I recently read an article online published by Mark Gregston. Mr. Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and executive director of Heartlight Ministries. As I read the article about the “Me Generation” I was struck by so much of what was shared by Mr. Gregston. I was struck by Mr Gregston’s comments that “Baby Boomers were so bent on having better relationships with their children than they had with their own parents, they tended to set aside their primary role as parents. Their desire to be their child’s best friend spawned a self-centered, demanding, ‘Me Generation’ who believes the world revolves around them.”
How did this happen? We must go back in time. In the 60’s and 70’s there was a revolution. Millions of “Baby Boomers” fell head over heels toward relationships and feelings of love for all mankind. Our music and lifestyle expressed our desire for universal peace and love. We swooned to lyrics like “all you need is love.” There was a “whole lotta’ love” going around. And we “showered the people we love with love…showing them the way that we feel.” Then we took our desire for peace, love and affection right into our parenting style.
Baby boomers as parents focused on maintaining peace and love, at all costs. We determined to have better, stronger relationships with our kids than we had with our parents; carrying out these normally good and healthy desires to an extreme. Out of financial abundance, we gave our kids everything they ever wanted, and more. Modern conveniences allowed for more free time and less responsibility. Soccer moms equipped with minivans shuttled kids from one event or activity to another, with stops at McDonald’s in-between. We indulged, spoiled and provided too much “stuff” as misguided expressions of our love.
What’s wrong with too much love? Nothing! But there is something wrong with it if it is our only focus. To put it bluntly, placing kids on a pedestal and focusing our lives on them created feelings of entitlement. Kids began equating our love with our pocket book and our willingness to do things for them. And they do to this day! Their thrills in life came from getting new toys, new clothes, new honors, and new excitements. They became demanding, selfish, adrenalin junkies, searching daily for new thrills and more and more “fun.” When the excitement ended or the money train slowed, they became angry. We wanted to be the best parents ever, but the more we focused our attention and our money on our kids, the more they fell into anxiety, depression, and outright defiance. After all, they wouldn’t admit it, but deep down they were terrified for what they would do after they left the comforts and indulgences of home. Does this sound familiar? Do you have a child like this living in your home right now?
The crux of the matter is that it is hard to be a good parent when our focus is on having peace, love and friendship with our children. This becomes especially difficult in step-families and some adoptive families. The crucial role of correcting and holding children accountable is impossible when our overriding concern is to avoid any form of damage to our “friendship.” But what we need to realize is that our children need parents first, not more friends.
So, the big question is this: How do parents establish their position of authority, while also maintaining their relationship with their child? In other words, how do we find a proper balance without swinging the pendulum too far the other way?
Tell your teenager…”I desire to stand beside you and walk with you in life…but make no mistake; I will stand in front of you when I need to.”
A simple answer is to say things like “No” and “Maybe” more often; and we need to apply boundaries and consequences when our kids cross over the line. Balanced parenting is applying strength when needed; and tenderness at the same time. Hebrews 12 and the Proverbs, chapters 1-13 are perfect for this guidance. The essence of balance in parenting is to stand beside our children and walk with them through life, while also determining to stand in front of them when we need to stop them from their foolish ways.
My children know that I am an authority in their life. But that is coupled with acceptance and love. Our goal should be to help our kids get to where they want to be, and keep them from going to a place they really don’t want to end up. But since they are too immature to know any better, we need to remain in control, no matter how upset it makes them temporarily. Then, as they mature in their thinking, the reins can be gradually released. Believe me, your kids will express their appreciation when they are older for holding them in line as teenagers, and they’ll realize that you did it out of love, not to be mean or rigid. In fact, they’ll ask for advice when they have children.
Scripture describes God as a mighty warrior and a fierce lion. Scripture also reveals His softer side, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Isa 66:13). One purpose of parenting is to give a child a taste of the character of God, and that means giving them both sides of His character.
It’s never too late to start being a balanced parent; have a loving relationship, while also holding them responsible. This is what I’m trying to do! My children need correction, wisdom, and my willingness to help them travel the path God has for them. They need me to be gentle and loving, but also firm — a clear reflection of both sides of God’s character.
You see, we must not grow weary in doing what is right, (Gal. 6:9), since our first job is to be an authority in our child’s life. You see, my teen and my three other children need a parent and a friend, but when push comes to shove, they need me to be a parent more.