Ever been called a people pleaser?
If you think you have no people pleasing tendencies, just remember how you felt the last time someone criticized you.
Not fun, is it?
Even those of us who don’t think we’re people pleasers feel the pressure to want to please people some of the time.
Here’s why this matters. We bring everything we are directly into our parenting. . .so it’s important for us to be well aware of our people pleasing tendencies.
People pleasing can undermine your parenting in significant ways. In fact, unchecked, it can be detrimental to your kids—despite your best intentions.
It starts with the best of intentions.
In life, you end up becoming a people pleaser because you:
can’t stand the thought of letting people down, so you tell them what they want to hear.
lack the self-confidence to do what you think you need to do, so you don’t do it.
desperately want to make everyone happy, so you try.
And once the pattern is established, it very naturally repeats itself at home.
- Your son cries for an hour before he goes to bed…so how can you not hold him? (I have tons of personal experience on this one…well, on all the examples in this list…)
- Your daughter doesn’t like vegetables, so it’s easier to make another meal.
- Your son gives you a puppy face when he’s on the timeout chair, and you melt and let him off, unable to stand the thought of disappointing him.
- Your daughter tells you you’re the “worst parent in the world” for not letting her sleep over, and you back down.
- You really want your kids to have what they want, so you blow the budget on their birthday even when you can’t afford it.
Who doesn’t feel pressure in situations like that?
The intentions are noble. You want to help your kids.
But are you?
5 Ways People Pleasing Undermines Your Parenting
If you’re on the impossible quest to please your kids, there are at least five ways your people-pleasing will harm your kids (and yourself):
1. You will Forget that You’re the Parent.
Sometimes it’s so hard to remember that we are the parent, not a friend. As my friend Jeff Brodie, a long time student pastor, has often told me, he’s never met a 15 year old who’s looking for a 45 year old best friend.
You’re the parent. That means there are seasons where your approval rating will drop to historic lows with your kids, but unlike a politician, you can’t be unelected. You’re in this for life. The right thing and the easy thing are rarely the same thing.
2. You will forget your kids really don’t have a grasp on what’s good for them.
If you had asked me what I wanted to eat for breakfast lunch and dinner when I was 5, and I would have told you ice cream.
What we want and what we need are two different things.
Do I even need to say what could happen if you try to please your 14 year old by giving into all her demands? Didn’t think so. (See point #1.)
3. It will cause conflict with your spouse.
If you’re trying to please your kids, it will almost always come at the expense of your relationship with your spouse. Especially if your spouse is happy to be the parent.
One of the best gifts you can give your kids is a healthy marriage with parents who operate on the same page. When one parent goes rogue and starts to side with the kids in an effort to please them, good things rarely happen.
4. It becomes harder to hear the voice of God.
When you’re trying to please the ever so-fickle voice of your children, it will become more difficult to hear the voice of God. You will start to delete clear teaching in favor of what they’ll like.
Worse, your child might even begin to think that God only ever wants what they want.
5. Nobody’s actually that happy.
You and I have heard it a thousand times: the person who tries to please everyone ultimately pleases no one.
Here’s why that’s true: When you try to please several constantly shifting voices, you can’t follow a course that is clear, or hone in on a noble or even singular purpose.
Eventually, you look back on your child-raising years wishing you had more of a background. And your kids might just end up wishing their mom and dad had more backbone and guided them in the direction they should have gone.
Well, those are five good reasons. But here’s one more. At least it’s true of me when I’ve gone too far into people pleasing mode: you end up not liking who you’ve become. You look in the mirror and ultimately wonder what you’ve done, no matter how compelling the logic might have seemed in the moment.
So what should you do?
It’s not that hard. Do what you believe to be right. Be a parent.
And the biggest surprise?
After some tense seasons growing up, your kids might eventually tell you—at some point in their twenties or thirties—that they’re deeply grateful for the way you steered them in the right direction.
That might even ultimately make you, and them, happy.
What are you learning about any people pleasing tendencies you have?