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Friday, November 20, 2009

You Can't Be a Parent Just When You Want To

I flew yesterday through Atlanta. If you watched the news you know the mess. It gave me time to practice my new skill: chilling. I calmed down after learning that it was a computer glitch and there was really nothing that Delta could do about it. They were very nice, booked me on later flights that I would either miss or were canceled. By the time I got on one of the flights I was completely calm.

A mom with two children got in the seats behind me. The kids were absolutely berserk. They were yelling, kicking the seats and generally ignoring everything she said. In turn, she was yelling at them to stop kicking the seats and to be quieter. It made them do it even more. Dad was a row or so away. He may have had another child with him. Mom started the, "I can't make this trip with these children " complaint to him. He was doing all that he could from a distance to get the children to mind. It was having no affect.

These two parents are at a critical time with their children. The youngest was a baby. The oldest appeared to be eight to ten. If they think it will be hard to manage these children at this age because they won't mind, let these children become teenagers and see how that will ruin their lives. They need help badly. I doubt if they will get it until a great deal of damage is done.

You can't be a parent just when you want to. You can't try to be your children's friends in the home and then try to parent them when you get in public. They will see no need to mind if they see you as a peer. They will treat you no different from their other friends who don't always try to tell them what to do. Don't have children so you can have more friends. Just get on facebook. It's much cheaper and you don't have ever have to give them the keys to the car!

Discipline in the home is necessary so that discipline in public is natural. It will never happen the other way around. You can't suddenly tell the children to mind. They will not understand what has changed. They will challenge these boundaries like anyone who is suddenly restricted. It is normal and you should expect it.

When things are really bad these parents may bring their children to church. They will say, "We have tried everything. Now, let's have the church be our children's parents." That also won't work. The church will never substitute for a parent. The discipline learned at church will not transfer to the home if the parent continues to act the same way. This is why the Youth Minister will praise the child to the parent while the parent wonders how he got their child mixed up with someone else's. The child may work well under boundaries but does not see those boundaries at home. Therefore, he continues to act like he always did.

Often the parenting skills are a reaction to how their own parents raised them. Maybe they don't want to do it the way their parents did. Maybe their parents were strong disciplinarians and they want to give their children freedom. So, instead of having their children rebel as soon as they get out from under their parent's rule, they live like rebels all their lives. Parents need to learn that each child is different and each child needs to be treated differently. Parents need to learn that having parents doesn't qualify you to be parents. Parents need to learn that help is available and it is better to seek it than to pretend you don't need it.

Becoming a parent will change your life. You cannot be as free in where you go, how you spend your money or how you plan your life. You have a responsibility to these children to grow them up so that they can make it on their own. Your goal is to prepare them for life, not to be their older friend. It is from you that they learn love, honesty, hard work and any virtue necessary for life. It is from you that they will have the character to stand tall when challenged in these virtues. It is from you they learn forgiveness, generosity and seeking the best in others. A parent is simply the most important person in the child's life. 

Get help. Read books. ( I recommend "Have a New Kid by Friday" by Kevin Leman.) Take your children to church and ask your church to provide things to help with parenting. Talk with your children's teachers. Resolve that you will be a full-time parent. You can't be a parent just when you want to.

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