No parent lives long enough to make all the mistakes in the book, but having been through the process, now three times over, I’ve learned there are some mistakes which you don’t have to make. The following are statements which should never, never come from the lips of a parent.
Statement #1: “Do what I say, not what I do!” Forget it. Your example cancels out everything you say. Insight: Needed are role models, not sermons. If you don’t measure up, forget the rhetoric and concentrate on your example.
Statement #2: “I want you to have this gift, since I can’t be there with you.” Gifts are a poor substitute for your presence. Being at the ballgame, or at the school function, even though it is a sacrifice of time and energy, means more than the reward you may give to your son or daughter.
Statement #3: “If you do this again, you’re going to get it.” Major blunder! Consistency in parenting is one of the most necessary ingredients. When you are too tired to deal with a situation and discipline a child for the same thing another time, you are sending conflicting signals to a child. This produces uncertainty. Insight: Boundaries which are consistent and definite give stability and security to a child.
Statement #4: “Because I love you, I’m doing this for you.” Love isn’t the issue. Responsibility is. Failing to teach your children to assume responsibility for their lives shortchanges them. Later on, college roommates, bosses, or mates won’t do it for them. Insight: Teaching a child to be responsible is planting the seeds of future success.
Statement #5: “How could you be so dumb as to do what you did?” Telling a child what he or she did wrong only certifies the obvious. Better to talk about how in the future a troublesome situation can be handled. Insight: Saying, “Let’s talk about how you are going to handle this the next time…” gives you a chance to deal with character building.
Statement #6: “If your older brother can get A’s, why can’t you?” Comparing children creates anger and defensiveness. Insight: Every child is different. Each has aptitudes and abilities which may be lacking in other children with the same biological mother and father. Strive to recognize what each child does well and build on that. That’s what Scripture is driving at when it says, “Train a child in the way he should go…” (Proverbs 22:6).
Statement #7: “If you don’t stop that, I’ll tell your father when he gets home.” Discipline should be administered at the point of wrongdoing by the parent who is aware of the problem, not later when the other parent gets home, or even on the next weekend when Uncle Bill comes for a visit.
Statement #8: “If you are a good child, I’ll give you some extra money!” Rewards for doing the right thing teach the wrong thing. Doing right is a responsibility, yes, even a duty. It isn’t always rewarded in life by pay increases or bonuses. Teaching children to do right because it is right, is responsible parenting.
Statement #9: “God’s going to get you when you are bad!” Parents who use God as the “bogey-man of the sky” are teaching the wrong thing about God. Insight: Understanding that there is forgiveness with God as well as with each other is an important spiritual truth.
Statement #10: “When you get old enough to choose for yourself, you can go to church.” Wrong again! A child learns half of everything he knows by age 3, three-fourths by age 7. The spiritual training of a child begins at birth.
A final thought: Nobody’s perfect but there are some mistakes you can’t afford to make. Think about it.
Resource reading: Genesis 24