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Something a Dentist Can Teach Us About Parenting


I recently found out that my daughter's dentist has a child of her own who's had multiple cavities.

I actually did a little dance in my head when I heard that.

(I really had some sweet moves in my imagination, too. I'm talking "Dancing With The Stars" caliber.)

Put me in my place, if you must, for celebrating, but I'm going to do it anyway. I'm not doing it because some poor kid in the world needed fillings after one too many bowls of Cocoa Puffs, but because it proves that even when you know and put your kids through the motions of what's right (as I'm confident this dentist did with having her kid brushing and flossing daily), there's no guarantee that your kids are going to turn out well.

Yes, I'm actually celebrating that. Hang with me.

Have you ever felt like you've really failed as parent? Maybe one particular moment stands out, or perhaps you can think of a whole season of falling short. Maybe you even feel like you're dropping the ball today. We've all been there.

Regardless of those feelings of failure, sometimes you and I do get it right.

  • Sometimes we don't curse like a sailor in front of our kids after hitting our hip on the corner of our counter and buckle over like we've been shot.
  • Some days we don't respond to a sarcastic text message or flippant comment from our son or daughter as sarcastically or flippantly as we know we could.
  • Some days we don't scream, "ARGH!!! LEAVE ME ALONE!!!" to the multitude of asks from our family that happen in the same 5 seconds.

Because of this, we need to celebrate even when we fail because the results of our parenting aren't completely up to you and I. God knows this and models this as our Father. After all, if perfect parenting equals perfect children, then Adam and Eve wouldn't have ever made poor choices.

That dentist I told you about? No matter how hard she tried to help her kid not have cavities, they kept popping up throughout her baby-teeth era. When her kid got adult teeth, cavities were never an issue.

Same habits. Unique materials. Different results. That's great perspective for us.

  • Same habits: If you're doing what's right, keep doing it. You may not see the results you want today, but those habits will follow your kid into the next season of their lives. Whether they regularly embrace those habits or return to them when life rattles them, "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
  • Unique materials: Your kids' response to your parenting may at times be less about what's coming out of you and more about what's coming out of them. That doesn't let us off the hook, but we can pause and recognize what's happening them emotionally, physically, relationally, intellectually and spiritually. Perhaps we're in a "baby teeth" phase in one area more than another where there's been some "adult teeth" maturity.
  • Different results: No matter how hard we try to protect our kids from everything, this broken world will find ways to cause "decay" in them. Every good parent will have times they feel like they're failing, but if we don't grow weary in doing good, we will reap something fruitful down the road. Ideally, we'll see that in our kids and in ourselves. Sometimes, we may only see that in us if our kids choose outright rebellion. There are multiple things your kids will go through that only God can guide them through, so make that spiritual investment without apology.

Feel like you're failing? Maybe there are some cavities, but perhaps there are still plenty of teeth for a smile.

And even if there aren't, maybe there's an option for something reconstructive. God's wisdom has a way of giving us something to chew on... like empowering us to be fully-faithful to our kids as parents so He can then come alongside them and be their God.

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