There are no perfect parents, and there are no perfect kids. So what is the ideal family? What should be our goal?
When I look at my family, there is a tension between what is real around me and what is ideal. While I should be a patient parent, I can find myself making mistakes and pulling my hair out every day. God sets out some great ideals for us as parents. The big question is:
Will I abandon ideals, or lower my standards, just to make me feel better about my parenting?
Will I accept that even if I won’t be the ideal parent, I need to parent toward ideals?
What does it mean to abandon ideals as a parent? What ways do I let myself off the hook or lower the standard for my family or myself as a parent?
Here are 3 ways I find myself lowering my standards as a parent:
1. Quietly judging the parents around me.
Sometimes pointing out the mistakes in others is motivated by a need to make us feel better about ourselves. This is true in all aspects of our lives, including parenting. We can find ourselves judging, gossiping, or critiquing the parents around us (or their kids) as an escape from focusing on our own need to improve how we lead our own children to grow in their relationship with Jesus and with others.
2. Blaming my own parent.
As we know, not every parent had a good experience when they were being parented. The words “mom” or “dad” are never neutral. Sometimes we can find ourselves blaming the past for our parenting mistakes today. “I have a temper because my dad did.” “It probably isn’t right, but that’s what my mom did.” We sometimes need to be reminded that the bad habits we inherit are meant to be broken not to be blamed. Our past shouldn’t be an excuse to not parent towards an ideal, but a springboard towards something better.
3. Excusing ordinary situations by calling them extraordinary.
So often my parenting excuses start with claiming that my current situation is an exception to the ideal.
“The reason I don’t spend time with my kids is because I’m so much busier than everyone else.”
“The reason I don’t pray with my kids is because it just won’t work with my child.”
“The reason I yell at my kids is because I’m under so much more stress than most people.”
“The reason I have these challenges is because my son is a December baby.”
By claiming our situation is extraordinary gives us an excuse to lower our standards.
So – how do we handle the tension between what’s real and what’s ideal?
The answer: We take our cues from a God who models this for us. One of the mysteries of God is his ability to hold up ideals for me to aim towards, but to hold out his arms with grace because He knows I won’t always meet them – all with the goal of seeing me grow in my faith as a person and a parent.
God knows you aren’t a perfect parent, but He continues to hold up the ideal of a Jesus-led parent in one hand and His perfect grace for your mistakes in the other. Strive for what’s best, while understanding that God is ready to forgive and walk alongside you every step of the way.
Jeff is the Executive Director at Connexus Community Church, a multi-campus church north of Toronto, and a strategic partner of North Point Ministries. He has been working with families and students for over a decade and is passionate about family and church coming together to reach this generation. He invests his time in developing teams of leaders, discovering innovative and practical ways to partner with parents, and finding ways to inspire communities with timeless truths. Jeff and his wife Leslie have two young boys who love NFL football, soccer, mini-stick hockey, and bedtime stories. Read more from Jeff on his website or on Twitter.