Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Three Things We Need to Quit Telling Our Kids

I'm confident I could find scores of studies that show parents really do have the ability to impact their children over time.  The research would no doubt suggest that if we do things relatively well we can teach our sons and daughters how to relate to others, love God, work hard, save for the future and someday lead a home of their own just to name a few. I'm thankful for that.

However, there are several things I hear parents regularly suggest to their children  and I just have one cautionary word for these likely well-meaning moms and dads: STOP!

I'm sure there are many examples to be mentioned but I'll go with what I call the big three, all untruths and errors we parents need to finally avoid saying or implying.

Just put your mind to it and you can do anything you want someday. What? No, our kids can't do just anything they want to do someday and neither can you. Kids with little athletic interest or skill won't make the Olympics. Someone like me who can barely cut a piece of wood or hammer a nail was never going to build a house and shouldn't for that matter. A child born blind isn't going to be an airline captain at Southwest. The more you think about it, the dumber this sounds.

And it's okay that we can't do everything we try or wish for. We're still humans, not Jesus. So let's not suggest to our kids that they will always succeed and reach their goals and dreams. What we mean, so let's actually say it, is that there are amazing things they can do and some will be things we only dream of now but the list won't be endless. There are exceptions. We just set our kids up for huge failure and disappointment when we're not honest.

Or a related misguided comment is, You're really good at that . . . when they really aren't. Again, we're falsely building them up believing that our phony praise will be good motivation and they won't feel bad. The problem is they don't need our pretend accolades to be successful. If anything, we would be wiser to help them find what it is they actually have an aptitude and affinity for and let them succeed at that!

We tell our kids that they're great soccer players at age five and many of them actually hate playing it every week, but we prod them on. In reality we often need them playing more than they do. Why do you think so many terrible singers get angry, throw tantrums or run down the street shouting obscenities at the judges who told them they were terrible on American Idol? Didn't they know they were horrible singers? Probably not.  In many cases mom and dad kept believing that they were awesome, going to someday be superstars and should never let anyone tell them otherwise.

The main result from this one is a bunch of kids who feel entitled thinking that everyone else should see that they're wonderful. But instead they become a laughing stock in front of millions on Idol or quit trying to find a job or go to college because they got turned down a few times. What happens to their view of themselves now?

You deserve to be happy. The problem with this seemingly innocuous comment is that it ultimately implies that our happiness is based on others giving it to us. And if those others do not come through for us, then we're victims, we've been mistreated, even abused in our minds. In addition, because we supposedly deserve happiness, then some take that as license to either demand it from others or focus all of their efforts and energy on pleasing themselves to dull the pain.

Instead, why don't we show our kids how we find happiness and joy even when times are difficult and life doesn't work the way we'd hoped?  Let's spend time pointing them to our God, our faith, the source of true joy even when we've faced tragedy, pain and sorrow.

We have much to teach our kids while they are in our homes. Let's not screw it up with messages that miss the mark of truth and reality by a long shot.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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