Beauty in seeing your children as they are
Most parents don’t have a hard time seeing how great their children are. The wonder in which they explore their world - and having a front row seat to their growth from a tiny helpless baby, to a toddler, to a thinking, rational child - to a challenging teenager - we tell ourselves we are the ones that know our children best.
But are we, really, the ones that know them best? Do we see them as they are, or as we hope they are? Do we give them a little too much of the benefit of a doubt?
I say this because all too often, I hear from parents that talk about bullies at school, and how, upon confronting the parents, those parents are in denial that their child is culpable in any way. In other words, they must have been provoked, or they needed to defend themselves. Furthermore, they think their child is the victim ...
Occasionally, this may be true. Sometimes, the kid who gets picked on, is able to defend themselves and then the bully accuses the bullied!
But how can we know for sure which is the case when it comes to our child?
I say it takes embracing the possibilities.
When we embrace any possibility, without attachment to the results, then we can then freely seek the truth.
The truth is light - even when it’s a truth that’s hard to hear. It sheds light into what could change for the better, and that is when you and your child can grow and learn.
The truth doesn’t mean judgement. It doesn’t mean you or your child are terrible people. Far from it.
Because, as long as parents support bullying, through their own denial or silence, whether they know it or not, the bully has no opportunity for change or growth.
SO the real question is: how do we - the parents of good children (because all kids are born innately good) - react when other parents or family members point out some behavioral issue with our child? Do we balk at the knees, dig our heels in, and feel attacked?
I’m not saying this applies to all families or kids, and I know there are plenty of neurological diverse children that might be more susceptible to certain behaviors that are difficult to correct, teach or even predict.
But I’m talking about factors or behaviors that we can totally correct, if only we find the capacity to entertain the possibility - to believe those people who dare bring it up.
I remember when a parent once told me my son was too disruptive at a summer camp he had gone to. Now, I had been used to always getting compliments on the demeanor of my kids - even having them receive compliments for how well behaved they are at church.
So when this parent told me, I was a bit shocked. She said she felt that she could tell me because I am open and that she would want to know if her kid was misbehaving when she wasn’t around.
But my first gut reaction was, “she must be wrong, he must have been encouraged in some way, maybe the other kids made him do it…”
Yes, my first reaction was: excuses.
I went to the camp leaders and sadly, they all nodded, solemn faced, that they had struggled with him. It had been a relief when I arrived.
And I had to humble myself down and say, ok, we are dealing with a kid who now feels it’s ok to be crazy when I’m not around. I talked with him and he did try to give me the excuses I wanted to hear - but here’s the thing, I told him it was still not OK, and sad that people who were watching him would feel relieved that he would leave, simply because he had caused or even been a part of such chaos! He needed to understand the concept of “respect”.
You know what else he learned? He learned that even when I’m not around, others are watching - and they care enough about him enough to get involved, get uncomfortable, and tell mom what happened. Word gets around, even in a big city-suburb.
You can’t act inappropriately and get away with it.
And aren’t those good lessons to learn?
I was so glad that one parent had told me what had happened.
But, the counselors had hidden it from me. It was only after I asked them, that they confirmed what had happened. They said other kids were also rowdy, but they would never tell those parents because they would get too defensive.
Is that where we’re at?
And then we get surprised when parents of bullies defend their bullies - couldn’t that be our own child one day?
I know we don’t want to be parents of bullies. I know we can’t control much about what our kids end up doing - but - we can at least try to do this parenting thing with our eyes open to the possibility that our child might not be as perfect as we think…
and that is a beautiful thing. Because love is unconditional. Even if our rugrat is the “naughty” kid at daycare, that doesn’t mean we can’t correct them, make them know there are consequences, and that we are not happy about their behavior. Because we know it doesn’t mean they are “bad kids” or that we are “bad parents” - it means that we love them and that we have hope and faith that they can do better. Our love is not conditioned by our expectations or hopes of who they are.
That is the complexity and beauty of love. It is hard and sometimes uncomfortable. It means seeing the faults of the ones you love and loving them anyway. It humbles you when you think you know it all.
And when we demonstrate this love, we show our children God’s love.
God makes us good, knows our circumstances, and loves us - but that doesn’t mean He loves our sin. He has revealed Himself to us through His people, through the Law, through His Son, to correct us, to teach us what is right and good, and what is true love…and as parents, He entrusts us to do the same…
So, let’s see our kids as they are. Let’s analyze them with rational, thinking minds so we can use our love to teach them well - instead of using our love to blind us, leaving them in the dark as well.
Let’s use the light of truth and love.