Before I go any further in this series let me share one of the bedrock truths of parenting I’ve come to believe after 25 years as a parent and 30 years of being around children’s ministry; kids will become what they will become. I have seen really lousy parents raise really good kids and I’ve seen amazing parents raise horrendous kids. So don’t take too much credit and don’t beat yourself up too much. You can certainly do things to help your kids along the way and there’s no doubt you can screw them up, but in the end what they become is up to them and God. Just do the best you can.
That being said let’s take a look at the second lesson I’ve learned about raising decent kids:
Lesson 2: Lose some battles but win the war
When my daughter was five she hated attending the mid-week children’s program (“Missionettes”) at the church where I worked. It was a program designed for little girls who liked dolls, dressing up and earning badges for homemaking. My daughter preferred basketball, magic tricks and earning badges for building things. (She idolized her older brother, and those are the things they did in his “Royal Rangers” group). Every Wednesday night was a battle. I threatened, I spanked, I forced her to sit in her class and pretend to care about girl things. I thought it was imperative that I win this battle, I could not let my four year old make her own decisions. Where would that lead?
The reality is that I woudn’t have gone to Missionettes even if I had been beaten and threatened. It was really poorly run and the polar opposite of who God wired my daughter up to be. This wasn’t just a defiant four year old (which she wasn’t defiant in any other area), this was a child who genuinely hated to be locked in that room for two hours a week. I should have realized that this wasn't a hill to die on, and figured out a viable alternative.
A friend told me recently about some great parenting wisdom he had learned from watching one episode of Dr Phil. (I believe that is the maximum life-time allowance without losing your man card.) Dr. Phil told a mother that there are battles and there are wars in raising kids. He said the difference is whether the consequences of losing are permanent. Missionettes was a battle I could have lost and my daughter would have been none the worse for it. She is now a beautiful young lady who loves shoppng for clothes and playing beautiful music. I'm pretty sure Missionettes had nothing to do with her success.
When my son was a teenager his room was a constant irritant for my wife. It looked like small clothing bombs had gone off, then covered with layers of crumpled paper and topped off with discarded candy wrappers. For awhile we considered bringing in a HazMat team. In the end, however, we decided to keep his door closed. If he wouldn’t attract rodents and city health officials, and do his own laundry; we wouldn’t stress out over how clean he kept his room. We decided this was a battle not a war. Fast forward to today and my son is happily married, working as pastor at Seacoast Church and is a great husband, dad and leader. I don’t know if he cleans his room.
So what battles are you treating like wars? Are there some areas with your kids where it might be ok to lose? I can tell you from the empty nest that most of the things you’re stressing about today as a parent are no big deal in the end.
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