Have you ever wondered if you are doing a terrible job as a parent? We’ve probably all thought that at one time or another. Parenting is a tough job; often times more art than science. Yet the unpopular parenting decisions you make are most likely contributing to your child’s health, not their detriment.
But there are five parenting traps that many well-intentioned modern parents fall into without even knowing it. These attitudes and behaviors easily go undetected because they are ingrained in the culture around us. Let’s consider five ways we as parents may be unwittingly ruining our kids:
1. Amusement as the highest priority. We don’t want our children to be bored or to scream in public places, so we hand over an electronic device to amuse them. As this becomes the norm, your child learns to crave constant amusement and entertainment. Instead of having a special Disneyland experience once every few years, we’re bending over backwards to create those magical moments every day with special outings, fun food, and over-the-top parties for kids. Stop being the cruise director for your child’s life – that’s not your main job description. If your child can’t find something to do without your help or without a screen, they are headed for trouble.
2. Everyone’s a winner. A few years ago when my son was at a basketball camp, their team was matched with a much better team. After about five minutes, they turned the scoreboard off so it wouldn’t read 98:0 (or something like that!). We have done our kids a disservice by giving everyone a “participation trophy.” Life doesn’t work like that. There are winners and losers. Imagine if we stopped keeping score in professional sports. What would be the point of the game? Teach your child that self-worth is not found on the scoreboard but that he/she should always strive to do his/her best. It’s motivating to earn a trophy through sweat, effort and determination. It’s de-motivating to earn a trophy just because you showed up.
3. Feelings trump everything else. The main question these days is “How do you feel about that?” We’ve downplayed the power of the will to do the right thing even when your child doesn’t feel like it. Instead we’ve elevated feelings above all else to our great detriment. Your child may not feel like doing homework or giving grandma a hug as a CNN article wrote about. Yet it’s the right thing to do homework and hug grandmas. Your child should not learn to behave based on feelings. Ask your child “What do you think?” not “How do you feel?”
4. The Bible and prayer are largely absent from everyday life. Does your child observe you reading your Bible or praying during the day? If they only see evidence of your devotion to God a few Sundays a month for the two hours you’re at church, it isn’t enough. If you want to pass along a vibrant faith in God to your children, you must model it. You must talk about it. You can pray with your child about a struggle at school. Read a Psalm at breakfast. Memorize a verse a week together as a family. Find a person to serve together; maybe you can babysit for a single mom so she can get her shopping done alone for once. Let your children consistently see your faith in action.
5. Your marriage takes a backseat. Focus on your children first and your marriage second, and you will hurt your kids. When your kids need something for school or an activity, you’ll burn the candle at both ends to make it happen. But if your spouse needs something, you tend to think, “Take care of it yourself. I have enough to do around here!” Yet when it’s all said and done, your kids will leave your home someday and probably start their own families. Your relationship with your spouse is the most important bond that needs tending. The greatest gift you can give your kids is a strong marriage. It provides security, love, belonging, strength, and an example to follow in the future.