Parenting is just one big marathon of decision making. Some of them are easy and obvious, others are not. Occasionally, we can get our wires crossed as parents and make a bad choice for our child even when our intentions are good. Here are some examples of good moms making bad choices.
1. Taking an unnecessary risk to address a problem. Whether it’s using ADHD drugs to help your child lose weight, or resorting to plastic surgery to try to aid your teen’s fragile self-esteem, some parents are taking major risks to address their kids’ issues. And just because you found a doctor who is willing to aid you in your scheme doesn’t make it a good idea. Addressing some of these childhood issues in a slower, more natural way may be more work, but it’s also teaching your child that the “nuclear option” solution shouldn’t be your first resort.
2. Refusing to let your child experience failure. We all want to protect our children from feelings of disappointment or rejection, but learning to deal with those emotions is an important part of growing up. But some of us just can’t stand it, so we run around “fixing” things for our kids. If they never have to process the minor-league disappointments—not making the team, missing the honor roll by a few points, not being invited to the sleepover—they’ll be completely blindsided by the first thing that comes along in their early adulthood that you can’t manipulate or fix. Let things happen as they will, and teach your child how to cope, recover, and move forward.
3. Over-investing in childhood activities and interests. Somewhere along the way in this country, we decided that the mark of a good parent was a willingness to sacrifice anything and everything for your child to “reach her dreams.” And for a very, very few children, (we’re talking about a fraction of a percent, here.) those childhood activities will have a relationship to what they do for the rest of their lives. But—and we can’t stress this enough—your 8-year-old gymnast has a greater chance of being struck by lightning than making the Olympic team. So how do we justify the obvious strain that over-involvement in sports and other activities, at increasingly younger ages, places on family life, academic performance, and the family budget? Unless someone in the know tells you otherwise, assume that your child’s involvement in an activity is about becoming well-rounded, learning some discipline, and having fun. Then treat it as such when deciding what an appropriate sacrifice of family time and resources for that activity looks like.
4. Taking their successes and failures personally. Yes, he’s your child. Yes, he’s close to your heart. But he’s not you, so you can’t take every little thing that’s going on in his life so personally. Of course, you need to care so that you can encourage and guide him along the way, but when you allow yourself to become too personally swept up in each success or failure, your thinking and analysis as a parent suffers. None of us is as objective when dealing with something about us as when it’s someone else. So instead of getting angry that a kid at school called him a name and embarrassed him, keep your cool so that you can help him see it for what it is and react appropriately. Keeping a mature and respectable emotional distance enables you to see the big picture and help him to see it as well.
5. Trying to make them just like you. There are certain values and character traits that every child needs to possess. And to the extent that those are also your personal values, it’s a great idea to train your child to be just like you. But there are other personality traits, gifts, and interests that you and your child may not share—and that’s okay. Just because you’re a people person who loves a crowd doesn’t make the fact that she’s an introvert bad. God creates everyone with a unique plan, and He equips us to do what we’re called to do in life. For you, that may have been in the chess club and a math/science-related career field. For your child, it may be as an athlete who’s much more in tune with the arts and humanities. Stick to your guns when training them to possess character traits that everyone needs, but loosen your grip on the negotiable aspects of life and foster the gifts and talents they display—even when they seem a bit foreign to you.