There are very few things in life that we get as defensive about as our parenting. We can go through a performance review process every year at work and embrace the challenge to develop our skills; we can accept that there are aspects of our character we’d like to work on (become more patient perhaps, or less selfish); we can even admit that we need to regularly change to become a better spouse. We may go on the marriage course to try and change various aspects of that relationship. But when someone suggests we may want to think more about our parenting, all kinds of reactions flood into our heads:
“What do they know about parenting anyway?”
“Each child is different, each parent is different, I think I know what’s best for my kids”
“What are you saying, that I’m a bad Mum/Dad?”
The reaction can be even stronger if our kids are grown up. If someone criticises a way of parenting that we employed, the reactions can often go like this:
“Well I did that and my kids turned out alright, so its fine.”
“I’m not a bad parent and that’s what I did, so obviously its not a bad thing to do.”
If we’re honest, we’ve each experienced these kind of reactions at times. If we’re really honest, the reason we’re so defensive about our parenting is because it’s so close to our hearts. As parents we really do love our kids, don’t we? We do want what’s best for them. We don’t want to harm them, we want to love them, and that’s great!
But we have to be aware that sometimes the shadow side of these desires is that we find it so painful to think that we may be parenting our child in a way that is not good for them, that we refuse to engage with anything that feels like help, advice or criticism with regard to our parenting.
We’re defensive because we have something to defend ourselves from – the pain of realising that we have fallen short as parents and that we will need to change and grow in our parenting.
I understand this; I see why we’re all so defensive. But if we truly want what’s best for our children, we all need to take a deep breath, summon our courage and face the truth – we are broken sinful parents who will need to change and learn in our parenting as we go along. Repentance is always necessary in every area of life, including our parenting. If we’re still parenting the exact same way in five years’ time as we do now, something’s gone wrong! We must keep changing in every area of life, including parenting.
So, can I encourage you – face the pain and embrace the need to change as a parent. Just as you would do a marriage course, consider a parenting course (and get in touch with the church if you’re interested). Just as you would read a book about how to be a better businessman/disciple of Jesus/spouse, read a book about parenting (Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend is the book I’ve found most helpful). Just as you would ask a mentor to help you with work or in your faith, ask a parent you deeply respect to help you work on your parenting.
Our kids will thank us for loving them enough to change.