“Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” – Proverbs 20:30 (GNT)
The biggest mistake parents make is so much easier to see in other parents than in ourselves.
A few weeks ago I had a meeting with a mom and her kids. We were talking about baptism and whether or not they were ready to get baptized. At the end of our talk I asked the kids if it would be OK for me to talk to their mom outside for a minute.
We stepped out of my office and I told mom that, based on our conversation, I thought it would be a good for us to wait to have her kids get baptized until they were ready. I explained that by ready I meant that they understood what baptism is and they wanted to do it, that it wasn’t something she or I forced on them, but that it becomes something they get and chose to do on their own.
Their mom agreed, but then said this:
“I know that’s the right thing to do, but I don’t want to do it because telling them no will hurt their feelings.”
And that’s the biggest mistake I see a lot of parents make: not wanting to hurt their child’s feelings.
I’ve been in Children’s Ministry, working with parents for fifteen years. I’ve heard parents say this hundreds of times. And this kind of statement is always followed up by something like:
“Because I just love my kids so much,”
“When you’re a parent, you’ll understand.”
Now that I am a parent I do understand. As a dad of course I don’t enjoy when my daughter hurts. No good parent does.
But there’s a false assumption we parents have about pain: that it is always a bad thing, when it fact it can be a good thing. Pain is more than a reminder we are still alive, that we have not grown numb to the world and to life and being a live. Pain is an indicator something isn’t right. It is a road sign along the path we are traveling that says, “Something is wrong up ahead. Don’t go this way. It’s not good for you.” And we must learn to listen to pain because it is good.
My daughter is three weeks old. Before I put her to bed I change her out of her clothes into her pajamas. I do this every night. And every night she cries and screams until I’m done. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable. Even babies get change is hard. But it’s for her own good.
As parents we need to get comfortable with our kids being uncomfortable sometimes.
What is best for my daughter is not always what is going to make her happy. She probably wouldn’t mind staying in the same outfit forever. But as the day goes on it slowly gets formula and pee stains on it. When that happens, it’s time to change. The pain associated from moving her around makes her uncomfortable for a short time, but once she has clean clothes on and a fresh binky in her mouth the pain is gone. What was wrong has been made right.
Choosing a child’s comfort over their character is never a good idea. It’s selfish not to do what you know is right because your child won’t like it. That’s how babies turn into spoiled children. That’s how spoiled children turn into entitled teenagers. And, if you’re not careful, that’s how entitled teenagers become jerks as an adult.