Listen, the last thing in the world I want to do is mommy-bash. If ever there was a woman who is sympathetic to the plight of all the hard-working, long-suffering, over-committed, under-appreciated, desperately sleep-deprived moms out there, surely it’s me!
And in writing this I hope you won’t assume I think myself somehow above these mistakes. Far from it, I’m afraid. It’s just that the older I get and the more experienced I become at parenting, the more I see in my children the negative consequences of my own poor parenting decisions.
I’m also not writing this to make excuses for children’s rebellion and bad behavior. Proper discipline is biblical and necessary if we hope to raise good, God-fearing, people-respecting kids. Proverbs tells us, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child,” (ch. 22:15) and when that foolishness is not constrained it can have serious consequences down the road.
Sometimes, mamas, our frustrations with our kids probably have as much (or more) to do with our own poor decision making as with any foolishness or disrespect or rebellion that might be bound up in their little hearts.
The truth is…
Sometimes we expect our children to be miniature adults.
We know our kids are just kids. We know they are busy and energetic and born without filters, and yet when they struggle to sit still, they act out, they blurt embarrassing things, and (gasp!) act like the children they are, we are often angry, embarrassed, or resentful, then placing even more unrealistic demands upon them.
But here’s a lightning flash for you: Kids act immaturely because they are immature! Even with teenagers sometimes there can be a tendency to look at this adult-sized body and expect adult-sized thinking. We must be careful about demanding maturity that just hasn’t had time to develop yet.
We expect them to be like someone else’s child. And often we even tell them so.
No two children are alike, right? So why do we so often lift up some abnormally calm and smart and mature child as an example of wisdom and virtue and say, or at least imply, “Why can’t you be more like them?”
Constant comparisons can be detrimental to our kids. Years of never being able to measure up can lead to bitterness and resentment. To make it worse, our unrealistic expectations can blind us to our children’s God-given strengths and abilities so that we never help them nurture their own gifts.
We cater to our children.
Even those of us who insist we don’t give our kids everything they want sometimes come dangerously close to it. In fact, often I wonder if our only real reason for not giving kids more of what they want is simply that we can’t. Sometimes our children may be limited more by our circumstances than by our desire not to indulge them and their every whim.
But catering to our kids — always giving them what they want, letting them have their way, and constantly relinquishing our own authority to their desires — does nothing but create selfish children with a sense of entitlement and little to no respect for authority.
We trust them too much.
I realize there is a fine line sometimes between being a cautious, proactive parent and being a suspicious one. But trusting our children blindly, never giving careful consideration to their friends and their activities, (or their sinful nature the Bible warns us about,) is a recipe for disaster.
We can’t afford to be naive about our children. Disregarding subtle warning signs, or stiffening at anyone’s suggestion of misbehavior in our children, could have dangerous consequences. Which brings me to my next point.
We defend our children at every turn.
We are moms and our children are and will always be our babies. It is in our nature to defend and protect them. But running to our children’s aid in every conflict leaves them oblivious to consequences and makes them self-absorbed and overly sensitive.
It’s actually good for kids to handle disputes between themselves, without mom involvement if at all possible. But even when parents have to become involved, it’s important not to immediately run to our child’s defense, even when the surface details seem to justify it. Sometimes there is more backstory there than meets the eye. And if we’ll only admit it, most of us know our children are very good at telling partial truths! While I’m not advocating always siding against your child, at the same time we have to be willing to admit that not a one of us has ever given birth to an angel. Sometimes our kids do bad things and sometimes they lie about it. We can’t always give them the benefit of the doubt.
Our lifestyle offers them little to no structure.
I think we’re still learning the devastating effect the breakdown of the family is having on children. I hear the kind of schedule so many kids are subjected to — bouncing back and forth between divorced parents and other family members, being shuttled between a half-dozen extracurricular activities at breakneck speed — and I don’t know how there are any emotionally balanced kids left in the world!
But sometimes even in solid, intact families we offer our kids precious little structure. Our lives are so busy and so filled with activities and commitments and obligations. We over-commit ourselves and our children, too, and then get angry at them when their exhaustion ends in a meltdown. Never mind the fact we have dragged them all over town, limited their sleep, stolen their relaxed playtime, and spent almost no real one-on-one time with them. We are busy people, after all, and we have things to do! It’s just the way it is and they have to learn to deal with it.
Except that they’re kids, remember?
Sometimes, through some seasons of life, there are circumstances that turn our structures upside-down in ways we can’t avoid. I believe God’s grace is bigger than those situations and He can help provide the peace our children need, even in challenging circumstances. But choosing to live in chaos when we can avoid it is not healthy for our children. They need the security and self-confidence that comes with a structured, dependable lifestyle.
Sometimes that means we say NO to things we want to do, even to things we feel we need to do. It can also mean we say no to some things our kids want to be a part of. The family is more important and when kids know that, they can find incredible peace and security in it.
Sometimes our frustrations with our kids are our own fault. No question. The best thing we can do is learn to be better decision-makers as we parent, offering our children lots of GRACE while we seek lots more for ourselves!
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