My son clobbered his brother because something or other went awry during a game of Minecraft. My other boy flipped the game board in a move to rival the Real Housewives of New Jersey’s infamous table flip because he was losing. Then there was that LOUD argument at the grocery store over what flavor Pringles to buy, an Academy Award winning meltdown at a friend’s house because one kid was bored, kids streaking across the house naked after showers, and the always shocking faux pas of a four-letter word slip. And that was just this week!
Screaming, mayhem and the chaos of a 3-ring circus are hallmarks of my household in spite of the effort I put forth to be a good parent. I take my kids to church every Sunday; teach them Christian values. I’m present and involved in their lives; aware of what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with. They have rules and boundaries and lots of love. And yet they still behave badly, make poor choices and deliberately challenge me.
Unfortunately, when this behavior occurs in front of onlookers the door of judgment swings wide open. Truthfully, when my children are at school or other people’s homes, I’m often told how well-behaved they are, but they’ve definitely had their share of cringe-worthy moments. So when I hear people weighing in on the unflattering behavior of other’s children and parenting, I tend to shrink back a bit and internalize the condemnation.
And while as mothers I think we’ve learned to tune out the gossip, ignore the stares and stay the course, there is one remark that will always cut to the core. As a mom struggling, doing her best to raise two beautiful, but rambunctious boys, the wind is always knocked out of my sails when I hear somebody automatically assume that a child is behaving poorly because a parent isn’t doing their job or something terrible is going on at home.
If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you? Every mother has uttered this cliché statement in hopes of driving a point home, and invariably the answer is a resounding “NO” complete with eye roll and sassy tone. Likewise, if your mother told you not to do something, does that mean you’re definitely not going to do it? And again, the answer is a big resounding “NO.”
Truth is, young and old, while we take in what we’re taught, what behavior is modeled to us and resulting consequences, we are not controlled by it. Our decisions are still our own, and if we’re set on doing something or ruled by emotion, nothing is going to derail that train . . . not even being grounded from your iPhone for two weeks.
As much as I may wish I could control my children with a remote control, it’s simply not reality.
God has created us all, especially teenagers, to be individuals and make our own choices . . . good, bad and ugly. And while there are adults who are blatantly, even criminally, falling short of their parental responsibilities, many of us are truly trying to do the best we can with the resources we have and the results are mixed to say the least.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Did you catch that, “when he is old,” not necessarily tomorrow or next week. Like many things in life, you might not see the fruits of good parenting until your child is old. Now if that ain’t sobering. . .
And to complicate matters of parenting even more, we live in a world where we are not the only “teachers” our children have, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Children don’t always learn inappropriate behavior at home. They are exposed to a host of negative behavior and language via television, the internet and schoolyard friends.
As Christians, we need to stop judging and start supporting other parents. We need to stop commentating from afar on how we’d do things differently and take a step closer to lend a caring hand. We need to be a friend, a helper, a support system. We need to reserve judgment and invest in the lives of those God has placed in our path; go deeper to reveal the true story, not just the sensationalized headlines.
We need to remind ourselves that we too often disobey our Father in Heaven, and I’m confident it’s not because he’s doing something wrong as a parent.
All children are not created equal. While some are naturally agreeable and “easy” to parent, others naturally test boundaries. Some have learning or physical disabilities, some are subject to bullies, some have mental health disorders and others still struggle with self-esteem issues and the list goes on and on.
Not all parents are created equal either. While some are blessed with picture-perfect marriages and abundant finances, others struggle to make ends meet. Some battle health problems and depression, some are lonely, some are overwhelmed and others are single parents.
Think of parenting like a video game. While some of us are on level one, parenting with ideal circumstances, some of us are navigating the obstacles of the advanced level, pitfalls and challenges at every turn.
Seriously, in my household asking my children to brush their teeth is met with the resistance of a request to scrub a public restroom with a toothbrush. And my boys’ reaction to losing their video game for a day is akin to missing their senior prom. Some days their displeasure with household boundaries and consequences result in stubborn, hour long standoffs. I assure you I’ve read all the parenting books and attempt to impose the proper discipline, and believe it or not, they still don’t always comply.
So if you see me or any other parent losing their marbles in Target or taking a tear-filled, self-imposed timeout in the bathroom while their children run amuck for a few minutes, please try not to judge and make us feel like even bigger failures than we already do. Instead, offer us a kind word, a gallon of ice cream and the assurance that we’re not the only ones raising miniature hellions. And don’t forget to remind us that God promises everything will turn out ok in the end.