By Mark Brandenburg
When you work in the "helping professions," you often hear people describe their loved ones. They sometimes let you know how much their loved ones mean to them and some of the wonderful things they've done.
But the truth is that people often see their loved ones as problems. They see their loved ones as causing many of the difficulties that occur in their life.
And the thing that marks people who are doomed to struggle with their loved ones is the exaggeration of their loved ones faults. I recall the surprise I experienced when I met the spouse of clients while doing counseling.
"So this is Jack the Ripper?" I wondered, when a perfectly reasonable man would appear with his wife at the counseling sessions. I had been hearing him described by his wife for five months, and what I experienced with him was vastly different than the person I had heard about.
This tendency to exaggerate is particularly common in parents. Parents often believe that their kids have serious troubles, are incorrigible, or will never make it in the real world.
Sometimes they're right, but most of the time they're just afraid.
Parents have a lot riding on the outcome of their kids' development. There may be no closer or more intimate reflection of who you are than when you look at your kids. And parents feel the pressure of their own failure when their kids perform "badly."
Most often, the problems don't start when kids have struggles in their performance. The problems start when parents exaggerate their problems and completely overreact to them. They start when a parents' fear overpowers their sense of reason and patience.
You see, the development of a young person is a process that demands a great deal of patience from parents.
I've spent a great deal of time personally and professionally developing strategies to help parents to take responsibility for their relationships with their kids. And since worrying about your kids and seeing them as flawed is tremendously ineffective, it's also the only choice when you're trying to be an effective parent.
Here are some ways to avoid exaggerating your kids' problems and taking responsibility for a successful journey through parenthood:
- Talk regularly with other parents, you'll find out they have big struggles and challenges, too! This is a wonderful way to normalize things for you.
- Pay very close attention to how you're seeing your kids. One of the biggest factors in how your kids turn out is how you see them-do you see them as flawed and needing fixing, or do you see them as wonderful and capable?
- Talk to other people who have close contact with your kids. Their teachers, coaches, and friends' parents will often have a different perspective than you will.
- Remember that kids develop at different speeds. Some kids learn to walk or read earlier, and some don't. If your child is struggling with something, don't make it worse by panicking and calling in the cavalry. Doing so may make it clear to your child that you don't feel they're capable.
- Remember that there will be times when you don't like your kids very much. This is normal stuff, but just don't let them know it! It will pass with time.
Effective parents worry about their kids and sometimes wonder whether they're doing the "right" things. And although they have periods when they have their doubts, they have a core belief in their kids that transcends most of the "problems" their kids run into.
Remember the advice of so many parents who've already raised their kids. "It will all turn out all right, they'll be just fine,!" they say.
They'll be especially fine if you see them as the beautiful children of God that they are.
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