The mother swipes a bedraggled strand of hair behind her ear as she bends closer to her son. He’s having a meltdown again. She clears her throat. Tries to ignore the other parents’ glares cutting sideways at her. As she begins to speak softly to her child, a neighbor scoffs and says something about paddles. But this mother keeps her eyes on her little one. They don’t understand his needs the way she does. After a few minutes, the boy takes her hand and breathes a deep series of breaths until he grows still and calm. The mother and son sit on the back row of the auditorium for the school orientation. No one sits within six feet of them. But they aren’t alone, for an unseen Father smiles upon them from a mere breath of a kiss away. And despite the disdain of the other parents, the mother has all the approval she needs.
Our culture worships comparison. We see the tendency in our kids, but often find the attitude even more sinister among parents. We all long to believe we have done the most important job in our lives with excellence, so the desire for approval feels valid. Striving for our best as parents can tempt us to seek superiority and believe our best must be attained at the expense of a different style’s devaluation. Yet comparison depreciates us more often than it elevates us. Human beings present their worst character when motivated by insecurity, like those who attempt to position themselves as superior by putting others down. Parents, in other words, can sometimes bully other parents.
Even when we aren’t judging other moms and dads, the cultural pressure can affect how we parent our own children. We can unwittingly shift our style of discipline to appease other parents. Every child needs a different approach, however. What works for one child will prove ineffective or potentially harmful for another.
I had two very different sons, each of whom needed very different styles of parenting. I’m sure it seemed unfair. Sometimes other parents shot judgy looks at me. School professionals offered advice which worked well some of the time, but sometimes proved very off-base. I did my research. I listened and spent time studying my child and what worked. Sometimes I made mistakes, as do we all. But I learned that my mistakes were less significant when I focused on my child’s needs instead of other people’s approval.
I also taught parenting techniques to at-risk families. So I had studied a wealth of different approaches. Most of the parenting experts say that their approach works for every child. While learning from experts is truly beneficial for parents and I certainly recommend taking classes, I know from personal and clinical experience that no approach works the same for every child. Parents need to learn the best approach for each of their children, and modify each of these techniques to customize them for the child with which they’re used.
In addition to learning from parenting experts, it’s even more important to allow the Creator of our children to guide us. As parents, we have a job which we cannot do well on our own strength or in the limited wisdom we have. Even with a graduate level education, we won’t know how to care for this life entrusted to us without supernatural guidance. The most important part of our parenting tool kit is prayer. We must focus our hearts on obedience and submission to God before we can possibly have any clue how to direct another person in areas of maturation and discipline.
If we keep our focus on the Creator and the hearts of our own children, we can resist the temptation to submit our self-image and parenting style to the ill-informed whims of human approval. Our children deserve the best we can offer God as parents, not the insecure reactions we give to others.
So, let’s kick off the school year with a commitment to resist judging other parents and ourselves. Instead, let’s encourage one another to love our children as God loves them and guide them in obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We can invest our energy best by getting more in touch with what works for our individual children. And ignoring what doesn’t.
I hope today’s video and post content take the pressure of seeking approval off your shoulders during this back-to-school season. For our Father parents us with grace and truth. And we can share this loving attitude with one another by modeling this at home, in the community, and at school. Maybe the body of Christ can reverse the trend of comparison and parent-bullying, one culture-resisting family model at a time.
How do you keep your eyes on your kids’ needs and on the Creator? I’d love to hear your suggestions and comments.
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P.S.S Feel free to check out the latest episodes of the Flourish-Meant podcast, which offers encouragement and insights to help you live the life you were meant to and flourish.