Parenting Month: The Good, the Bad and the Baby

February 13, 2012

What’s up everyone?

I’m really excited because today, I’m kicking off a new blog series.  Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be featuring all kinds of topics about parenting.  Ironic, I know, since I am not a parent.  But I’m not alone.  I’ve enlisted the help of all kinds of people who know more about wiping butts and kissing infectious boo-boos than I do.

Some of us had great parents, others left something to be desired.  So I’m kicking things off with an easy, not at all impossible to answer question: what makes “good” and “bad” parenting?

I received all kinds of answers.  See what you think.  And tell me just what you think makes a lousy or amazing parent.

Confession is Good for the Soul

“Good parents confess to their kids when they have been wrong in the way they have handled a situation with them.  It is incredibly hard the first time you do it, because it means humbling yourself totally in front of the person who is supposed to obey and respect you.

One thing that screws kids up is being overly critical.  I have had to work really hard at over-the-top compliments when they do something right, bite my tongue when I want to criticize, and send up a quick prayer for God’s help in the little things, like wiping boogers off the wall.”

Kristina Overtoom – “Tandeming Troll”

Imperfect Superhero

“There’s a double-edged sword of being genuine with your kids. My kids are 13 and 15, both girls. I want to maintain my super hero status, but it’s tough. I want them to know I am not perfect by my own admission and not by their experience with me failing them. I want to present an accurate picture of adulthood. I want to share my shortcomings, but not the sordid details. I don’t want them to strive to be like me if they perceive me to be perfect. Doing so sets them up for habitual failure, not to mention the problems psychologically from never meeting the standard.”

Ken Hagerman – “Rambling with the Barba”

Hug it Out

“One of the most amazing examples of parenting is seen in Genesis right after the fall when God comes to find Adam and Eve. He starts with a series of questions. There are consequences in the end, but He begins by seeking out the hearts of His children.  Applying that type of patience to parenting and discipline is a discipline in and of itself.  I want my children to experience during a time of discipline and punishment is an overpowering sense of grace.”

Ryan Tate – “The Compelling Parade”

Better, Not Perfect

You wrote a post about parents letting their kids throw tantrums in the grocery store and I so wanted to give you three words: JUST YOU WAIT.

There is not one right way to parent. Most decisions are between two non-perfect options. Thinking there is one right answer to a situation can be very stressful because that means all the other answers are wrong.  There are very few absolutes in parenting. I don’t like the labels “good” and “bad” parenting because that implies there’s one right way to parent.

Our research shows there are some things that make mothers better, no matter what they bring to parenting. They are practical know how, emotional resilience, healthy marriage, supportive community, and spiritual growth.  The MOPS tagline is “Better Moms Make a Better World.”  Better because we all bring existing strengths, none of us will reach perfection, we’re striving to be better than we were yesterday.”

Alexandra Kuykendall – “Momology,” MOPS.org

Kids Are Bad

I believe that kids are naturally bad.

My four year old Power Ranger is freaking horrible at the store…all of the time!  I tell him that if he does not stop running around and crying for every little toy he sees, I’m gonna take him to the car. He keeps screaming, we go to the car, I pop him on the butt, we sit in the car until he stops crying, we return to store, and he is…well, not horrible.  I did this four times…last year alone!

There is no right or wrong way.  Not everything works for every kid.  I can give the girl a look and she knows I mean business…the boy…well, I have to spank his little booty sometimes for him to get the message.

You are only a bad parent when you stop talking to your kids, when you stop communicating with them, when you let, TV, video games, or other sources do the taking for you.”

Arny Sanchez – “The Analogous Truth”

Do You Have An Appointment?

I do my best parenting when I listen, watch, and simply put the boys first. If I’m attuned to their needs, I put myself in a position to be a loving father. This is true of all human relationships; when we put others before ourselves, we can love them effectively.  A seemingly simple, but difficult objective.

On the flip side, I’m at my worst as a dad when I put my schedule ahead of my children’s needs. If I don’t pay attention to my boys, I lose patience when I should be practicing good discipline. All sorts of other failures come when I ignore them, and I’m convicted of this regularly. I see this in the classroom too; children are starving for attention from their parents, and rarely get it.”

Ian Anderson – “Reflection on Things Fantastic”

I’m Not Your Friend

A good parent is never a friend to their kids. They are a protector, a nurturer, a disciplinarian, and a cheerleader, but never a friend, except on Facebook.  I had one call me from jail, and I left her there over night, but I went and picked her up.  My job is to raise adults, not kids, and some days they don’t like it.”

