Kids Don’t Come with an Owner’s Manual

July 25, 2017

I am currently on vacation. In my absence, I will be re-posting popular blog posts from the past. This blog is now in it’s fifth year! The posts I’ll be sharing with you while I am away come from my first year of writing daily on the From The Deacon’s Desk site.

The following is a reflection on the common mistakes parents make – mistakes I have seen firsthand through personal experience or those I have witnessed in my 25+ years in education.

Carol and I have several nieces and nephews who are expecting babies. Our daughter-in-law will have a C-section next Tuesday, bringing our third grandchild into the world. Last weekend we led a marriage preparation retreat for 25 engaged couples, at which we fielded many questions about parenting.

All of these events caused me to reflect on some of the joys of parenting, as well some of the pitfalls. I am by no means an expert, but Carol and I can draw from 30 years of triumphs and mistakes. Here are what I consider some of the most common parenting mistakes.

  • Fighting your children’s battles for them: You want to nurture confidence and independence in your children. This won’t happen if you choose to constantly speak for them. The role of parents is to help their children find their voices, and help them learn to speak up for what is important to them.
  • Wanting to be your child’s friend: Your child may or may not need more friends. I guarantee your child needs a parent.

  • Not asking your children questions because you want to prove that you trust them: You are sticking your head in the sand and justifying it by saying it is out of trust. It is out of fear. You are scared to hear the answer to your questions. Get over it and ask them anyway. It will show that you care and are not naïve.
  • Allowing inappropriate behavior from your child because you did it and you “turned out OK”: Really? “Turning out OK” is the dream you have for your child?
  • Failing to pick your battles: Determine your priorities as parents. Learn to let some things go. If you are constantly picking on or criticizing every single thing your child does, your voice becomes white noise. By the time you start your next sentence they have already activated their internal mute button.
  • Not making time with your kids a priority: Your children need you in their lives. They are tired of excuses. Spending time with them sends a powerful message. Not spending time with them sends them an even more powerful message.
  • Not discussing tough topics with your children: It is understandable that you are uncomfortable talking to your children about drinking, drugs, sex, etc. Maybe they will get the accurate information they need from their school or church, or you can roll the dice and allow them to be educated “on the street.” You cannot leave this to chance – talk to them.
  • Not sharing your feelings with your children: Don’t mistake lack of emotion or suppressing your feelings as “being strong.” Honest emotions and genuine expression of your feelings will teach your children much more than staged bravado.
  • Leaving the faith formation of your children to others: Your faith is personal, but it is not private. You have an obligation to share your faith with your children and guide them in the formation of their own.

Kids don’t come with an owner’s manual. You will make mistakes as parents. As long as the mistakes come from a place of love and you learn and adjust along the way, you’ll be fine – and so will your kids.

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