I have found that in whatsoever setting I have found myself, I am surrounded by parenting experts. Some days, it seems that everyone knows what to do with my children but me. In the course of some of these enlightened discussions, bits of foolishness disguised as universal wisdom tend to surface time and time again. It is my endeavor to expose these lies for what they are, and to reassure you that your God-given reaction to these things is justified.
1. Bad decisions are a rite of passage.
“Oh, we all did that when we were that age.”
“All teenagers do it.”
“It’s really no big deal.”
Whether the topic is alcohol consumption, experimentation with marijuana, sexual experimentation, truancy, shop-lifting, criminal mischief, or basic defiance, today’s street-side parenting experts will excuse your child’s behavior by explaining that you did the same thing as a child, and you turned out fine.
In fact, some have even argued that these bad decisions are so normal, that it is impossible to teach your child to abstain from them. Therefore, your job as parent is to make sure that your child makes a bad decision in the safest way possible.
Think about that last statement. The so-called “parenting experts” that surround us, and constantly barrage us with parenting advice, want us to let our children make bad life choices, but in a safe manner.
Nowhere is this mentality more prominent than in the debate over sex-education in the public schools. There are those who advocate for abstinence education. Others belittle that approach, saying that kids are “going to do it” anyway, so we need to make sure they have condoms and access to abortion. (Never-mind the failure rate with condoms, the potential for sexual abuse, or the regret and emotional trauma caused by bad experiences).
You also see this mentality present with parents who provide alcohol to teenagers under the guise of “providing a safe environment” for underage drinking, or drug use.
We experimented. We made mistakes. Our children, too, will experiment and make mistakes. It’s a rite of passage. Part of growing up. It’s normal. Hogwash and horse-feathers!
Looking back on my teenage indiscretions, I regret many of them. I made choices concerning alcohol and substance abuse that I regret. I wish I had begun adulthood with a healthier understanding of sexuality. I have regrets.
Scripture speaks to this in Romans 6:21, “ What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.”
In our youthful indiscretions, what fruit do we have in those things, of which we are now ashamed? Should we resign ourselves to the idea that our children, too, will make the same mistakes and have the same regrets as we?
I say, Nay! Nay!
Our job as parents is not to make sure our kids have the same experiences we had, nor is our job to navigate our children through the same pitfalls we fell into as kids. Our job as parents is to use our experience to our kids’ benefit. Our job is to steer our children away from the pitfalls we fell into, drawing on our experiences and teaching our kids to make the decisions we didn’t.
Setting your children up for a better life than you had used to be a virtue. It’s time we restore that virtue.
2. I have to allow my child to make their own mistakes, and learn from them.
This lie comes from the same mentality as the 1st lie… that bad decisions are inevitable, therefore we should teach kids to make them in a safer manner.
Bad decisions may be inevitable, but our job as parents is to warn our kids against them, steer them away from those bad decisions, and hold them accountable for their decisions, and for the behavior leading to those bad decisions.
Ephesians 6:4 tells us to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The meanings of these words carry the notion that our role as parents (and more specifically, the role of fathers), is to constantly warn children against sin and rebellion. This means to warn them, not only of God’s consequences, but of the worldly consequences of sinful choices.
To stand idly by while our kids “make their own mistakes” is an abdication of a God-given responsibility, and a rebellion against a God-given commandment to parent our children.
3. I have to be my child’s friend, or, my child is my best friend.
If you’re looking for validation or affirmation from your child, you’re doing life wrong.
Your job as parent is to prepare your child to launch into the world, not to establish your child as a lifelong companion and confidant. Your role as parent involves giving your child the tools they need to succeed in life, spiritually, economically and socially. Your child is not there to meet your needs. You’re there to meet your child’s needs. And what your child needs from you is not another friend or buddy (honestly, they should be making those from kids in their own age-group), but rather the guidance and leadership that will prepare them for the next phase in their life.
This involves discipline. This involves tough choices. This involves denying them things that you really want to give them.
This is a tough road, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Scripture says “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” For your child’s safety, survival and betterment, you must use the rod of correction to drive the foolishness from your child’s heart.
And while that verse is often associated with spanking, the rod of correction can take on many forms. It can be a mode of punishment, or, like the shepherd’s rod, it can be a guiding force.
The rod of correction can come in the form of grounding, lost privileges, chores, consequences, earned privileges, and earned rewards.
The rod of correction, that is, discipline, is not merely punishment. It is the shaping of proper behaviors and attitudes within your child. And no matter how positive you try to make it, it will not be an easy road for your child.
They will tell you they hate you. They will call you the worst parents ever. They will say they wish they had never been born. They will threaten to run away. If your personal validation requires positive feedback from your children, this is where you will implode and fail. You must be strong. You must know your role. You must remember the goal.
In the short term, you will find yourself at odds with your child, and your feelings hurt. In the long-term, you are shaping the world view, moral character, and if done Biblically, the Spiritual fortitude of your child. In the long-term, your child is better off for it, and will love you for it.
To borrow a cliche, “They’ll thank you someday.”
Okay, maybe they won’t thank you. But then again, that’s not why you parent in the first place.
4. I want to give my child everything I didn’t have.
This is a materialistic mindset. Your goal is not to give your child a better material life, but a better start in life, and a better life overall.
If you didn’t make the team, weren’t elected class president, or weren’t accepted into Harvard, do not make it your mission to make sure your child gets all of that.
If you didn’t have your own car in school, don’t make it your mission to buy your kid a car.
Make it your mission to equip your child for adulthood.
5. My child deserves the best.
Yes, and no.
Your child deserves your best. However, your child does not deserve the best the world has to offer. That has to be earned.
A better mindset is that your child needs to learn to make the best of what they have. If you can teach them that, then they are head and shoulders above the rest.
The conclusion of the matter.
Parenting is an 18-20 year journey full of ups and downs, hills and valleys, roadside raiders and landmines. It’s not for the faint of heart. If it were easy, Dr. James Dobson would be running a hotdog stand in Anaheim.
There are times you won’t know what to do. There are times you will make mistakes. There are times you will wonder why God trusted you with your children in the first place.
God didn’t make a mistake. Trust Him, trust His model for parenthood. And reject the lies that the world throws at you regarding parenthood.
Love your child. Prepare them for adulthood. In the end, you will see a blessing.
Are there any other parenting misconceptions out there? Feel free to post them below. God bless you.