When my kids were little, I received tons of advice about how to raise them. Some of it was helpful. Most of it was wasted breath.
This Fall, all my kids will be in high school. I notice that I do not receive advice about parenting any more. There are several possible reasons for this:
- My kids are obviously awesome, which shows I do not need advice.
- No one has any idea what to do with teenagers.
- People are afraid to talk about this subject any more.
- People are afraid of me.
- People are still giving me advice, but I have stopped listening.
I can’t say for sure why the advice-giving has ceased. I’d like to think it’s #1, but it’s probably more #5.
Here’s a confession: I don’t like most people’s kids. If I don’t like your kids, there’s not a chance I’m going to listen to your child-raising advice. Not one chance.
In my opinion, based on the plethora of annoying kids in the world, I don’t know who all these parents are who think they should advise others about raising kids.
Everybody thinks their kids are special. And, trust me, they are. Very special. But here’s the thing: they are only that special to you. I’m glad you like your kids, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does, or even that they should.
While studies show us that today’s kids are more neurotic, failing in actual learning (and good grades don’t even mean anything anymore), emotionally out of whack, incompetent at most life tasks, and largely not doing anything, every parent feels their kids are the awesomest.
Our self-esteem culture has pumped our lazy, incompetent children with happy feelings. They feel great about themselves while failing at pretty much everything. Everyone gets a trophy to celebrate their abject loserliness.
I resist self-esteem. I might, perhaps, go too far the other way. I test myself all the time. I find fault with everything I do. This isn’t some kind of depressed, moroseness, it is, I like to think, an honest analyzation of my performance.
I do the same thing with my kids. I test them. I don’t let them win unless they earn it. I tell them the truth when their performance was awful. I even punish them when they didn’t do the work they said they were going to do.
This takes effort. It’s exhausting. My kids get mad at me from time to time. All the other kids get ice cream after their sorry performance. I have taken my kids home without the treat that everyone else got, because I didn’t like how they acted (Actually, I think I made them get the treat and then watch me eat it! No sense wasting free treats!)
King David had a son named Adonijah. He was a bad kid and grew up to be a bad adult. Here’s a phrase from 1 Kings chapter 1 about David’s parenting of this fool of a kid who was now a fool of an adult:
And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, ‘Why hast thou done so?’
Adonijah’s dad never questioned him about why he was doing bad things. He never “displeased” his son. “Displeased” means “hurt, pain, grieve, vex.” Fathers are supposed to do this. I think this is a father’s job because 1) a father is better at finding fault with his kids than their mom is, and 2) a father is better emotionally equipped to discipline.
If my kids mess up, I have no motherly nice feelings. My all-consuming desire is to put them in their sorry little place!
I do this out of love. Some dads go too far and all they do is find fault and displease. Don’t go overboard. I also praise when my kids do something worthy of praise. I reward and honor and give treats to my kids when they actually work and accomplish things.
The problem now is we’ve over-reacted to the fault-finding fathers by having the best-friend fathers who just pat their kids on the back all the time. One sure way to raise a loser is to constantly praise their losing.
Proverbs 29:5 says “A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.”
Pumping up people’s self-esteem (also known as “flattery”) is a sure way to ruin someone. God does not like lying. Tell your kids the truth. Make them strong enough to face up to their failures, to take criticism, so they can learn and improve.
Lying to kids to make them feel good is not a good long-term strategy.
Raising kids is not easy. There are many threats to its success and each kid is responsible before God for how they turn out. Parents have a huge say in this, however. It is a terrifying responsibility.
I’ve stopped listening to parenting advice. As I told one lecturing parent, “If God wanted you to raise my kids, He would’ve given them to you.”
I’m not telling you to listen to my advice, you probably think my kids are annoying, too!
But if there’s any summary advice I have for parents, it’s said here. This is my theory. It’s not complicated. I think I have Scripture in support, and my wife and I put the work in. We’re pretty much done with their training. It’s up to my kids now to do with it what they will.
Be honest with your kids. Tell them the truth. Help them deal with truth, even when it hurts. Some day they will stand before their Creator, who IS THE TRUTH, to be judged by His word, WHICH IS TRUE.
Don’t lie to your kids. Love your kids, and remember: love rejoices in the truth.