I’ve read a lot of parenting books over the last two decades. Why? I had four kids to raise. That’s a lot of opportunity to screw up, and I didn’t want that to happen. In all honesty, I can’t recall a lot of the specific things I’ve read over the years, but there is one thing in particular I read once that has stuck with me. I think it was James Dobson who wrote,
“If you are doing anything for your kids that they can do for themselves (or should be doing for themselves) you are doing them a disservice.”
That hit me hard because I can be that kind of mother. I can be that kind of mother because I have that kind of mother. My mom did absolutely everything for me… And I loved it. When it comes to the people she loves the most, my mom has a servant’s heart. Her acts of service were how she loved on me, and it’s how I love on my people.
So when I read that quote, it struck me right between the eyes. My kids were still small then, but I was doing things for them that they could do for themselves. I tried to stop. It’s hard. I’m that mom. If I am completely honest, I still do things for my kids that they could do for themselves, and I continue to hear James’ words in my ear. I think it was easy for James to say those words because he’s a man. Men are wired differently.
I know we are trying hard to blur the gender lines in society today, but the truth is, men and women are created to be different, and that’s okay.
My husband often tells me I coddle our kids too much, and my position is that he’s too hard on them. Wanna know something? We’re both right. But somewhere in the middle of all that is the right balance for our kids. He’s getting them ready for real life, and I’m the soft place they can fall when real life hits them too hard.
That little nugget I learned from Tim Keller’s parenting book called, Grace Based Parenting. Okay. Maybe I remember more than I thought.
I recently sat at a table and listened to some parents of young adults bemoan the fact that their kids were no where near ready to handle adult life on their own. Their kids had no goals, no idea how to handle their finances, and no plan for how to change any of that. It was a source of great concern for those parents.
In that moment, once again, my husband was a champion to me.
Because of Matthew, our young adult kids are learning to pay bills, live on a budget, save money, give a tithe, use a credit card wisely, and finish college on time while holding down a job. Periodically, he has them write down their future goals… One year, three year, or five year goals.
He teaches them how to care for things they have, and how to handle repairs if something breaks. I can’t say they are always thrilled to learn these practical life lessons, but they are better off because of them.
If it was left up to me, they wouldn’t know any of those things. I’m more of the encouragement, relationships, faith, and character teacher… (In addition to teaching them how to wash clothes, cook a meal, and run a vacuum)
Our kids need all of it to succeed in this life. If any part is missing, they’ll have a rougher time of it. As parents, we can’t throw in the towel before we get them to the finish line. We have to hang in there, even when we are tired and even when they would just rather us not.
I’ll still finish up my kids’ laundry for them rather than making them do it sometimes, and to my husband’s point, I could certainly make them do more around the house.
But just this week, I was going to be delayed getting home one evening which meant I would miss being able to fix dinner. Worried, I said as much to my oldest son who said, “What? Am I six? I can handle dinner, Mom.”
That’s the trouble with raising capable children. You work yourself right out of a job.