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Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Sin of Prideful Parenting

There is a phenomenon that occurs that is so obvious, yet when it is happening to us as parents we can completely be blind to the reality of it.  It has the ability to chisel down relationships between us and our children, creating barriers that only become more solidified through time and as they age, the walls they build as defense mechanisms only reinforce the distance that we create by not realizing this phenomenon when it occurs and circumventing it with the mindful compassion, love and attentiveness of Christ.

                                                             courtesy of google images

What is this phenomenon, you might be asking yourself? It occurs when we lose our objectivity, most often in a public situation, when our children might be acting out whether in defiance, anxiety, or frustration and we allow the thoughts of others that might be witnessing it and our concern for how they interpret the events so effect us that we neglect the direct and immediate emotional and spiritual needs of our children.

Most parents I come across, myself included, feel completely "on stage" in public when our children are misbehaving or having an emotional outburst. Many of us at these moments tend to feel our children are the only ones that act out in this way and that there are "expectations" on the way we are to respond. Sometimes we let those "expectations" get in the way of our objectivity, for there are instances when a child can be genuinely sad, frustrated and anxious. We see this a lot more easily and directly in other people's children and then witness their responses that seem unnecessarily harsh and cold, not realizing that we are guilty of the same thing! Certainly, when our children are genuinely emotionally effected by an event, image or other stimulus our natural reaction should be one of compassion and love towards that child, to comfort them, not to rebuke them out of frustration, anger, or yes, embarrassment.

 When we feel that "all eyes are upon us" many of us lose sight of the root of the problem, or sometimes the background of what elicited this sudden outburst (perhaps a known fear or anxiety) and begin to see it as everyone else does that doesn't know our children as well as we do: as a behavioral problem. And when our children have "behavioral problems" the fingers are now not pointing at our children in rebuke they are turned around and pointing at us, for bad parenting!  Embarrassment and sudden self-condemnation ensues and we react in a bitter manner, often wounding our children emotionally by harsh words and sudden decisions that we might haven't had made otherwise if our judgement wasn't clouded.  If you can't relate to this scenario, I applaud you! But I know many, like myself, that can and I think something that is something that's important to write about.

Embarrassment is a form of pride. It's a form of pride because when we experience being embarrassed we are steeped in "self". When embarrassment arises in a situation with our children acting out in public we are now not thinking about our children, what they are going through or the situation at all, and at that point we are rejecting the reality of our opportunity to have the mind of Christ entirely. We are instead thinking about ourselves and how we  look at that moment to others. This  causes us to lose all objectivity and plays into any insecurities and fears we might have as individuals! It hinders the parenting process and at the end of it all we tend to end up looking foolish and hot-headed to the very people whose opinions concerned us in the first place, many times mere strangers who we will never even see again!

More tragic, when we respond with anger and bitterness fed by our insecurities and pride we have wounded our children's feelings and hearts and have taught them to respond to their sinful nature of pride instead of with the grace and compassion God gives us the ability to respond with. After all, we are new creations in Christ! We don't have to respond the way we think the world wants us to, or the way our minds tell us to at that moment, we need to respond the way God calls us to!

I don't know about anybody else but I don't want to take my parenting lessons from those in the world that are filled with just as many flaws and baggage from childhood wounds as I have. I want to take my lessons from the only parent whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness never fails, whose patience endures throughout infinity. With a new and changed heart, purchased for me in the costly blood of the only man, God-incarnate, who never sinned. I don't want to care more about what people think of me than what how God calls me to respond and the person that scripture claims I am as a new Creation in Him. I want to respond to all situations, including those with my children, with love, compassion and wisdom and with Christ right at the center of my motivations.

I feel as if I could write a book on this! I don't want this post to be too long though. The Bible is filled with gems and jewels for the parent to behold in terms of wisdom and advice. May we turn to His Word to change our hearts, to have them rest in His presence and peace and to look towards Him and away from ourselves for guidance so that when these situations do occur we can respond with love and objectivity. For sure, sometimes our children do need to be rebuked and punished, but let us respond with wisdom and compassion, not out of the bitterness of being embarrassed and the fear of earthly rejection or criticism.

Thought? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the Comments section. Thank you!


  1. I have to admit when I saw the leader to your link regarding being embarrassed by your child I was thinking more along the lines of the things that Samuel comes out with, dancing in the middle of the shopping mall, etc.

    He is very well known for voicing his opinion and not always what you would class as politically correct. He is getting better with that as he's getting older but I haven't had to deal with the outbursts or the acting out in public, he's 12 and I have been very lucky with him. Mind you he is so laid back, he's practically horizontal :)

    I always feel for parents who are having a moment with their child, there's lots of people ready to cast a disgusted eye over them, too many people quick to judge making parents feel inadequate and as the child feeds off the vibes of the parent, the situation escalates before it burns out.

  2. Bravo! Excellent advice on parenting, Jessica! My boys are 23 and 27 and I STILL need to remind myself of this sometimes -- haha!

  3. Great post....I am reminded about this by my boys who are 26 and 24... Parent for 'US' and not for THEM... they say...( which used to be my words...)

  4. Excellent post Jessica! I was also thinking in the same lines than SJ :) What you are saying is so true and we need to read something like this to ground us again :) Thank you for sharing.

  5. I'm not a parent yet but I've experienced mothering children in a another way. Maybe that's why it would be totally different in my case. However, I agree that most of the times, our emotions esp. in the form of embarrassment could go as far as blurting hurtful words/ even cursing our kids when they act out.

    But as I progressed in years, God made me realize how He looks at me gently and patiently. And I guess, it (pride and embarrassment) isn't the case all the time Jessica. It depends on what your disposition is at the moment that makes you react that way.

    I think we are called to be constantly aware of our actions and re-actions. We agitate when we do not meet our standards.

    My teacher in caregiving class said the best way to teach parenting/parenthood is to become one. We do learn by experience (I guess I'll be able to share it fully when I mother my own).

    So the art is to keep on focusing on the Other ;)

    I reflected on the Lost and Finding of Jesus at the Temple and it made me reflect on how Mama Mary reacted on Jesus being lost in the crowd and how Jesus appeased His mother. What a beautiful relationship they have :)

    It's always good to look back at how we were as kids.

    I just love your post. It makes me reflect a lot :) Be always at peace...

  6. Jessica great advice thankfully I never went through this type of behavior with my 5 children, but have seen it all to many times. I have often look at the parents and shake my head in times where you can see that the parent is loosing his/her cool. On a few occasions I look at the child and see that no one but their own parent is to blame.

  7. Jessica, thanks for the insight. What you've said about embarrassment being a matter of pride is profound. I agree that sometimes parents are more concerned about how others perceive their parenting skills than whether they are guiding and teaching their children.

    I would also like to add that as parents we have much to learn from our children. They teach us about unconditional love, loyalty, patience and worry. They are an extension of our being and a gift from God. We should never take them for granted.

  8. Jessica - like the others I hesitated coming over after seeing the snippets. This surprised me to be honest because I am a liberal and forgiving to a fault, but when it comes to children I am sensitive. I dreaded coming over for fear it would hurt me to read... Ahhh is all I can say now, so glad that I did. Great advise and post.

  9. Thank you all for stopping by and for your great comments :) I'm currently contemplating on a new title for the post...perhaps it doesn't really reflect it's content as well as I would have liked. Thanks for the tip! :) I loved reading all of your reflections.