Saturday, July 28, 2012

Parenting Isn't For Cowards!

This title is one of my favorite summary quotes by a well known family expert, Jim Dobson. The picture that went through my head after seeing this post of a 'parenting' tactic was scary.  What if someone 'over me', or God himself, paraded my parenting mistakes for the public to judge?!  You know the ones, the breaking point where you yelled ridiculous and horrible things about "selling them to the highest bidder!". Need I ramble on, filling in the list of 'hall of shame' parenting disasters? 

The heavy sense of failure we experience at those moments is already debilitating.  I am quite SURE that public judgment and ridicule would NOT serve to 'inspire' me to better parenting skills. It would, however, take the emotional pain OFF of the real issue (my behavior) and waste the purpose of the pain of learning, deflecting it onto the judge. So instead of the heartfelt reflection of my self inflicted stupidity,  I would miss the opportunity to take responsibility by focusing on being angry at the wrong person.  Isn't this exactly the opposite of our goal as parents?   

I often think that I simply need to get out of the way and allow my teens to feel the full weight of their decision making, whether it produces pleasurable consequences or painful ones.  I believe that this more effectively prepares them for the real world where their mommy is not going to be around to police their actions.  That is where the above quotes comes in.  Oh, if I could only GET OUT OF THE WAY more often!  It takes great courage to 'allow' your child to suffer natural consequences.  The public shame part of the teen girl in question was not 'natural'.  I wonder if simply having the student post a 'good bye' message to her social media site with the truthful reason, would have been sufficient.  Her friends, and not strangers, would have delivered plenty of gentle, 'friendly fire' to produce the 'natural' painful consequences desired.

Parenting a very challenging teen girl, I have one survival tool that I cling to in an effort to simplify what is overwhelming for me.   When my heart is full of destructive emotion, I hear Holy Spirit calming me with these words... "Preserve the Relationship."   When I filter my mouth and my emotions through this sieve, it helps me to see beyond my nose and remember that I do not want to cut her off at the knees, or worse. Although I may FEEL like it. Eventually, when she arrives at the end of the separation process, I do actually want to have a relationship with my mature, adult daughter.  So regardless of the seeming atrocity of the moment, I will "Preserve the Relationship".

Take courage, my fellow parents!  We can DO this. We will survive parenting in this culture. AND, our teens will survive our parenting foibles.  Lord help us!