We all have heard the saying “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” I take this to mean that I know the right thing to do, I want to do it, but I just can’t make myself do it. We see it in many aspects of our lives but typically use it to refer to things like healthy eating, getting more exercise, or going to bed earlier. We know what we should do, but we choose to indulge ourselves anyways.
I see this at work a great deal in my own life as a parent. We have expectations in our home about how much screen time the kids should have, how much we should pray as a family, the cleanliness of the kids’ bedrooms and bathroom etc… I find myself time and time again relaxing one expectation or another for an array of reasons i.e. “well, she had a hard day” or “as long as you make sure you do it later” or if my child asks for something sweetly enough “okay just this one time.” If you multiply 1 of these gestures of leniency per day times 7 children times 365 days per year you would have 17, 885 rule exemptions in a year. My home would be chaos!
I know the right thing to do is to stand by the expectations because they are good for the children, but I often allow myself to relent anyways. Why? I have 4 main reasons and as I will explain, they are all super lame.
1. I want them to be happy
Of course we all want our children to be happy. There is a big difference, though, between short term and long term happiness. Letting my child eat a whole bag of chips may make them happy in the next 15 minutes, but I know very well it won’t make them happy in two hours and if I let them do it often enough it will make them unhealthy (and therefore very unhappy) in the long run.
2. I want them to like me
Don’t we all want that hug and smile and to have our children say “Oh you are the best daddy in the world!” Of course we do, but these are children and they have terrible judgement! A kid who thinks being allowed to eat a whole bag of chips makes their parents great is a terrible judge of parenting and we should take no solace in their approval. In fact, the opposite is likely true. It’s like asking some one in plaid shorts and a striped shirt if they like your outfit.
3. I can’t deal with their behaviour if I say no
Sometimes I’m just too tired to deal with the “stuff” I’m going to have to deal with if I I say no so I just give in before causing a tantrum. I understand how tiring life can be, but this is likely the saddest reason of all. How can I function as a responsible, working adult if I can’t even stand up to a child when I know what is right?
4. I want to be nicer than my own parents
I have terrific parents and I had a wonderful childhood but I’m sure deep down all of us want to have some kind of revenge for all the times our parents said no to us for things that we thought were completely unfair. Guess what? Our parents were right to say no and we should do the same. Even if it was unfair and there’s no reason for them to have said it, learning to deal respectfully with not getting what I wanted helped shape me as a person.
So what can we do? First of all, we need to stop being wimps with our kids. We are in charge, we know what is best, and we have to act with fortitude. Stand by your rules and expectations. Also, we need to support each other. By this I mean respect authority of other adults. If your child tells you a story about how mean their teacher is, don’t complain about the teacher in front of them. Tell them that their teacher wants what’s best for them and we will figure it out together. We need to have a relationship with our children that goes beyond just “doing stuff for them.” Communicate everyday about lots of stuff, not just what needs to get done and what they want. Finally, I highly advise you pray together as a family. I notice a tangible difference in myself and my children when we take time to pray together. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just something everyday.
Being a good parent is really difficult. May God bless us all in this most challenging but most important work. Thanks for reading!