I am so tired of seeing blog posts and editorials blaming parents exclusively for their child’s bad behavior. The comment sections are full of people applauding the author for “keeping it real,” and “telling it like it is,” and patting themselves on the back for “controlling” their children.
Give me a break.
Do you want to know the truth? Your child’s bad behavior might not be your fault.
I will not argue that parenting has no influence. Over and over again, we see that even children recognize the tremendous and lasting influence parents have over their offspring. It’s well-documented.
However, influence is where it stops. Influence is not control. Parenting is not about controlling your child.
You can do everything right.
Your kid might still turn out to be a brat. A prodigal who adds copiously to your grey hair and wrinkles.
I offer you this thought:
God the Father, the only Perfect Parent that ever was or is in existence, ended up with two brats who couldn’t obey the One Rule he set in place.
And they broke it the first time temptation confronted them. It’s not like they were two year olds, either. They were adults. They knew better. They were in the literal presence of God daily. A perfect Father who spent quality time with them daily, and yet they chose to rebel.
Who are we to think that we deserve to have kids that “turn out” better than God’s first kids? Who are we to think that we can do a better parenting job than God Himself?
Conversely, we can do everything wrong. We can be drug dealing, absent, neglectful, abusive, evil people, and have children who grow up to change the world in ways no one ever could have imagined. Sure, the odds are against it, but it’s happened before. (Maya Angelou, for example.)
Our children are complete and entire human beings from the time they are born. When you look into their eyes when they’re fresh and new, you can see the depths of their humanity. They have a will and emotional life of their own. They do not have the cognitive ability to exercise their free will at that point, but their emotional life is rich and deep and wide and unfiltered until they learn to temper it with reason.
Children do what they do for reasons unknown sometimes. Regardless of our parenting.
We can influence, guide, direct, discipline, and train them out of our deep love and connection to them. We ought to do this to the best of our ability. Most of us do.
Then, when we come to the end of our best, we have to let them go and understand that they must do what they will do, come whatever consequences.
Stop blaming parents (including yourself) for what children do.
“Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.”
~Ezekiel 18:19-20 (NIV, emphasis added – click for context)
Your kid is a brat, but it might not be your fault. Ultimately, they answer for their own brattiness. If you are worried about your child becoming a brat, then you are probably doing a pretty good job. Maybe even better than you think you are.
So don’t give up, and stop blaming yourself every time your child acts like a numbskull. (Because they will, I promise.)
Persevere. Guide, train, discipline, love, protect, and challenge your kids. Keep on keeping on, so that someday, you will know that you did your best. Offer up your children to God so that he can finish the work he started in them while they were in your care.
After all, they’re really His kids anyway.
Grace & Peace,