David Johndrow – “Fire and Grace”

That’s it!  What do you think?  If you were to give me one piece of advice to make me a great dad, (or one thing to avoid), what would it be?

21 responses to Parenting Month: The Good, the Bad and the Baby

  1. I guess my #1 piece of advice would be “pick your battles”–and make sure the “battles” are limited to the really important stuff.

    I use my parents as a model because I think they did a pretty good job :)

    As a teenager, I noticed that in some areas my parents gave me a lot more freedom than some of my friends–no restrictions were really placed on what I wore, who I hung out with, or what I listened to. I never even really had a “curfew” as long as I always called to let them know where I was.

    However, I always knew that there were still certain areas that they wouldn’t compromise on–missing church was never allowed, for instance. And it was made pretty clear that if I gave them reason to distrust me, the freedom that I enjoyed would be a lot more restricted–although I honestly don’t remember getting threats about it or anything like that.

    Also as an aside–the bit about kids throwing tantrums in the grocery store reminded me of a conversation I had with one of my colleagues. Her kid is autistic, and when he was young she couldn’t take him ANYWHERE without him having some kind of horrible meltdown. She said that the dirty looks (and sometimes harsh words from people who thought they were “helping”) she would get were enough to bring her to tears (and she’s not someone who cries easily).

    After I heard that, I’ve been trying harder to keep my “judgemental face” in check whenever I see kids throwing tantrums in public.

    • It’s tough to watch sometimes, and I have barked a few out of control kids in a number of places – mostly the toy aisle at the grocery store. Parents often show a sign of relief.

      Yesterday we skated as a family. We grab a warm drink while they resurface the ice. As we were sitting, some kid came and stuck his straw in my wife’s coffee. Of course his parents were horrified. The child was autistic, and the parents were apologetic and went got my wife a fresh cup of coffee. I said, “It must be tough, but thanks for bringing him here. It looks like he is having a lot of fun.” The mother was speechless. You could see the pain of doing this for a long time wash over her face. We just invited them to sit for a bit and try to relax.

    • Sounds quite a bit like my parents – lots of freedom, with the clear and unequivocal knowledge that such freedom could be revoked, and it never had to be.

  2. A great collection of wisdom, Matt! I liked the comment from Arny – man that is hard to when you need get something done. My 8-year-old daughter is learning to skate/play hockey, and it takes a lot parental help to get her on the ice with her equipment on!

    I have been trying to teach her to manage some of the preparation. Yesterday morning at her lesson she sat back and wanted me to dress her, tie the skates and make sure she was all set. It took two weeks for her to carry her own bag (with wheels). She started on how “if you want me to play, then you need to lace my skates” thing. So ,I told her if she didn’t try, we were leaving. She mumbled a few things, and started tugging on the laces.

    In the afternoon we went skating as a family and after I got myself ready, she just needed the skates tied. “You are proud of me, right dad?”

    “Of course I am princess, but I bet you are proud of yourself.”

    “Well, I did do a good job! And you don’t have to drive me home with your skates on.”

    One suggestion? Time is the currency of relationship. It solves a lot of problems.

  3. I once heard a guy say…”I had 4 theories about raising kids and no kids…now I have 4 kids and no theories…” Just thought I would throw that in there!

  4. Be better than the father you had. Regardless of how great he was, that can only make things better and leave a legacy that words can’t encompass.

  5. It has been years since we parented little kids. The teen lessons are a bit more recent. One thing we intentionally focused on was giving our kids enough space to make mistakes. It’s hard not to rush in and rescue them, but we wanted them to do their falling down while they still lived at home, before they’d have to deal with failure on their own. One of our daughters spent half the winter without a warm coat because she spent her clothing allowance on designer jeans. You can bet she remembers that lesson!

    I totally agree about picking your battles. Blue hair? Not my choice, but it grows out. We prayed that they wouldn’t do anything permanently harmful. So far, so good!

    Finally, what you DO is so much more important than what you SAY. Kids are smart. Model the behavior you want them to learn. For example, I wish now that I’d read my Bible in the family room where they could see, instead of in the bedroom in private.

    • Alexandra Kuykendall February 13, 2012 at 11:25 am

      Love the natural consequences. Better to let them learn there are consequences to their actions when those consequences are small. I’m all about blue hair too (did you see Katie Perry on the Grammys last night?).

