4 Parenting Do-Overs
Here's an apparent hobby of mine:
Buying spinach, and then throwing most of it out a week later when it gets all slimy.
(Don't even get me started on bananas.)
Parenting feels that way sometimes. No matter what my best intentions are, I somehow end up wasting portions of it.
Parenting should come with at least one free do-over a day.
We all know why. As a wise parent once said, "I used to have three theories about raising children. Now I have three children and no theories."
Even on our best days we all fall short with our kids. Most of the time we need a do-over because we said or did something out of our gut instead of someplace inside of us that is more rooted. Other times we need a second chance at giving our best attention to our son or daughter when he or she most wanted it from us.
What if the real parenting do-over isn't merely about correcting our actions but about resetting our values?
To help me reset, I'm learning that I have to occasionally ask a series of four questions.
Question 1: Am I parenting based on the whisper of the Holy Spirit, or based on the longest sigh and loudest whining of my kids?
Sometimes our healthy desire to serve our kids evolves into unhealthy, kid-centered parenting. If you treat your kids like they're the center of your universe, they'll grow up thinking they're the center of the universe. The only one who deserves that role is God.
Question 2: Is my marriage (or personal health) a more important priority than my kids?
One of the greatest gifts you and your spouse can give your children is a healthy marriage. If you're a single parent, you likewise can show your kids what healthy self-care looks like. Our kids do need us, but they also need to be away from us and we need to be away from them. Otherwise co-dependency will kick in and we'll not know what to do with ourselves (or our marriage) as they eventually grow up and leave the home.
Question 3: Have I relied too much on rules versus values?
One of my biggest pet peeves is the question "Or what?" after I've challenged someone not to do something. It reveals how we're culturally conditioned to think about what we can get away with. As parents, we usually counteract that with loud rules and even louder consequences that only make our kids follow what we say as long as they live under our roof. From alcohol-abuse to pornography, we don't want our externally-imposed rules to just stay as "rules," we want them to become our kids' personally-owned values.
Question 4: What in my parenting is more about controlling than about trusting?
At some point in our parenting, we all struggle with wanting to look good. Perhaps we want to bring up our babies "right" (according to the latest popular trends in how to feed them, hold them, nurture them, and raise them). Other parents begin to feel pressure when their kids aren't yet speaking or walking like other kids are. This only intensifies when academics, athletics, musical abilities, and other pressures kick in during the teen years.
We can find freedom in rejecting the idea that a "do-over" situation is so messed up that redemption isn't possible. That's not only true for our kids, but it's also true for us. Mistakes happen. The need for do-overs is real. Every "wise" parent I know ended up being wise after several mistakes. One parent I look up to explained how he debriefed with his older adult son about some choices the boy made during his teen years. The son explained, "I don't know if you could have done anything differently. I would have likely made the same bad choices. Thankfully, you didn't quit, which makes it possible for us to be where we are today." We can't control everything, but we can do our best and trust God with a sense of divine anticipation.
Just as God doesn't want you to keep kicking yourself over the sin he paid the penalty to set you free from, don't kick yourself over not being the perfect parent.
Where in your life are you feeling like it's time for some kind of do-over?