OceanSide church of Christ
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WHAT WAS THIS PARENT THINKING?
Victor M. Eskew
Parenting is one of the most difficult tasks in the world. Why? First, each of us has been subject to at least eighteen years of the parenting of someone else. We often use their parenting style as our own as adults, even when our role model’s style was well below par. Second, children are not born into the world with a manual describing all of the intricate details that exist in their DNA, their personalities, and their likes and dislikes. Third, most of us have never done much study of parenting. Young people marry, have children, and have never taken one course or read one book on how to train up a child. Fourth, most have not looked deeply into the depths of God’s Word for parenting techniques. Fifth, all of us want to believe that we are the perfect parents. We want to think that we are getting it right where everyone else got it wrong. Sixth, many parents are not parenting their own children. Children born out of wedlock and children of fractured homes are often being parented by someone who has no “blood” in the game.
Because of the difficulty of parenting, many of us do it wrong. In fact, we do it “dead wrong.” Often, we do not realize this until our children are grown and raising children themselves. As older individuals, we often see younger parents interacting with their children. They may be playing with them. They may be talking to them. They may be disciplining them. As we watch, we wonder: “What was this parent thinking?” So much of what they do is wrong. We want to intervene, but we do not. We may not know the person. We may feel that it is not our responsibility to get involved. We may know that even if we did try to help, our assistance would not be appreciated, nor would our wise words be practiced.
The following is a list of things that cause this writer to ask the question: “What was this parent thinking?”
1. When this writer sees a parent being a bully to his child, he asks: “What was this parent thinking?” The word bully is defined as: “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.” Most children until they reach their teen years are significantly smaller than their parents. It is easy for a parent to use his strength and power to intimidate, scare, persecute, and hurt his/her children. It is one thing to discipline a child. It is another thing to hurt a child in such a way as to “prove” to the child the parent is stronger than the child. The parent lets the child know: “Don’t you mess with me. I’m stronger than you.” Wow. As if the child does not know this already. Actions that are used in an attempt to prove a parent is stronger than the child are not discipline. They are the actions of a bully. (See Ephesians 4:32)
2. When this writer sees a parent trying to show a child that he is smarter than the child, this writer asks: “What is this parent thinking?” We could have said: “When we see a parent trying to make a “fool” out of his/her child…” This is another form of bullying. The parent raises his voice, uses very strong tones and inflections, and asks the child numerous questions intended to prove to the child that he is ignorant and stupid. Sometimes the questions are followed up with an appraisal of the child’s ignorance. This parent lets the child know: “I am smarter than you. Don’t you dare mess with me.” Again, we say: “Wow.” Now we have an adult with a college education “proving” to a 5, 6, or 7 year old that he is smarter than a 2nd grader. Such a parent may think he/she is smart, but he/she is really revealing deep ignorance. (See Colossians 4:6)
3. When this writer sees a parent who is angry with a child because the child has disabilities that cause the parent to have to sacrifice, this writer asks: “What is this parent thinking?” Not one child has ever asked to born with a certain set of problems or difficulties that would hinder him/her in this life. It is not the child’s fault that he has the disabilities. It is not his fault that it might cost a lot of time, money, and effort to correct these disabilities. Then a parent comes along and blames the child for something over which he has no control. The parents communicate the message: “If it weren’t for you…” If it weren’t for you, we would have some money. If it weren’t for you, we would be much happier. If it weren’t for you, life would be much easier. It is unbelievable for this author to think that any parent could have such an attitude. It certainly is not an attitude of love. Love is willing to sacrifice for the interests of another. Most parents are willing to do whatever it takes to make certain their children are cared for, especially when it comes to sicknesses and disabilities that a child has no control over. A parent who gets angry because he/she has to help a child is selfish. His/her anger is cruel and unjust. (See Colossians 3:21)
4. When this writer sees a parent who refuses to give the kind of affection to a child that is so desperately needed, this writer asks: “What is this parent thinking?” Children long to be wanted. They long to be cared for. They long to be loved. They want to be hugged and kissed. They want to be held. They want to be squeezed. They want to be picked up. The Bible speaks of something called “natural affection.” This affection lies deep within the heart of a child. He yearns to give it to and to receive it from his/her parents. When parents intentionally put up an emotional and physical barrier to their child, they are harming the child. The child can feel the coldness. The child can sense that the parent does not long for him. Sometimes, he witnesses that the way he is treated is different from the way his siblings are treated. They are greeted with kindness. They are hugged with much affection. They are bragged on. They are encouraged. They are held. The child that is not given “natural affection” is often hurt inside. Over the course of time, he can develop anger issues and behavior problems. These things at least get him a some attention from those who otherwise give little or no attention to him. (See II Timothy 3:1-5)
5. When this writer sees a parent who sets up self-fulfilling prophecies about his child, this writer asks: “What is this parent thinking?” Some parents talk enough about certain things happening that they actually make the things happen themselves. They would never admit this. They would blame it on a thousand other things, but, sadly, their words have helped to bring the prophecy to fruition. They tell their child: “You will never amount to much.” They let the child know that if they ever leave the house to go to live with their other parent, they can never come back. They tell the child that they will grow up to be just like their mom or dad who is a loser. The child grows up and he never excels. He leaves the house to go live with his other parent. He becomes just like his mom or dad who is a loser. Why? Part of the reason is because he is living out what he has been told all of his life by a parent. He just fulfills the prophecy that his parent has instilled deep within his mind from infancy. It is so, so sad to hear a parent predict a negative future for a child. The parent ought to be the child’s best cheerleader. He/she ought to be doing all he/she can to do to point the child in the right direction. But, he doesn’t. He points him to destruction. When it happens, the “prophet” refuses to take any responsibility for the outcome. He just boastfully declares: “See, I told you so.” (See Ephesians 4:29)
These are just a few illustrations of things parents do that make older adults ask: “What is this parent thinking?” There are many other examples that could be given. Parents yell and scream at their children. They are constantly “on” their children. Some abuse their children. And, we wonder why children turn out the way they do. Dear readers, one of the reasons children fail to grow up to be good, profitable citizens is because parents do not know how to parent!
We exhort all parents to take a good inventory of their parenting skills. If you are guilty of some of above actions, you need to change your behavior. If not, you might be partially responsible for a child that is unproductive, mean, or violent. If nothing else, you may rear a child who wants nothing to do with you in his/her old age. Once the child is grown, it is too late to change things. All the parents can do is watch the child misbehave and have regrets deep down because they are responsible for some of these things.