done out of love.

    • Jennifer Post author

      Yes, forgiveness is so important. One day I’m certain my girls will look back and all they’ll see is love….

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this moment Elaine.

  • Amanda @ Growing Up Madison

    Oh my Jennifer I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’ve broken my own pre-schoolers heart on numerous occasions and while it hurts to send her to her room, I need her to understand that there are consequences to her actions and bad things means a time out etc, while good actions means a treat. I want her to see me as her parent first and friend second. It’s going to be ok and she knows that you love her and you’re doing it for her own protection. Big hugs to both of you.

    • Jennifer Post author

      I think that’s the first time someone has said my writing is eloquent… thank you!

      You gave me a wow moment. Yes, this is just like our relationship with the Lord. Thank you for sharing that very important (and beautiful) thought).

  • Tamara

    You said it so perfectly. Yes, you will do it again and again. And I don’t even know if it will get easier. (probably not at all) But we do this for the greater good. It’s hard.

  • Caryn

    I, too, wonder if I break my son’s heart. I want to see him smile and cackle and be free in his wonderland of life. But, I also know that someone needs to be the teacher, the guider and sometimes I’m making him sad to teach him a lesson. I sure hope I’m doing it right or at least right for him. xoxo

    • Jennifer Post author

      That’s the thing with parenting right?! We question, wonder, and have to hope we’re doing the right things to teach and guide them in the best way possible.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Caryn.

  • Ifeoma Samuel

    My dear friend, I am touched by this article. The Lord sees your heart and when your daughters grow up they will hug you and say “you are the best mom in the world”.
    So for now like you I will stick to what they need most.
    Precious Blessings friend

  • Michelle

    Good Morning Jennifer, YES, trust me, you will break her heart many times over. And she will break yours! Mine are grown and one of the best things I’ve ever heard my grown daughters say to me was, “mom, we now know why you were at times hard on us.” They got it after they were on their own, having children of their own and beginning the parent process. Children today are running the coup and parents have to administer some tough love at times. Yet, like you did, it has to be balanced with love, tenderness and forgiveness. Thank you for being a loving mother and YES, you are a “good mom.”

  • Kirsten Toyne

    It is so tough to be a parent and it is tough to be a child too. They need to know that even after they feel so awful that it will all be okay and sorted. It is only a real problem when children are not forgiven and don’t feel safe in the world.
    You are so right. They do need parents not friends. It is am impossible job to go round and always please our kids. Great post

  • Amanda

    I have so been there. And I totally agree with not being friends with our kids. I love my kids, love being around my kids and enjoy their company but at the heart of it I am their mom not their friend.

  • Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful, heart-felt story with us, Jennifer.

    I, too, believe that it is crucial that we as parents take our responsibility seriously. That, in part, takes understanding that our role is not to be their friends but their providers and their leaders.

    May God continue to fill your parenting cup to overflowing as you see to honor Him with His priceless gifts. Blessings, my friend.

    Thanks for the encouraging reminder!

  • Jen@JENerallyInformed

    My 7 year old is the Queen of telling me I “broke her heart”! She has mastered it to such a skill level it is hard to not feel guilty for the big crocodile tears rolling down her face, even when the tears are because of her behavior. It’s a tough gambit for sure and you said it perfectly here. I guess our heart breaking days will most definitely be continuing for a while and then our children become teenagers, and well that ups the heartbreaking to a whole new level I think.

  • Monica

    You are such a beautiful writer, Jennifer. I am jealous of your brain.

    With only a young baby right now, I don’t yet know how I’ll be disciplining my son as he grows up. Its one of those things that you can read up on and make plans for, but when it really happens, all you have is that parenting instinct. Well, I guess we have something else – we have hope that our love will be enough to get through those times when we break our children’s hearts. Love will be enough to show us the way together :).

  • Tawnya

    You said this perfectly :) I think we get so caught up in trying to be our children’s best friend that we forget what our real purpose is as parents. Children need rules and boundaries and discipline and deep down they want that, it is difficult with a sensitive child though. My little S is quite sensitive too.

  • Kathy Radigan

    My heart broke when I read what your daughter said to you, but you are so right, our job is not to be their friend, it’s to be their guide and get them ready to go out in the world. It’s such a hard job!!! Sounds like you are doing great. Thanks for sharing this story.

  • Sara | mumturnedmom

    My three year old now says this to me, and it breaks my heart, but like you I know that I must follow through. To teach her, guide her, help her. It is one of the hardest things we have to do, but so very important. Wonderful post x

  • Debbie

    Hi Jennifer, maybe I’ve been lucky (or my two are just stubborn), but neither of them have ever told me I’ve broken their heart. When they were younger and stepped out of line, they were sent to their room to calm down and think about what they had said or done, before I would go in and have a little chat with them. Oh, it did upset me at times, but at least I never had the added layer of guilt laid on by them, which probably made it easier!

    Even if they had told me I had broken their heart, I would not have handled it any differently. If we let our children get away with bad behaviour because it makes us feel bad teaching them otherwise, then we are not being good parents. If we start teaching them right from wrong from a young age (in a calm and controlled manner- hug that tree and breathe!), it makes life easier for everyone as they grow up.

    Parenting is never easy and that’s probably the only sure thing about it!


    • Jennifer Post author

      It’s extra challenging when they lay on the guilt… that’s for sure. However, I’m the parent and I need to be that parent to my kids. That’s my job and I take my job seriously!

      Thanks for sharing your own thoughts and reflections on this Debbie.