I have been doing a lot of thinking about parenting lately. I’ve been at it a long time, with three children who are at varying stations in life. My eldest is 24, engaged, lives on her own and is a grown up with a college degree and a proper job. My middle is 10, finishing 4th grade and is learning how to do things like play catcher for softball, cook grilled cheese, and do her own laundry. My youngest is 5 and will start Kindergarten in the fall, is learning to read, and has only recently stopped running away at church. I just sold his strollers at a yard sale and I was a little (a lot) sadder than I expected. So while I may not be an expert in parenting, I have longevity and experience on my side and have learned a few things in 24 years. However, there’s always something new to realize – which I did earlier this week.
My deepest desire for my children is for them to love God and love others. Needless to say, in today’s culture of entitlement and enabling, fostering this is no small feat. I have taught high school English for 12 years now and I see how destructive entitlement and enabling can be, resulting in young adults who not only refuse to take responsibility for themselves, but are indignant and offended that you would expect them to. Of course, this is not all of my students, but a high enough number that I’m concerned and have become more reflective about my own parenting.
Parenting is emotionally and physically exhausting at times. It is also indescribably rewarding when you see all the work you’ve invested start to pay off. Every day I have to choose to suppress my own weariness from 24 years of this gig as a mom in order to impress expectations upon my children and hold the line. It is so much easier to give in to an irrational 5-year-old’s demands for candy or screen time when you are tired. When your 10-year-old doesn’t understand why she needs a shower after a softball game, it is tempting to relent. When you’ve worked all day with other people’s kids, coming home to parenting your own is an especially tricky business. On one hand, I just want to leave them to their own devices because I’m tired. On the other hand, I don’t want them to grow up to be entitled creeps who have no respect for authority and lack responsibility, all because I didn’t do my part effectively.
I’ve been reading a great devotional via YouVersion, which is a bible app that allows you to do topical studies and read the bible online. The devotional is called “30 Ways in 30 Days to Strengthen Your Family” by Rebecca Hagelin. Last week, this passage socked me right between the eyes:
Rules without enforcement are meaningless. Yet we constantly hear parents saying, “Don’t do that” again and again—as their children, of course, do it repeatedly with no consequences. It would actually be better for these parents to say nothing and let their kids simply do whatever they wanted. That way, at least the parents wouldn’t be teaching their children contempt for authority. – Rebecca Hagelin
After I read this, I re-read it aloud to my husband “That way at least the parents wouldn’t be teaching their children contempt for authority.” Wow. Wait just a minute. I consider myself a pretty proactive parent. Most of the time my husband and I are on top of things and swiftly correct our children. However, I can think of times when we just admonish the kids with a “don’t do that” from the sofa. Because we are tired. Because we have been doing this for a long time. Because we are…lazy. I had never thought of it this way. I certainly don’t want to passively teach my children “contempt for authority” by not actively enforcing rules. It really resonated in my heart and I began to reflect more deeply.
I certainly don’t want to passively teach my children “contempt for authority” by not actively enforcing rules.
Thanks for the firecracker under my behind Ms. Hagelin. In those moments when I am tired, wiped out, done – I need to get up, look my child in the eyes and let him/her know that the behavior he/she is engaging in needs to stop or that there will be a consequence. Then, I need to swiftly deliver said consequence if it continues. Every. Single. Time. It is so much easier to consistently work with our children when they are younger than to suddenly try to hold them accountable when they are tweens and teens. And when they arrive at those older years, it may be even more critical to hold the line and exact consequences if they don’t meet our expectations. The stakes are higher in the teen years, with a wide array of temptations to choose from. Some of these choices can be dangerous, with life-changing consequences.
Of all the stumbling stones they will encounter in this life, God forbid that I should be one of them.
I’m sure you’re tired too. We all are. But hold the line and don’t be a “don’t do that” parent who doesn’t deliver consequences. It does seem easier at the moment to wave off bad behavior, but the subsequent fallout certainly looms and scares me enough to take action. I want my children to respect authority and everyone else around them. Of all the stumbling stones they will encounter in this life, God forbid that I should be one of them. I am sure I have been at times over the years, but I am purposing to move forward in self-examination so that I am a stepping stone to their successes and interactions with the world. Yes, even when I am tired (and old).