I just read another decent parenting book by a well-known author. It’s got some good ideas in it about how to manage kids’ misbehavior. But like so many of the parenting books I read, it is laced with what I think is a subtle but huge parenting mistake: Arrogance.
There were good concepts in each chapter. Principles like letting your yes be yes and your no be no, keeping calm when you dispense consequences, and frequently expressing love to your child. But the pages dripped with condescending undertones. Amidst the frequent exhortation to be “the parent” are sprinklings that what it means to be “the parent” is to “win the wars” against your little narcissist, and to let the “little creatures” know you mean business.
Since when did parents cease to be selfish too?
I remember as a young parent reading stuff like this and thinking to myself, “Yeah, I’m in charge. I can do this. Those little narcissists have some lessons to learn!” I’d put the book down and then stand taller the way a boxer stands taller in the second round after being pummeled in the first. It was a competitive, but still insecure, posture. It didn’t quite seem right, but there was something appealing about it. Upon reflection, this attitude set me up to lose in a different sort of way. It hooked my selfish need for control and power. Sure, I felt a bit more confident to be “the parent.” But when “being the parent” is infused with selfishness, kids will feel it, and grow resentful. Resentment creates all kinds of complicated problems between parents and kids.
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I once asked a 16-year-old pastor’s son, “Do you think that your parents misbehave when they deal with your misbehavior?” Without flinching the boy said, “Yeah! But they’re much more sophisticated than I am in their misbehavior, so it doesn’t look like misbehavior, and there’s nobody to hold them accountable for it.”
Let’s face it, parents — we all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Especially when we discipline our kids, our sin is present. Our need to control and our need to win are easily fed by teaching that puffs us up to “be the parent”
Having said this, we at Connected Families are strong advocates for strong, authoritative parenting. But if strength and authority are not guided by humility and grace, they are little more than self-righteous bullying. So when you read any parenting book, make sure to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…and above all love” (Colossians 3:12-16). These qualities actually help us to walk stronger in our true authority as a parent, called to wisely shepherd our children toward all they were created to be.
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