4 Things You’ll Never Be Able to Do as a Parent (and 4 Things You Can)

Do you ever feel like you’re not qualified to be a parent?   Do you ever feel judged for the way you parent?

You’re not alone.  Most parents feel inadequate at one time or another.  A lot of it has to do with some completely unrealistic expectations we have for ourselves.

Recently, Jan Cox, the director of student ministries at my church gave an excellent message about parenting.  One part of her message that stuck with me me is what she called “the perfect parent monster.”

To summarize, a lot of us have these unrealistic expectations of what we ought to be able to do as a parents.  When we fall short of those expectations, we get frustrated and upset with ourselves and our kids.  When we get frustrated and upset, we actually become worse parents, which causes even more frustration and continues this downward spiral.

The perfect parent doesn’t exist.  Not even in the Bible.  As Jan pointed out, even Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for 3 days. 🙂

As I reflected on the message, I thought about some things we as parents often think we ought to be able to do (control), but when you think about them are really quite unrealistic.

4 Things No Parent Can Do (though we often think we should be able to)

  1. Keep our kids complete safe. We can’t protect our kids from everything.  Every child gets hurt.  Sometimes, even when all reasonable precautions are taken children are seriously injured or even die.
  2. Make our children obey. All people by their very nature are self-centered, and children are especially so.  Children are by definition immature.  Growing up involves figuring out who they are and what they want.  It requires pushing boundaries.  We can’t control our kids behavior, we can only provide reasonable consequences.
  3. Prevent our kids from screwing up their lives. Obviously there are things we can do as parents to increase the chances that our kids will make good choices, but sometimes even great parents have wayward children.  No matter how well we parent, our kids may still get pregnant or get into drugs or drop out of school.
  4. Lead our kids to follow our faith. Again, there are things we can do as parents to increase the chances our kids will follow our faith, but we can’t make them believe what we believe.  Even the most devout and loving parents have children who choose a different path.

While we can’t be perfect parents and can’t control those outcomes.  There are some things I think we all can choose to do as parents.  They won’t ensure a perfect outcome, but they can increase the odds.

4 Things Every Parent Can Do

  1. Be there. Show your kids they matter by spending time with them.  Don’t let work or other things take priority over them.  If there’s been a divorce, stay involved.  This is a choice every parent can make.
  2. Love unconditionally. Your children are going to mess up, disobey, and be disrespectful at times.  It’s not about you.  Seriously. So, don’t take it personally.  Even when you have to discipline your children explain to them that it’s because you love them too much to allow them to grow up thinking it’ll be OK to behave that way.
  3. Demonstrate forgiveness. Nobody’s perfect.  One of the keys to good relationships is living with imperfection, which means asking for and offering forgiveness.  When your children misbehave, ask them to apologize and ask the person they’ve wronged (sometimes you) to forgive them.  When you make a mistake, be quick to apologize and ask forgiveness.
  4. Tell them you love them. Kids need to hear it.

I think one of the best things we can do as parents is to realize that life is not about perfection but about reconciliation and loving in the midst of imperfection.

What unrealistic expectations have gotten you frustrated as a parent?  How have you dealt with them?

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