“The worst thing you can ever think is “that will never happen to me” because then your guard is down and you are vulnerable to attack.”
I remember reading those words years ago in a book by J. Allan Petersen called the Myth of the Greener Grass. It was a short, but powerful message on the all too common issue of marital infidelity among clergy. Over the years I have observed the truth of these words, not just in Christian marriages, but with children of Christian parents as well. If we find ourselves judging other parents and the way they manage their children, we can fall into a nasty trap.
“I would NEVER let my child do that!” “I can’t believe they let their children watch that on TV!” “They let their kids run wild, don’t they have any control over their kids?” “My children always tell me the truth, those children lie to get out of trouble.” and the ALL TIME WORST – “My child will never do that!”
If we are honest, we have all had thoughts similar to these, probably many times over. Yet we DON’T know all that is going on in the families of those we judge. Some parents allow their children to do certain things we find objectionable because their child is learning to overcome obstacles we can’t imagine. As a teacher I have seen some of my students face issues in their home life that are so horrific – it amazes me they make it to school at all, much less function productively. It is so very important that we recognize that each family is distinctive and each family faces circumstances that are unique.
There certainly are universal qualities that are generally considered desirable in families. Phil and I have facilitated parenting sessions for parents of adolescents over the years and Phil begins by asking parents “What do you hope for your children?” It is always good to begin a task with the goal in mind. The old saying – “You can’t steer a parked car” is true. If you don’t know where you want to end up – you won’t know when you get there. As a parent, if I don’t have a clear view of what I want my family to be like – I will not be actively leading my children in the right direction.
Back to the list from parents – we found that parents often knew what they didn’t want, but weren’t as clear about what they felt was important. If parents only work at avoiding certain behaviors, they will not be building character in their children’s lives. “Don’t talk to me in that tone of voice!” may send my child the message that it is not respectful to talk a certain way. Yet will that statement teach my child the respectful response? No. Only focusing on negative behaviors will not produce positive results. After considering what was most important to them, the parents in the sessions formed a pretty consistent list of positive qualities they hoped for their children.
- helpful and thoughtful (positive spin on “not selfish”)
- happy, content
- well-adjusted, friendly
- self-supporting (generally added by dads)
- successful – which most parents realized resulted from the above mentioned qualities.
There are no “perfect” families because families are made up of imperfect people. Yet we can certainly plan and “steer” toward making our families places that nurture the qualities we hope for our children. We must guard against a judgemental attitude that only reflects the negative and does not foster positive development.
I Corinthians 10: 11-13 NLT
12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
The challenge for each of us as parents is to be intentional about training our children in positive, Godly ways, and avoid the trap of judging other parents. God is Faithful!!!