School’s out! But we never stop learning. (I think my kids hid their summer math packets and broke all the No. 2 pencils).
I’m obviously no expert. But I’ve been parenting long enough to have some hindsight, retrospective thinking, afterthought and other words that are appropriate after you recognize you’ve messed up.
I’m convinced we don’t set out to make parenting harder on ourselves, but I’ve found that when I overstep or overcompensate (even out of love and concern), I often rob myself (and my kids) of important life lessons.
Here are 7 ways we make parenting harder than it already is:
1. I cause more problems when I try to fix theirs
I hate seeing my kids upset. But life can be upsetting. We need to experience sadness to know true joy. We need to walk through disappointment to recognize success. My kids have experienced some disappointments in friendships and I’ve tried to step in and help (also known as making matters worse). But when I stepped back and let them work it out on their own, we’ve all been amazed at what God has done to restore relationships and deepen friendships.
2. Admitting when I’m wrong goes a long way
I expect my kids to apologize, but find I have a hard time doing so. The other night I was standing in my kitchen in a heated moment with one of my kids and I knew I was as wrong as they were. Nothing diffuses a situation more than saying “I’m sorry.” And sometimes we need to be the first to say it. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, the tension lifted and we were able to talk through the issue.
3. I make a mess when I make small things a big deal
I’ve lost my mind over messy rooms and toy-covered floors. And I regret it. That’s not to say teaching our kids to clean up after themselves isn’t important and necessary–it is. But when we make it a constant battlefield, we do more harm than good. Let the little things stay little, so we can focus on what really matters: growing a deep love in their heart for God and others.
4. Criticizing our kids doesn’t change them. It hurts them.
I have watched my children’s faces crumble at my harsh words concerning their clothes or room or whatever. I would give anything to take them back. We often lose all the ground we gain with our tone and words. Our words can speak life or death. I’m learning it’s better to say nothing than something hurtful.
5. When I don’t let them fail, I fail them
My first instinct is to protect my kids from failure. But I’m proof that God teaches us in our failure as much as he does our success. Sometimes letting them bomb that school assignment or miss out on allowance because they didn’t do what you ask them is really a gift we give them.
6. Comparing my kids to others doesn’t make them want to change
Recently, I’ve been guilty of this one and I’ve hurt them by making comparisons. Every family is messy–even the ones we admire, especially those. We all have problems and challenges. And I wouldn’t trade my kids for anyone else’s, but when we compare, that’s exactly the message we’re sending our children.
7. Listening is everything.
I’m convinced that we talk too much. When I quietly wait (and don’t push, prod or pepper with questions), my kids talk (especially my older ones). Life isn’t a monolog where we monopolize the conversation, pass the mike. I’m always amazed and impressed with my children’s opinions and insight and confessions when I hush. I ask God to make me a better listener all the time. Because I think it will also make me a better parent.
Yeah, parenting is hard. But our kids turn out to be pretty good teachers.