I remember when I brought my son home from the hospital, and how terrified yet determined I was about this whole parenting business. While I have had my share of guilt moments over the years, I have noticed with some of my friends who are younger moms that there seems to be SO MUCH MORE pressure today on them than I ever felt when my kids were younger.
Maybe it is the advent of Pinterest or blogs or social media, but it seems like most young moms I know perpetually feel like they are not enough and that they are ruining their kids’ lives because of some thing they should or should not be doing but aren’t. So, I thought I’d share the 10 parenting myths that need busting, and I hope that they encourage you to cut yourself a little slack! Believe it or not, God actually chose YOU as the parent your child needs.
1. There is One Right Way to Parent
Of course, there are things all parents need to do like meeting their children’s physical, mental and emotional needs, but parenting is definitely NOT a one size fits all proposition. I’m sure you’ve noticed if you have more than one child that what worked for one is not guaranteed to work for another. There are a lot of great ways to parent, but the Bible actually has very little to say about parenting. It points more towards overarching principles rather than concrete, specifics. So, give yourself a break if you don’t parent exactly like Susie down the street.
2. Some Lucky Moms Have it All Together
This brings me to my second myth – nobody has it all together, all the time. Yes, there are some women who seemed more blessed in the areas of organization and household management, but trust me, there are things they struggle with, too. Maybe their house looks great all the time, but they struggle with cutting loose and having fun with their kids – which is something you excel at. With the advent of social media sites like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, it can sometimes feel like everyone else has this parenting thing down except you. Here’s a little secret though – all moms feel like they don’t have it all together. They just take better pictures, so it doesn’t look that way. As Lysa Tuerkhurst says, “Don’t compare your insides with someone else’s outsides.”
3. Your Child’s Behavior Is All Your Fault
While I do believe it is part of our jobs as parents to train our children up to be responsible adults, you can’t actually completely control another person’s behavior – even if they are small and sticky. (I wrote in more detail about there not being any guarantees in parenting HERE.) I distinctly remember taking my youngest son Brody to the store when he was about 3 years old. On the way into the store, he happened to see one of those big bins of bouncy balls and he wanted one. Since we had approximately 362 of them already at home, I told him no. He then proceeded to scream through the entire store for the next 22.6 minutes it took me to pick up what I needed. I know all the parenting experts say you should leave the store at this point, but I couldn’t leave and come back later. I HAD to get the stuff that day, and that was the only time I had to do it.
I can’t tell you how embarrassed I was, and what a failure I felt like as I pushed my cart with my screeching child through Kmart. I was sure the people looking on probably thought I was the world’s worst mom. The reality was whether they thought that or not really didn’t matter. Why? Because his behavior was a direct result of me holding firm to my no. That’s actually good parenting, right? His reaction to that was up to him, and besides making clear the consequences of continuing his tantrum, I really couldn’t control that reaction. (Although, I’m sure that elderly lady right behind me in line who got a full blast of my kid’s lungs right in her face probably felt differently).
Here’s the deal- at one time or another, your kid is going to disobey and/or act embarrassingly bad in public. His choice to disobey is not necessarily on your shoulders. Just like that moment when he succeeds and does well is not necessarily your doing either. As parents, we sometimes think we have more control than we do. Yes, we have a responsibility to parent our children, but we also have to realize we can’t own every choice and action they take because, in the end, they are a separate person with their own sin nature to deal with.
4. Children Must Have Educational Playtimes
Seriously, you can just play stuffed animals without trying to teach colors, the ABC’s or numbers. Every tea party does not have to be a primer on manners or the fruit of the Spirit. Playing in and of itself is a learning experience for children. As adults, we tend to over complicate the concept of playing, and make it work, complete with achievement goals. Playing is not supposed to be work. It’s supposed to be fun.
5. Children Need You to Entertain Them
When I was a kid, there was never any question in my mind that my parents loved me. There also was never any question that my mom was going to get on the floor and play Barbies with me for hours. That was just not something she did. I’m not sure when the shift happened, but parents today seem to feel they have to oversee and be involved in every area of their child’s life – from making friends to playing to being entertained. Considering that moms for thousands of years had zero time to entertain their children because they had to work very hard just to do the basics like washing clothing, cooking and keeping the house clean, I think it is safe to say that your child doesn’t actually need you to take on the role of activities director in their lives. Seriously, let it go. Please don’t read this to mean that you should never spend time or have fun with your kids. I’m just saying that a little boredom never killed anyone. It actually encourages creativity and imagination.
6. If Your Child Eats Processed Foods They Will Die.
This really has become a biggie. Allergies not withstanding, a few chicken nuggets in your child’s life s are not going to set him up for early death. While you probably shouldn’t feed your child a steady diet of McDonald’s every day, a few Happy Meals will not make you a recipient for World’s Worst Mom. I think there is a lot of pressure on moms these days to make everything from scratch from organic ingredients, preferably grown in their backyard. If you enjoy gardening and making things from scratch fulfills you, then go for it. But if you are like many moms, don’t add to the “shoulds” in your life. Three meals a day for 18 years is a lot of guilt to heap on anyone’s plate!
