Living Through Our Kids

If only we parents were as successful as we demand our children to be, a dad recently remarked to us. At first glance, that sentiment seems reasonable, even admirable. Why wouldn’t we want our sons and daughters to excel, even surpass our accomplishments?

Some Parents Step Out of Bounds

It’s not so much the sentiment as it is the motivation behind it. That same dad remarked about the embarrassing scene that some parents make at their youngster’s soccer matches. Their children are involved in healthy activity and robust competition. The parents, on the other hand, are engaged in coaching and cajoling from the bleachers—screaming at the officials, berating their own son or daughter for letting the opponent steal the ball. The poor sportsmanship that some parents display is childish and shameful. What’s even worse is that some red-faced, loose-lipped parents are totally unaware of their behavior because they are so obsessed with winning. If only they could trade places with their kid. Wait … that’s exactly what they’re doing!

Winning Is All the Rage

It’s how you play the game. We’ve all heard that expression. More often than not it’s an expression that is mocked and ridiculed by those who believe that winning is everything. Vince Lombardi used to say that winning isn’t everything … it’s the only thing. Perhaps when it comes to the immense expectations and corresponding huge salaries of professional athletics, that message has some validity. But to beat that attitude into the heads of youngsters at an age when competitive play should be fun—to scream obscenities because of a youngster’s miscue or an official’s missed call—turns a joyful community activity into a public verbal lynching.

Living Vicariously

When Tom’s daughter showed real promise of going to New York and testing her vocal mettle on the stage, he got all excited. He encouraged her—no, he urged her—to go for it. He reminded her how good she was and how much potential others said she had. When she explored the possibilities and decided against it—even passing up a scholarship to a performing arts school—Tom felt let down. Dad’s ego was bruised because when he had the opportunity years back to “follow his dream” to the Big Apple, he didn’t pursue it. When he faced the truth, he realized that through his daughter’s opportunity he might, albeit indirectly, fulfill his own unrealized dream. Broadway! What an ego trip that could have been!

Sure moms and dads should encourage their kids. We want our sons and daughters to succeed. As the adults in this scenario, however, we should recognize when and why that encouragement starts to turn sour—when and why the yelling turns to anger. We’ve read about what can happen when rooting turns to rage.

When parents try to fill the voids in their own lives by jamming unrealistic expectations down the throats of their kids, it’s not pretty. And it can leave scars.


By dads2dads

Teens Watch What Parents Do

Stephanie writes, “My daughter has been sullen and withdrawn lately. She talks back and it’s not at all like her. My husband’s been going through a particularly stressful time with his job and we’ve been arguing more than normal. Do you think that has something to do with her change in mood?”

Teenagers watch their parents and how they treat one another. While it’s hard to know why a teen’s mood has changed, you should know your teen tracks your actions and reactions. Sullen silence may not be a sign that your teen is oblivious to home life. Instead, silence may indicate that your teen has raised the antennae and is picking up on your cues.

Modeling Behavior You Expect

We can both point to times when our children recalled instances in vivid detail of how they responded to a remark we made or an action we took. We are surprised to learn that something we did or said made such an indelible impression when the kids were younger. Sometimes the behavior our children mirror is beneficial. Sometimes it is not necessarily pleasing.

Bill is reminded of his insistence that his grade-school-age sons do their homework first before running off to play. Today that lesson has become a habit in his sons’ households and in their work. Tackle the “unfun” stuff first, get it behind you, then whatever follows will go down more easily. Throughout all the complaining, the moaning and groaning, Bill planted a seed that took root.

Tom’s penchant for being obsessive-compulsive when it comes to order and cleanliness has surfaced in a daughter’s behavior. When he can’t imagine why she’s so, so tidy, he only has to reflect a little closer to home.

”Chores were a weekly routine, like clockwork, and now I’m a clean freak,” Tom’s daughter recently told him. Immediately after she said it, her husband of 18 months quickly nodded. If something like that stuck, imagine the impact of irresponsible or negative behavior by a parent on a child.

Planting Seeds

Once again, if that’s true of positive behavior, it likewise follows that negative behavior begets negative behavior. Children, even teenagers, are incredibly impressionable. While they resist and rebel, they are also absorbing and processing. And much of what teens say they don’t like or want becomes the foundation for their adult life.

Of course there are no guarantees. Some parents are astonished at negative behavior by their offspring, behavior that mom and dad would have never condoned. He was from such a nice family, we sometimes hear it said about a teenager who commits a crime or does something completely counter to his upbringing. We all know the power of peer pressure, and many times we have seen examples where the pressures to belong to the group and to be “popular” produces inappropriate actions and sometimes devastating consequences. All the more reason for mom and dad to be the very best role models possible—planting seeds, creating balance.


By dads2dads