I hear it often from women– almost daily. The excuses, I mean. The “I don’t deserve, I wish it were better, If only I could be more, I should have,” and the list goes on. In their mind, they never quite measure up. And they start owning everything that goes with parenting. They own the undone chores, or the behavior of their child, or the homework, the grades, or any wrong choice of their teen.
And I wonder what we need to be doing differently as parents so the next generation of moms-to-be (those kids under our roof right now) don’t leave a similar legacy to our grandchildren.
You see, those self-doubts most likely stem from childhood–a childhood where the now mom (maybe you?) didn’t feel like she measured up. She wasn’t all that she should be as seen through the eyes of her parents or teachers. So her beloved role of motherhood becomes an idol for perfection. She wants to get this right so she tries a little too hard to help her child measure up and be perfect according to the standard her parents set for her.
Sometimes we push too hard, or expect too much of our kids, or on the other end of the spectrum help too much all because we want to be the successful parent. I’m still wondering if we’re trying to reach that imaginary ideal so that we can receive our own parents’ approval, or our child’s teacher’s approval, or the approval of our friends or someone else.
Maybe our parenting is focused on us rather than what is best for the child.
Ouch! Yes, I know that hurts.
Over the last ten years, I’ve learned to look at parenting through a different lens. But let me first share what I’ve learned by observing two moms.
Almost two decades ago I watched as two mothers each with daughters the same age as mine parented in very different ways. One mother had what I will call an “I love my daughter and I want to point out the good in her so that she becomes a healthy, functioning adult.” The other mother had an “I love my daughter and I need to let my little girl recognize she is a sinner pointing out those sins so that she can get them under control. If I do that, she’ll be a healthy, functioning adult.”
As you read those, I hope you can see that one was looking at parenting from a positive perspective while the latter was looking at her role as mom through a negative lens. If you look closely, they are two extremes.
I know that each of these christian mothers loved their daughters dearly. But one focused on the good while the other was focused on any wrongdoing.
If we want to have influence on our kids, and if we want to change the culture in a world where right and wrong are not easily defined, we need a little of both of these moms actually. We need the mom who can point out the good in a way that breeds confidence and instills a bond in such a way that respect and mutual admiration is established. By doing so we develop in our child a willingness to be open to our teaching because we’ve created a place of safety. Our children will be more apt to share their mistakes too because we provide a place where mistakes aren’t looked at as “an unpardonable sin” but as an opportunity to learn.
But let’s face it, there do need to be times when a teen’s sin becomes obvious and action needs to be taken. If we are always focused on the good, what should we do then?
That’s when we should ask questions.
Sometimes stating the obvious creates defensiveness in the other person. The brain is wired to automatically think “no” as a way of self-preservation so always pointing out our child’s sin, makes our teens want to revolt and do the opposite. By asking questions we can help them discover what may be obvious to us.
Self-discovery through questions helps our teen recognize their wrongdoings on their own without the sting of our judgment. The “WWJD — What would Jesus do?” can take on a totally new meaning when we gently ask our kids what the right thing to do would have been.
If we are gentle in our teaching, helping our children discover their shortcomings rather than making mountains out of what should be molehills, our children will learn to create their own standard to measure up to–hopefully the biblical standard. Instead of taking on a rebellious spirit or a spirit of never being or doing enough, they will be better equipped to recognize both their strengths and their shortcomings. And, then hopefully they won’t measure their success based on the success of their children in the future.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Don’t we want our children leaving our homes never having to question whether they measure up? Don’t we want them to feel our unconditional love even when they don’t always get it right? Don’t we want them focused on God’s standard for behavior rather than ours or the world’s?
Dare you to ask yourself some tough questions about how you parent in your home and what you are doing to set your children up to be a healthy, functioning adult.
“Let go…and Let God”,
For those who are tired of the conflict with your kids and want better relationships, our Deflating Defensiveness Training Retreat: A Conflict Resolution Workshop is only a few weeks away. Deadline for signup is May 15. We guarantee that you’ll walk away with new skills and a new way of thinking about parenting–about all your relationships. You’ll also strengthen your relationship with Him!
Dare you to be changed!