Perhaps this is an oversimplification about parenting, but I believe the following statement is true: If parents parented with the bigger picture in mind, many of our problems would not be so big. This is especially true in the world of youth sports.
Each day you find that it’s easy to get caught up in just getting through today—today’s game, practice and sports drama— and parenting for tomorrow seems like an unrealistic undertaking.
When was the last time you thought about what type of adult you want your child to become? What kind of parent, employer, co-worker, neighbor or friend you want them to be? If you’re honest, you may have to admit that those thoughts are not always in the forefront of your mind as you deal with parenting matters that crop up each day.
Consequently, our parenting becomes much more complicated than it needs to be. Our struggles as moms and dads reveal more about our lack of purpose and intentionality than they do about our kids.
Let’s consider some of the ways that forgetting about tomorrow complicates today:
We focus too much on what’s not going right.
Negativity is easy for parents. It’s easy to see all the little things that your kids are not doing right. It’s easy to focus on all the things the coach or the team is not doing right. But negativity breeds negativity and pretty soon that negative energy creates a cloud in your home. If you are always noticing what’s gone wrong, and don’t take time to notice what your kids are doing right, they may quit trying because they just expect that nothing they do is enough.
This is where the bigger picture is so important. If you asked yourself, “will this really matter in a couple of years or even a couple of months?” and the answer is NO, then there’s a good chance that it shouldn’t matter today either.
We expect too much of our kids.
In an effort to raise kids that are well-behaved and experience success, parents often place expectations on their children that are simply not age-appropriate. Temper your expectations according to your child’s maturity. Don’t expect an 8-year-old to think through things like a 13-year-old can.
Because children grow up, we think a child’s purpose is to grow up, but a child’s purpose is to be a child. (Tom Stoppard, British playwright)
If you keep the bigger picture in mind in your parenting, you will remember that just because your 10-year-old is a goof-off and doesn’t want to do their best in sports now doesn’t mean they will always be that way. As you teach and train, keep in mind that parenting is not a quick fix, but a long haul.
We are too controlling and fearful.
Parents—especially sports parents— fall into the bad habit of trying to control their children’s experiences because they are fearful of what will happen if they don’t. Fear and the need to have control go hand-in-hand. Those two parental urges cause parental anxiety that will be felt by your kids. On top of that, they do nothing to help your child learn and grow from difficulties.
When we parent for the future and not just for today, we understand that our kids NEED to deal with difficulties and learn to solve problems on their own. That’s what’s going to make them strong adults. And quite honestly, the urge to control — the urge to fix — is the easy way out for parents who often feel like life is so much more manageable when they step in to “take care of things”.
When I think of all the time I wasted on worry, it makes me sad. Of course, hindsight is always 20-20, but worrying is still a temptation for me.
If I’d remembered more often to parent with tomorrow in mind, I would have focused on solutions more than worries.
Stop and think for a minute about what you could be doing instead of worrying. You could be seeking to understand the situation by listening and talking to the right people. You could be present with your child and enjoying moments with them that will never be repeated. You could be coming up with a good solution, instead of what-iffing yourself to death.
Worry takes emotional energy and does no good. Start looking for ways to reframe the situation and spend your efforts on things that really will make a difference.
We expect too much of ourselves.
Have you ever hated yourself because you blew up at your kids? Have you ever felt like a failure as a parent because you didn’t handle a situation in a better way?
Of course, you have! Every parent has, and here’s what every parent needs to know and believe: Parenting is a journey of growth just as much for you as it is for your kids. God didn’t make you a parent because you are so smart, and you have it all together. He made you a parent because He wants you to grow up as you help your children grow up.
Give yourself a break when you blow it. Ask your child for forgiveness, think about what you should do differently next time, and then move on.
Parenting with tomorrow in mind means you understand that parenting is a marathon, not a sprint and that it’s 18+ years of training. Your child will most likely not be ruined by one mistake you made or transformed for the better by one conversation. On rare occasions, it may happen, but most of the time, not.
When you find that parenting has become so hard and draining, stop and ask yourself if you’ve made it more difficult in any of these ways by not seeing the bigger picture.
Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.