Life-Altering Fallacies and How to Avoid Them: Successful Parenting (Part 2)

Last week we began to look at what it means to be a successful parent. I suggested that while some people have a feel for what this means, many remain confused. Let’s now look at some of the reasons for this confusion.

 

  1. Expecting to control the outcomes.

Parenting includes training and nurturing our children. Ultimately, we want our

kids to function independently as adults. We can stack the deck in their

favor, but we can’t control the outcome. Still, we try.

 

For example, in pursuit of the self-esteem myth, we’ll praise our kids even

when they turn out a poor performance due to poor preparation or effort.

Supposedly, we’re building their self-esteem and confidence. Or parents will

try to nag their children into changing their behaviors. They’ll work to have

their kids be the best player on the team and get top scores in school. They

do it because they think their kids’ outcomes depends on it.

 

Parents who try too hard to fix the outcomes do so at the expense of their

kids’ independence, and in a way, even sacrifice their own freedom. Our

children will encounter people, ideas, and experiences beyond our control

and influence. They will make their own decisions, and those decisions may

not come out the way we want.

 

Healthy Alternative: We should work to help our children become

independent adults. It doesn’t happen all at once; it takes time and training.

We hope to instill the right attitudes and skills, but in the end, we have to let

go. Our kids are not our possessions. They’re on loan to us by the Creator, and

we release them into His care.

 

But what happens when our kids make mistakes? If they do, it will be their

mistakes. The best thing we can do is to introduce them to Jesus. We can be

sure the Holy Spirit will do a better job of leading our kids than we will at trying

to control their lives. That doesn’t mean we have to remain uninvolved. Love

doesn’t quit at any age. We continue to love our children, but we do so in a

way that respects their independence and free will.

 

  1. Parents act out of a need for love, meaning, or validation.

 

Do we need our kids to win or achieve a goal for their sake or to satisfy our

ego needs? If you sink your whole self into your children, what does that mean

when they fail at the activity, or they reject us? Do we desperately need

someone or something else to love us and affirm our purpose and value? For

many parents, that becomes their children, leading to expectations or an

investment of effort that goes too far.

 

Healthy Alternative: Our kids are not here to gratify our ego needs. Our value

is not defined by our parenting or by how our kids turn out. God has already

established our worth, having created us in His image. Like everything in life,

we give God our very best as parents, and then we leave the results up to

him.

 

  1. Working toward goals that cannot satisfy.

 

During the sermon on the mount, Jesus said:

 

    Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay

destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven,

where neither moth not decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For

where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Matt. 6:19-21 NABRE

 

We put so much effort into acquiring material goods, fame, power, or

pleasure — things that give only temporary satisfaction, but no lasting

happiness. We work to get our toddler in a soccer league so he can become

a star player so he can get a good scholarship at college and then get a

good-paying job so he can own things, save up for retirement, and then retire

playing golf every day. Is that all there is to life?

 

Secular society works hard to remove anything that might look like religion

or a religious (and in particular, Christian) value system. Do we have a set of

values that we would consider absolute and everyone should learn — like

respect for others, taking responsibility, respect for life, caring for others,

mercy, sacrificial love, patience, kindness, loyalty, respect for one’s parents,

love for our family, generosity, forgiveness, chastity, truthfulness, perseverance

and respect for legitimate authority? Don’t expect the educational system or

entertainment industry to teach these.

 

Healthy Alternative: Jesus showed us how to live a healthy and abundant life

in this world, and how to receive eternal life in the next. Teach your kids by

word and example to live by the Two Great Commandments: to love God

and neighbor. Teach them to embrace the Beatitudes as a recipe for

happiness. Help them become disciples of Christ.

 

  1. Relying on ourselves instead of God.

 

Here’s some surprising news: parents are not perfect! Yet, we are

supposed to be models and teachers for our children. If parents are expected

to be the guides for their children, who will help us to recognize and correct

our own behavior?

 

Healthy Alternative: No matter how hard we try, we surely will make mistakes,

and sometimes they’ll be whoppers. But for Christ’s followers, there is hope.

First, if we live as active disciples and remain attentive to the Holy Spirit, God

will not only guide us, but over time, he will heal us and make us into better

parents. Second, as stated under Fallacy #1, God can heal and help our

children’s wounds — even the ones we had a hand in. Third, our God is a God of

mercy, and if we acknowledge our sin before Him, He will forgive us.

 

  1. Centering life around activities instead of relationships.

 

Everyone tells us we should have our kids in this or that activity because

those experiences are going to help them succeed. The “good parent” will

then devote as much of her discretionary time as possible to seeing that her

kids stay involved in enriching activities while acting as chauffeur, spectator,

and cheerleader.

 

Here’s the rub.

 

Values and character traits are taught, but they are largely caught by

observing and interacting with parents and siblings in a variety of settings. The

small and seemingly insignificant conversations we have can carry more

impact than we think. These opportunities will diminish as our families become

busier with activities. Relationships take time, and some of the best moments

happen spontaneously. If occupied with programmed activities, where

will we find the time for these moments and relationships?

 

Healthy Alternative: Activities are fine. But when they get in the way of a

nurturing relationship with our children or they become obstacles to godly

goals, we’ve let it go too far. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. It takes

prayer and discernment to recognize these boundaries.

 

  1. Failing to introduce our children to Jesus.

 

Of course, the secular person doesn’t see the point. But even Christians can

miss the mark here. That is, we can tell our children about God and introduce

them to our religious traditions and practices, but if we fail to introduce them

to Jesus, we’ve missed the most important part. Knowing religious truths and

practicing acts of devotion have their value, but parents should realize that

knowing Christ is central to all of it.

 

Secular society works at extracting God out of everything. Some people say

they will let their children decide about God when they get older. That

statement shows ignorance about child development and naiveté about the

antagonism of secular society toward the Christian faith.

 

    Healthy Alternative: Guide your children toward discipleship. Teach them

about God. Share about your experience following Christ. Bring them to

Church. Teach them about Jesus. Don’t expect this to occur passively. In

the end, your child will still need to give her own “yes” to Jesus.

 

 

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