Who's Parenting Your Child?


If the man at the coffee shop asked to replace me as the parent of my children, of course I'd say no. If the people on my row in church offered to relieve me of parenting duties for all eternity, I would swiftly decline. If the person behind me at the grocery store asked to let my children leave with them after their transaction, I'd call for security. Why then am I allowing these people to parent my children? I tell my sons to "behave" in the coffee shop, so the man next to us doesn't get upset. I force stillness upon their bodies that don't have any concept of what still even means, so that fellow congregants aren't annoyed. I try to keep my toddler son's ramblings to an acceptable decibel level, according to the woman behind me in line at the grocery store. In so doing, I'm giving these strangers license to parent my children.

And for what? Where's the payoff? Maybe they'll say, "Oh, you're such a great parent." Or maybe the classic line, "Your children are so well behaved."

Never say that regarding my kids. It's not a compliment and I won't accept it. Not today. Not ever.

How much of what I teach my children is actually for their benefit? If I'm being completely honest, all the no's and don't do's and sit downs and be stills, are to hopefully ensure they act "right" when they're not at home - this is not okay.

Home should be where kids can be free to run, play, be wild, be loud, be wrong, be right. Home should be where they can be children, fully. Afterall, do they really need to be quiet, or is it just that my bad day needs some silence? Do they really need to stop running back and forth through the house, or has my laziness overpowered my desire to engage them? Does the inquiring mind of a child really need to stop asking so many questions, or is my inability to answer the why's of my own life shutting down their curiosity?

When I say I, I mean we, and we cannot continue to parent our children with the hope that they meet the flawed expectations of other people; people who don't even matter. Being seen as a good parent to the rest of the world means nothing if our children see us as the complete opposite. Let's deal with our lack of self-esteem in the therapists office, or community group or in meditation, or any other form of healing that doesn't involve damaging the lives of others, i.e. our children.

Yes, it is our awesome responsibility to guide them on this journey of life, but guiding and controlling are not the same. We spend too much trying to control and prevent the inevitable: they're going to make mistakes and do things we don't agree with - there's no way around it. So, instead of trying to force them into perfection, let's foster a culture that develops their emotional intelligence to deal with life when things go wrong.

Instead of saying: OMG, I can't believe you did so poorly, or what's wrong with you, or I thought you were smarter than that, or some other highly inappropriate phrase that would make any adult or child crawl into a corner, we can say something like: Hey I know you didn't do as well as you hoped on ______, but let's do some extra practice TOGETHER and see what more we can learn."

Sounds easy enough right? Then why is it so difficult? Because this type of parenting requires active engagement and a constant evaluation of self. Why do I feel the need to scream at the top of my lungs at a 5 year old? Am I trying to control my child beyond reason because I'm lacking control in my own life? Am I forcing my child to do something because that's how my family has always done it, even if it's void of any benefit?

The adult world requires perfection, even though no one is able to provide it. When I succumb to this unrealistic expectation, I fail everytime because flawlessness is unattainable. And in this failure, I rarely give myself grace, which often leads to grace not being shown to my children for their mistakes. Mistakes that probably aren't even mistakes. This means I'm withholding grace because someone else's expectation of my child is not being met. Looking at it even deeper, what if the woman behind me at the grocery store is actually thinking: I'm not annoyed at all, I totally understand. Now I'm making my kids act a certain way to satisfy what someone else isn't even thinking!

Bottom line - WE are the parents of our children. Other people's beliefs and thoughts and opinions can't sign our children out of school as parent or guardian. Only we can do that.