7. Every Child Needs the Latest Technology or They Will Fall Behind.
No small child actually needs the latest technology. For thousands of years, young children played with things like sticks or leaves or bugs. I know the elementary set (and even the preschool set) seem to all have iPhones, but they really don’t have to have them. I promise! Not only are they expensive, but excessive use of digital screens can actually change the wiring in a child’s brain reducing their attention span. Preschool and kindergarten teachers everywhere will thank you if you refrain from giving your little one constant access to technology. Not only does it affect your child’s learning, but letting your kids roam around the digital landscape isn’t very safe either, and you will avoid a ton of drama if you just don’t go there to begin with. My sons are 17 and 14. Neither of them owns an iPhone. Brock has a one of those flip phones because he drives, but he was easy because techie stuff doesn’t interest him at all. My youngest son has begged for a phone with all the bells and whistles (or at least an iPod so he can Snapchat), but as I talk to other parents and see all the angst and drama those bells and whistles cause, it makes it pretty easy for me to tell him no.
8. You Must Be Really Strict with Your Teenagers
This might sound a bit strange coming after my last myth, but bear with me. It’s always been kind of strange to me that the myth persists that you need MORE rules with your teens than with your younger children. I see this a lot – elementary aged kids have few rules and little structure, and then the kid goes through puberty and BAM! Suddenly, their whole world is made up of rules and regulations, and not surprisingly, that child pushes back. The thing is, we are supposed to be working ourselves out of a job. The older our children get, the more freedom they should have to make their own choices (and mistakes). I think this is one way parents really exasperate their kids. They come down heavy on teens who have given them no reason to distrust them besides the fact that they are teenagers. I know, hormones are scary, and I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any house rules for your teenager. The thing is, though, most of the training should be done by this point- not just starting.
9. If You Just Parent Right, Your Child Will Never Be Unhappy, Make Bad Choices or Struggle
I’m not sure where this idea came from really (it’s certainly not Biblical), but there is this idea that if you just find the right formula for parenting, your child will be happy, will never make bad choices and will never struggle. I’m here to tell you that there is no secret parenting formula. Our end goal should be to introduce our kids to Jesus and model how to love and live for Him. Just like with you or me, learning to do that is riddled with embarrassing mistakes and epic fails. As parents, our job is to help our kids along that path, to offer a hand when they fall down and guidance to get them going in the right direction again. It’s not to guarantee their path is perfectly smooth. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to insulate your children from the disappointments, failures and mistakes in life, and it is a lack of faith on our part that makes us believe that God can’t use even the really hard stuff in our children’s lives. Think of it this way – God is the perfect parent, and His kids mess up all the time!
10. Every Child is Exceptional and Destined for Greatness
I believe this myth started with good intentions and even some truth. God DID create all of us to be special and unique. That is truth – just read Psalms 139. It’s also true that God gave each of us our own unique talents and abilities, and He wants us to use them. I think where we got off track and twisted this truth is when we started equating that special uniqueness and God’s plans for our children’s lives with performance.
It seems, if a child shows a talent or even interest for anything, parents instantly make it into a quest for greatness. A kid can’t just enjoy playing baseball anymore. Nope – he has to take batting lessons and be signed up for a travel team and be trotted out to perform and be compared to his peers. At 8 years old, we critique his performance and make intricate plans to better his game when all he really wants to do is play ball. His being special is weighed in the balance of his performance. We’ve taken childhood and turned it into one big competition to see whose kid can be the most exceptional and the greatest. We’ve taken the joy of childhood and sucked it away to be replaced by the pressure of performing.
It’s not really surprising we have fallen for this myth of parenting because we have also fallen for the lie that we need to be great, too. (that’s a whole other post though!) My friend Kayse Pratt talked about this message that is popular in Christian circles HERE. Check it out because she has some really good stuff to say.
Yes, God made our children special, but He made everyone special and unique. We need to stop burdening our children with the expectation that they must perform in extraordinary ways to prove they are God’s master pieces because not only is it a lie, it’s a lot of pressure. If you look in the Bible, the people God used were pretty ordinary by the world’s standards, but it wasn’t their extraordinary performance that caused God to use them.
My favorite person in the Hebrews 11 faith hall of fame is Enoch. Why? Because it says simply that Enoch walked with God. That was his sole claim to fame in a chapter that listed people like Abraham and Noah and David. Enoch didn’t do anything huge – he just walked with God. And in the end, that’s the best thing my kids can do – walk with God, even if that means they lead “ordinary” lives.
What are some parenting myths that you think need busting? I’d love to hear about them!
P.S. If you are just joining us, the links to the other parts of this series on parenting are below. I’ve also included a couple other posts that you might enjoy, too.
Part 1: Parenting Has Changed Me More Than Any Ministry
Part 2: 9 Principles of Parenting That Transcend Parenting Style
Part 3: 10 Myths of Parenting
Part 4: 5 Parenting Books I Love, Plus One
Is God Enough for Your Kids, Too?
There Are No Guarantees in Parenting
P.S.S. If you want to react differently to your children, join The Parenting Challenge.