    • Count me in on the blue hair. My oldest daughter is on her second round of BIG purple streaks and my youngest is vibrant pink. Their hair has nothing to do with the way they act and giving that little freedom has made a difference to them. With the pressures of a foreign culture to deal with hair color is not the hill to die on.

      • It’s funny to me how the things that used to be a big deal are now no big deal.

        • My kids are smart self starters that have move to and flourished in a new culture. They learned a second language to fluency in about 3 months and have volunteered to translate for medical teams and Short term mission teams. My 15 year old has figure the math and thinks she can work straight through and finish high school 20 months early.

          I would be a fool to fight the hair color thing. Sass mouth, now thems is fightin words. Stretching the truth also known as lying. Suit up we’re going a few rounds.

  6. I had lots of advice to give before I had kids of my own. Now, not so much. I’d been around kids before. My younger two siblings are 9 and 11 years younger than me. I’d had LOTS of experience with that and with babysitting and working with kids and youth at church. I knew exactly what those parents were doing wrong.

    And now that I have three of my own, each with a distinct personality that had nothing to do with how we’ve raised them…well, I feel like I should apologize to all the parents I judged.

    In terms of fathering, I’d say you have a leg up in some ways because you’re a pastor. Your child(ren) will see you being a spiritual person. It’s a double-edged sword though. Don’t get so caught up in pastoring that you forget to parent. Make sure that you set boundaries with your time and congregation. Don’t spend all of your energy on your “real job” and your pastoring and leave nothing for your family. I know you’re not in a conventional church, but it’s always a temptation to give it all for your God-given ministry, forgetting that God gave you a family too.

    Play. Encourage. Support. Help.

    And not just your wife…your kids too! ;p

  7. Matt…hahaha…of course you would pick my ramblings of spanking my son! lol…love it! (not the spanking…the part you chose)

    I love my Kids to death…

    I hug them everyday…

    I constently tell them I love You…all day…every day…

    My son says, “daddy…i nee tell u somting….i ove u too”

    they almost make me fall when they jump on me from joy when i get home from work…

    The funny thing about it is as much as I disipline them…the more they i can feel they love me and want to be around me and hug me…and look for me…

  8. STILL parenting my 15 & 19 year old sons, so the verdict is still out…
    My one piece of advice is this.
    Listen.
    Being a mom of boys, that is a little challenging when they want to tell you about farts, blood & guts, farts, cool cars, farts, and all the rest of the stuff boys talk about.
    What I’ve learned (so far) is that if I listen when they want to talk, they will keep talking. Even when they are teenagers (gasp!) An anomaly, especially for boys. The only time I say ‘stop talking’ is if they are sassing or swearing. Otherwise, I let it rip…
    (heeheehee)

  9. By the time my kids were 5 years old, the term “That’s not fair” had been banished from their vocabulary, because every time I heard that phrase (which was often) my response was “Life’s not fair.” I love my kids and they love me, and I’d even go so far as to say that we like each other, too. One of the most important lessons I’ve tried to model and teach my kids is that people are inherently selfish, but being selfish and acting selfish is not the same thing. We choose to love, to sacrifice for others because we’re called to do so, not so others will reciprocate.

  10. Great blog. One of the best thing my parents did when I was a teen was confess their mistakes. It make me realize they were human and that it was ok to make mistakes. It helped me to learn humility in my own life. Thanks for taking time to write this blog.

  11. I think all of the above are great qualifications for a good parent. I haven’t had kids; I’m just barely done being one myself. But I will say this: I imagine that a good example of a good parent is Atticus from To Kill A Mockingbird. As a child, one of the most damaging things my parents did was when they would tell me “because I said so” as a reason for them doing something. I would ask why because I genuinely didn’t know why they did something and I wanted to learn, and they would think I was challenging their authority and so refuse to answer me, and I would think that they didn’t think I was smart enough to understand. It was quite a blow to my self esteem, and so that’s why I idolize Atticus from TKAM because he always treated his kids like intelligent human beings, which I think is entirely possible in real life too. Kidsz are surprisingly intelligent from age 7 beyond, you just have to know how to word things correctly, and they know when you’re lying to them. Another thing a good parent has is strength; my parents went through hard times while I was a kid and showed a lot of weakness in front of me, which left me without a strong thing to grasp on to. Eventually in my teen years I became like my mother’s counselor and best friend– not a good mother daughter relationship, because even though there was love I couldn’t respect her.