Every parent dreads that phone call, that email, that conference…. the one where it starts out with another adult saying Mr. or Mrs. in front of your last name, followed by, “we need to talk about little (insert child’s name here)” and that sinking, heavy oatmeal feeling in your gut.
Some of us, get defensive; it was probably the other kid! Some of us get embarrassed; oh my gosh, I hope none of the other parents know about this. Some of us, get indignant, roll our eyes and feel our blood pressure go up as we lower our eyebrows over our steely glare at our rebellious offspring.
I’ve had some time to personally reflect on these things in light of a recent “incident” with my 6-year old. Yes it was awful, and NO I won’t be sharing it. Just use your imagination.
When our children misbehave, we (most of us) assume that our role as a parent is to instruct, redirect, inform, educate and often reprimand. HOWEVER, if (and when) your child misbehaves on a larger scale, outside of their expected range of character flaws… how does does it make you feel? What questions do you ask yourself as you stand there, mouth agape, shocked and frozen?
Where did he learn that?! Who has she been hanging out with?! Not my kid!! Must be from his father’s side… yeah that’s it. I never did anything like that! How can this be? What do I do? How do I respond to this? Is my kid the bad kid?
Maybe you’re cheeks are red right now… mine are.
Deeply submerged in our righteous indignation and pride, we’ve forgotten. Perhaps our expectations have clouded the truthful memories of our own childhood. OR, perhaps you’re doing the best you can to make sure your children do not repeat your previous indiscretions. I would like to offer a few thoughts for you, that I hope are as helpful to you as they have been to me!
The first is a quote from my new favorite book entitled, When Good Kids Make Bad Choices, “The Bible teaches that children are not good by nature; they are not a “blank slate” upon which we can write our values; they are not inherently innocent, nor are they genetically predisposed to be good. In Fact, the Bible teaches that they are genetically predisposed to be bad because every child is born with original sin and a rebellious nature.” – (Fitzpatrick, Newheiser, & Dr.Hendrickson, 2005)
Wow. Whether you are a Christian or not, you have to admit this changes the perspective a great deal! Assuming that our children are innocent and perfect before they are tainted versus assuming that they are just as naughty, selfish, greedy, self-serving and cruel now as the day they were born… hmmmmmm hashtag perspective.
In treating your children with humble respect, while providing them with the tools and rules for living a better life than you have, keep in mind how terribly imperfect you were/are. Here’s another thought from someone far more intelligent than I called, Leo Tolstoy; Wise Thoughts for Every Day, “Can you blame a sick person for his appearance? He is not to blame if you are disgusted by his sores. In the same way, do not treat other people’s vices with disgust, but be patient and use your intellect. You can clearly see the fact that you have lost your purse, so why don’t you weep over the most precious things you have lost, your intellect and kindness? It often happens that we are filled with sin but cannot stand the sin we see in others.” – (Tolstoy, 2005)
YOU are not the moral compass. Don’t allow these thoughts to turn self deprecating… just don’t. Allow these things to offer the perspective that they have me; in order to facilitate patience, and correct teaching from a place of personal, humble repentance and modeling that, you also make mistakes.
Children need to see you fail. They need to see that you’re not perfect either. More importantly, they need, NEED to see how you recover from those mistakes, how you make amends and how you strive to work on your character in order to be a better you!
It is a big mistake to assume that your child is innocent in thought and deed. It is a worse mistake to not help them see that it’s human.