I think that the most frustrating and convicting words I’ve experienced in my parenting journey have come from my own lips, as I speak them to my children. Not a fan of the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do model (hello, hypocrisy!), there are times when I hear my own words to my children and realize that I’m expecting more of them than I am of myself. Should I expect these kinds of attitudes and actions from my kids? I think so. But first, I must expect them of myself.
“You can’t always have your own way.”
I’m usually telling my kids this when they’re tempted to pout or display their temper as a result of not getting their own way. The problem? Sometimes, it’s because I’m insisting on my own way. Of course, I am the parent, and sometimes “my way” is truly better and in their best interest.
However, if I’m honest, I have to admit that sometimes it’s just because I’m the parent and have the ability to wield my authority in order to ensure that we do things according to my preferences, which are really not superior to my children’s.
Let me give you an example: Sure, I prefer the perfectly matching ensemble to their favorite, well-worn clothes, but if we’re going to the grocery store, I’ve decided not to insist on my own way.
“Don’t cry unless you’re [physically] hurt.”
I first heard of this idea from a friend who was giving me parenting advice, and it made perfect sense to me, at the time. But really? Most of the time when I shed tears, it’s over non-physical hurts, disappointments, and unfulfilled longings (Prov. 13:12) — both my own and those of others. And I was created to care about those things, as were my children!
David (throughout the Psalms), Job (in his namesake book), and Jeremiah (known as the “weeping prophet” who wrote Lamentations) describe their own internal pain, unrebuked by the God Who made them (Psalm 103:14). So this is one that I’m actually trying not to say, because I don’t think I should actually do it — or tell my kids. In fact, quite the opposite: I don’t want them to become desensitized to pain or think their pain is irrelevant or unworthy of my sympathy.
Now, can we be too self-focused and over-sensative? Sure. But that’s another issue.
“If you’re really sorry, you won’t keep doing it.”
Matthew 18 says a lot about repentance and forgiveness, but it never mentions this idea. We cannot truly know the motives of others (1 Samuel 16:7). Of course, we should try to help our kids evaluate their heart motivations and teach them to be honest, humble, and sincere in their apologies, but if they’ve sinned against us, our main responsibility is to respond with a heart of forgiveness, not to hold it over their heads and cynically assume they’re not really sincere. After all, is that what we desire from God or them when we blow it, yet again?