There are distinct advantages to parenting now days. We have the internet to look stuff up on when our kids are sick. We have the internet to look stuff up on when we need birthday party ideas. We have the internet to look stuff up on when we need stocking-stuffer ideas. There are real disadvantages too. We have the internet to tell us about GMO’s and high-fructose corn syrup. We have the internet to feed all our children’s symptoms into when they’re sick and find out that they match up with either cancer, ebola or the common cold. We have the internet so now we have to buy three different softwares just to protect our children from its content.
The bigger disadvantage to raising kids coming from our generation is that the vast majority of us don’t use our heads any more even though we have the bulk of the world’s knowledge on a palm fitting device in our purses. I personally cannot hold one single phone number in my brain. I don’t even know my husband’s number by heart. The only number I remember is my friend Jennilyn’s and that’s only because it hasn’t changed since my childhood and it has a very nice rhythm to it that stuck in my head like a commercial jingle.
Also, we’re not good at heeding actual human advice. Since we are children of the eighties and nineties, constantly told that “no one has the right to tell us what to do”, we now all get on our tablets and get THEM to tell us what to do. Instead of calling our moms to discover how to fix a behavior issue with our children, like our mothers did, we now ask a million strangers in cyberspace what to do. The good news is we avoid cluing our mothers in on the fact that we are ignorant of something. The bad news is, we have no human contact and may all shrivel up and die. But we probably won’t notice, we’ll be looking at cat pictures and arguing with a stranger on the internet up until our last dying breath.
The wealth of info at our fingertips would truly be awesome if it came from fabulous sources, right? But, how many of our doctors in recent years have heaved enormous sighs when we admitted that we looked up our symptoms on WebMd before we came in … and that’s why it took us so long to come in … and that’s why it has now developed into bronchial pneumonia. I’m sorry, Dr. I was afraid you’d tell me I had lung cancer, so I was treating this dreadful cough myself. Essential oils are a real thing … I swear. I read it on the internet. (Just kidding, I actually use essential oils with some success).
But I digress.
A disturbing trend I’m seeing in modern parents comes from a mixture of inexperienced moms who write about their lack of experience as if they really know what they’re doing, and equally inexperienced people who “share” these writings on all social networks. Here are a few recent “gems” the popped up in my newsfeed/twitterfeed, “Why I Didn’t Make My Child Share” – the sage advice of a parent with a three year old who uses 2000 words to explain why her child should never have to share anything they like … because they are the king of the planet and every other child should bow down to them. “Why I NEVER Tell My Child She is Naughty” – this one was a well-meaning mom trying not to damage their child’s fragile self-image by saying “you are naughty”. Instead she would affirm her daughter by saying “what you just did was inappropriate.” I’m sure the subtle nuance totally got through to her toddler.
I have no problem trying out new parenting techniques. And I certainly have no problem with people sharing blog posts on Facebook. I learn from them. I like them. I HAVE a blog, so I definitely love that it can be shared! But humans have a weird brain thing when it comes to things we see in print. Especially things with swirling, beautiful pictures all around them, in professional looking font. I’m as much of a sucker as anyone. I read these posts and then wonder, “are my kids scarred for life? I definitely said Lily WAS naughty the other day instead of saying her actions were inappropriate. And I made Jack share his toys with his cousins who came over yesterday … and now they’re going to grow up and be ax murderers.” And then I get a grip.
We’ve got to wake up and see, that the people we are flocking to for this advice are A) people we don’t know. B) more importantly we don’t know their KIDS? If they aren’t ever taught that they are naughty and they have to share, I’m pretty sure they’re not delightful. I absolutely don’t want my child to be in their vicinity. And C) they are people whose kids are only 3 and they really have no idea what the results of these ideas will be.
There are a trillion different parenting styles and my kids are still little, so I don’t judge. What I’m saying is, perhaps, getting all our ideas from a very untested future is not the answer. I always thought that finding a nice couple at my church, with children who are grown up and lovely and asking for their secrets was the way to go. Unfortunately, these people usually don’t write blogs. They either think computers are too “newfangled” or they’re too busy with their grandkids … or the worst one yet: They have fabulous grown children who are successful and happy and they tell you, “Whatever you do, don’t do what we did.” “If I had it to do over again, I would never yell at them.” “If I had it to do over again, I would have prayed more and worried less.” “I wouldn’t have spanked them … ever!” Wait what? How is this helpful? Your kids went to Harvard! They are confident, brilliant and still manage to be sweet and compassionate. Why do good parents do this, you wonder? It’s because of a little thing I like to call, “the grandparent phenomenon”. They aren’t really the people in those houses raising those currently fabulous people. All the sudden they are afraid their grandkids will be yelled at, or grounded, or won’t be allowed to play with the new iPad they’re buying them for Christmas. Now, as Bill Cosby would say, they are just old people trying to get into heaven. We are sunk.
So if we don’t trust the internet’s toddler parent offerings, and every old person tells us to do they opposite of what they did, what ARE we supposed to do? If we’re smart, aware of the source, and paying attention to the results of our own attempts, then there must be an algorithm we can follow. For instance, every time my child cries and screams for something and I tell them that they must stop or go take a nap, they stop crying. Voila! That worked … at least that time. The sad truth is, there is no perfect trick to parenting. Growing up I was taught that there are various promises in the Bible apparently like a magic spell (except magic was a sin,) that if we only lean on them, our children will all be doctors, or missionaries in Ethiopia. The truth is, God Himself, the perfect father, still allows people their own free will. Even your little people.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” is a principle, not a promise. How could God possibly make a promise about the condition of the human heart when He Himself, refuses to dictate its actions? My pastor pointed this out a few weeks ago, it’s not my own insight. But it’s definitely a relief. God doesn’t let parents off the hook. We are supposed to train up our children in the way they should go. But the results are not in our hands, they lie in the hands of free-willed human beings. And free-willed human beings make mistakes sometimes. Mistakes that lead to disaster in some cases. My mom always says not to judge people who are in desperate situations because of their choices. “We are all just three bad decisions away from disaster at any given time.” So true. Sometimes just one decision.
Are our children doomed because we yell occasionally? I certainly hope not. If we tell them they’re naughty? Come on? Really? How many times did your mom tell you you were naughty? You lived. I’m pretty sure, if your child has any real problems, and any brains later on, a tiny change in syntax will not destroy them.
Maybe if we give them too many hugs. Tell them we love them too much. Spend more time with them than is strictly necessary they will do well in life. My husband is good at stretching time especially when reading to them. Books that I skim through as quickly as possible, sometimes skipping words for efficiency, he reads slowly, with big voices. He points out shapes and colors, and spells the words with them. He is awesome. I usually can’t get the mound of dishes in the sink off my mind. To his credit, or perhaps detriment, the dishes don’t come into his mind at all.
To make a short story longer than it should be, the real thing I lean on is love. You can’t go wrong with love. I don’t mean doting on your children, giving in to every little thing they want and not ever forcing them to do something they don’t like. I mean true love. If you look up the definition in a dictionary it will suffice, but I prefer 1 Corinthians 13, because it is beautiful and full of poetic words that sound like music to me. Love is patient, kind, long-suffering, keeps no record of wrongs … it goes on and on and if we take just this chapter and used it as our guideline for life, and teach our kids to do the same, I think our they will be just fine. This is tested parenting advice. It came from my mother, and my grandmother, and her grandmother… and I can’t get a single one of them to write a parenting blog.