Jan 182016 0 Responses

Parent for Them, Not for You

A current commercial shows four officials gathering to discuss an important call during a football game. No one knows the right call so the referee instructs one official to make the sign for a bobbled ball while he instructs another official to act like it’s a really tough call. He then says they will break the huddle confidently and make the call. The only problem: the microphone is on and everyone has heard the conversation.

The commercial makes light of something we all know–there are times in which we all fake our job in order to give the appearance as though we are doing what we should.

It’s true in officiating and it’s true in parenting. (See: Don’t Gang Tackle Your Kids)

There are times in which parents do their job for appearances. It doesn’t help our kids. It isn’t for their benefit. There is not lasting purpose. We act so it looks like we are parenting. We need to stop.

The game is on the line and our child is at the free throw line. He misses. We yell, “Make your free throws.” It looks like we are parenting.

Friends are at the house. Our kids are being kids. We yell at them to stop. It looks like we are parenting.

We are at a restaurant with a large group. Our kids are getting bored. We embarrass them for not sitting still. It looks like we are parenting.

But looks like can be deceiving. While there are times in which our kids need to be quiet and sit still (and of course making free throws is always a good thing), on many occasions we parent in public to give the impression we are parenting. We are doing it for us and others, not for our kids.

Coaches do this. They react, not to help a player, but to publicly show their displeasure. A friend of mine is a high school football coach. He has a general policy with his coaches to avoid pretend-coaching. His example: a player drops a pass and a coach yells, “Catch the ball.” That’s not coaching. The player wants to catch the ball. No wide receiver is trying not to catch the ball. Yelling, “Catch the ball” does nothing but gives the appearance of coaching. Instead, a coach can correct a player’s hand positioning, yell because the route was run improperly or get a kid because of lack of effort. He instructs his coaches to actually do things which could change the outcome rather than simply showing displeasure for the sake of feeling like you are doing something. (See: Your Child Isn’t That Good)

The same is true with parenting. We must recognize what truly makes a difference and what is us pretending to do important things.

The next time you are in public, watch how much parenting is done for show. Watch in Wal-Mart, at a restaurant, or at a ballgame. Ask yourself, “Does that action positively influence that child’s behavior or does it simply make the parent feel like they are doing something?”

Discipline is difficult. There are few things in parenting which demand more from us and the demand often comes at the most inconvenient times. If discipline was done on our terms, it wouldn’t be that difficult. But most often discipline is required when we are tired or distracted or busy or frustrated.

In the moments we are least prepared to discipline, we need to discipline. (See: A Parent’s Most Effective Tool in Discipline)

Discipline is most often effectively done in private. When done in public, it runs too high of a risk of shaming the child. This means if a child is doing wrong in public, we either have to make the effort of pulling them into a private setting (which can be a lot of work) or we have to wait to correct them when we are in private (which runs the risk of others thinking we are passive toward their bad behavior). In neither case do we get to show off how good of a parent we are.

Few people ever realize how much of their parenting is done for show. My guess is that you have never noticed it about yourself. But pay attention. Notice it in others and then you will notice it in yourself.

Awareness will allow you to start being more effective.


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