As any parent in
Nashville or anywhere else will likely agree, parenting is perhaps the most difficult job there is. As children grow up, our ‘tweens and teens learn to manipulate and negotiate to the point that parents can find themselves questioning every decision they make. Our children are experts at knowing our soft spots and vulnerabilities as parents. Many of today’s parents feel a great responsibility to keep their kids happy – sometimes at an extreme cost. Working parents are often plagued with guilt about the lack of time they get to spend with their children, so they try to compensate with material things, privileges, friendship and not creating and sustaining boundaries. “I’m just tender hearted.” “I’m just a pushover.” “I don’t want to see them upset”. I would venture to say that those excuses are really selfishness. Instead of doing what must be done, these justifications allow a parent to feel better about him or herself by keeping the child happy regardless of the outcome. However, that child does not learn to make appropriate choices, become independent or understand how the world really operates. Above all, it may well endanger the child’s safety.
Let’s say a teen has been an irresponsible driver; maybe got a ticket or even worse, has driven under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and you, as a loving, responsible parent, take access to the car for a specified period of time. Before the time has passed, your teen begins to ask for the car again. At first your darling might try “buttering you up” by doing some nice things such as extra chores, being on best behavior, etc. If you do not give the car back, as many parents have experienced, it begins to turn ugly. They sulk, tell you what a horrid parent you are, remind you that “all of their friends” have much better parents, you don’t understand them, etc. etc. Let’s say that you then begin to feel guilty; and decide “just this once” to relax your punishment. This makes you feel better. It is a completely selfish choice.
Let’s take it a step further and say, your child is now in the car, violates a traffic rule and kills himself or someone else. Now how does it feel? You made yourself feel better and sacrificed a life. In that context, it has a whole new meaning. Of course, that is extreme, and probably not so likely, but it is one scenario. Something like that could also happen under different circumstances; simply an unfortunate accident. And, I would also say that every now and then a decision to be flexible might be appropriate.
The point is that we must make parenting choices based on what is best for the child and not what temporarily makes us feel better. Because we are older, wiser and ultimately have the best interest of our children at heart, we are called to make difficult, unpopular decisions when it comes to rules and privileges. Yes, they will sulk, balk, say they hate us, etc., and certainly it would be easier to just say “yes” to everything and avoid arguments. Unfortunately, good parenting never has been and never will be easy.