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Monday, June 25, 2007

Painful Parenting

A very young mother asked me what I thought was the biggest mistake parents make.

My reply…… “Parents who love secrets and lies.”

“What do you mean? How could any parent love lies?”

There are a lot of good parents. Parents who do everything they can to give their child a good life. They provide all the right clothes, all the right food and would never let their child miss a doctor’s appointment. They love their child more than life itself. Many times these parents have Christian backgrounds and are doing their best to train the child to be all God wants them to be.

Yet - it’s their “love” that gets in the way and causes them to go for the pain.

“Okay Debbie, now you have lost your mind. How in the world can real love cause pain?”

Parents walk a thin tightrope. We must stay perfectly balanced between disciplinarian and compassionate friend. We have to know when to hold the child to the line and when to come to their rescue because the situation is absolutely too much for them.

Making those decisions takes time, focus and a lot of wisdom. Many times we make a rash decision when we are pushed and stressed that will not benefit the child in the future. I’ve made those decisions (unfortunately) so I understand it completely.

“Debbie, make it simple! How can a parent love a child too much and what about lies.”

Every parent looks at their child and sees perfection. That’s how it should be. This child is an extension of us. We have created a human being and it’s the most perfect thing we can do. They look like us; they talk like us – wow! No love on the planet could possibly feel like this. That’s exactly how it should be.

But when that love prevents us from preparing our child for a world that does NOT see him as perfect – pain will follow. Children will only stay beautiful when they learn to follow societies rules and when they are taught that the world does NOT revolve around them.
Anytime a parent looks the other way when a child is rude, selfish or mean – Pain is inevitable.
You must insist that the deviant behavior be met with punishment or deter it in some way or – Pain is inevitable.

You must be brave enough at times to look at your child in a disappointed way or with an angry tone and let him know that this behavior will not be tolerated.

Example: Your child bites other children in daycare. Do you realize that no one will be able to stop him without your involvement first?

“Yeah, but wait a minute. How can I change the behavior if I’m not there?”

Because, you are the parent – you can change the behavior of your child even when you are not with him. What you teach your child becomes a part of him. What other people teach your child is only connected only by what they have learned from you. It’s not truly a part of his inner thoughts and behavior.

What a teacher requires at school will only be thought of as a request. What you require of him will become a part of who he is.

So…..if you teach your child that biting is wrong and you spend time finding ways to convince him of that --- you will have success. All his teacher can do is punish the bad behavior You can instill good behavior.

How does a parent love a child too much? They want to believe he’s as perfect as they see him and they don’t want to hurt his feelings or damage his ego. They have the mistaken idea that being “kind” means allowing bad behavior. They make light of faults and say things like,

“He’s just energetic” – when he’s running around a store or at someone’s house breaking things.

“She’s just sensitive” – when she’s actually selfish and hasn’t learned to share.

“He’s just honest” -- when he’s being rude and hurting people’s feelings.

“She’s just difficult or slow” -- when she can’t play well with others.

There is only one reason a parent shouldn't train their child social skills – if they are retarded or mentally incapable.

Don’t you dare tell me your selfish child is incapable of learning how to be nice to others and yet he makes straight A’s at school. If a child has even a small amount of intellect they can learn social graces.

Parents - you must learn to see your child's faults as opportunities for training him for a better life. The most loving and kind thing you will do for your child is to train him in social graces.....because if you don't people will lie to you both.

The Lies:

Parents who love their children as they are without requiring any growth or social development desperately want to believe lies.

“Finally….tell me about the lies.”

Every person on the planet at one time or another in their life has lied for the sake of social dynamics.

For example, “How do you like my new dress?” It’s not hard to say how beautiful it is when it’s on a local beauty pageant winner. But when it’s on 245 lb. Aunt Martha and the dress is purple and green polka dots with a yellow bow – it’s pretty hard to be nice. So what does the normal person say? Are we completely honest? We can save a lot of time by simply saying nothing and responding in a generic way. “Wow…now that’s unique!” or "My goodness Aunt Martha, that dress is you!"

WE have all done that! So parents….stop believing the lies. When other people look at your spoiled child and nod as you tell them they are just creative….don’t believe the lie that they actually understand or like his bad behavior.

NO ONE LIKES BAD BEHAVIOR in anyone - child or adult. And no matter what lies they tell you – once they are out of your presence they will not be complimentary about your child.

If you want to be sure that people think well of your child, train them….If you want the compliments they get to be real and from the heart, train them….If you want to hear wonderful responses from teacher, co-workers, friends, employers, train them. Selfish, rude, spoiled people do not have the same kind of lives that loving, kind, giving people have.

Example: Have you ever watched or painfully known a child that desperately wanted friends. He would give away everything he owned just to be invited to a birthday party. Yet no one invites him. And even if per chance some sweet little thing wants to be nice and invites your spoiled child to the party - no one will talk to or play with him. Why? Because you have believed the lie.

Another example is a bully. Their frustration has taken them in a different direction. They want to try to "make" someone be their friend. But that doesn't work either.
Both of these examples are young people crying out for help. They don't know the rules or how to succeed in life and guess who they blame for that -- YOU.

The most blessed thing a parent can hear is "Hey mom, thanks for all the training. It's made a difference in my life. Dad, thanks for all the info, I'm a better man because of it.

And if you raise a child who knows the rules and keeps them - you will hear those words.

One of my children just went through a difficult situation with an employer. The employer was certifiably unprofessional and totally wrong. Yet my child handled the situation with grace and more wisdom than I could have mustered up. When I complimented this child on their self-control and wisdom, he/she returned the compliment by saying - "Mom, you're the one. Thanks for all the training. I wouldn't have made it through this without all the things you've taught me."

All the times I went out of my way to train and to come up with something-anything that might help get my point across....all of the worry and prayer.... in that moment - it was all worth it. I would do it a million times over just to hear those words one more time.

If you really love your child you will learn all you can about social dynamics and you will train your child to be successful socially. If you can’t take the time to do that, get ready for pain. Because your child will not only turn on his own friends, he will turn on you.

Let’s go back to my one pet peeve. Train your child. God gave that life to you and he is expecting you to do your best. He didn’t give your child to anyone else. He wants you to be responsible for the growth and social graces of your children. Train them…..

Now, one more thing…

God doesn't call the equipped - he equips the called. You are called to be a parent and you have all the resources you need to be a great parent. Read your Bible, pray for wisdom, read a good book and if you need feedback - write that Debbie Jansen person. I've heard she really cares and is willing to answer anyone's questions.

God loves you,


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