…well, what I really mean is “Let Go My Ego” but the other way sounded more catchy. I apologize to anyone who thought this posting may be about waffles. Moving on…
Like many, there are times when I take constructive feedback well and other times when I get defensive.
Both my ego and my insecurities play into the moments when I don’t take feedback well.
Its caused me to think about how my ego and my insecurities can negatively impact my parenting.
This past week I finished Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. It’s a book that I’d highly recommend, not only for people who are currently parents, but also for those who hope to be parents someday or for those who want to take a deeper look at what grace really looks like in relationship.
I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning and middle of the book, but for some reason, the topics discussed towards the end of the book really impacted me—especially the portions about candor. While those chapters aren’t focused on ego and insecurities in parents, they do indirectly address them by what is discussed.
Where can my ego and insecurities get dinged as a parent? All over the place. Feeling pretty good about yourself? Think you do a pretty good job of being selfless? Get married and have kids. Both will put you to the test. Marriage and parenthood have revealed so much in me that I need to address to be a better person and follower of Christ. When it comes to ego, insecurity, and parenting, here’s just a few questions that have come up….
· Am I willing to admit when I’m wrong—both to my husband and my children?
· Am I able to acknowledge when I react vs. when I respond? Many times when I react, my ego is involved—I feel disrespected, slighted, or not appreciated in the way I feel I should be. Ugly!
· Can I accept feedback from my children when I’ve hurt them by my actions or words?
· Am I able to look at my blindspots or weaknesses as a mother and a wife and work on them?
· Will I be open-minded and apply wisdom about parenting that I receive from friends, family, and resources?
· Am I able to step back and let others love my kids and take care of my kids in their way instead of trying to prescribe how I want everything done? Different doesn’t mean wrong.
· Will I give my children the freedom to be themselves, even if some of their choices may embarrass me?
· Can I keep my mouth shut and let my husband and my children learn from their experiences or learn from someone else instead of feeling like I have to be the one to point things out? In counseling, I called this “stealing the light bulb moment” from someone. So often we want to speak truth into others’ lives because we want the credit or want to change them for our own benefit. Many times we need to 1.) let them figure it out themselves or 2.) let the Holy Spirit work in their lives. We need to trust that God can bring change or growth in others, even when it’s not through us. Don’t try to force change in others yourself. It won’t last and it strains relationships.
· Will I trust God for my reputation and care more about what He thinks than what others think about our family and our parenting decisions?
· Can I distinguish between a power struggle that needs to be fought for the good of our children or family vs. wanting my way?
· As the parent in the parent-child relationship, I have more power in the relationship with my kids. We are not equals. Do I use that power in loving ways or do I misuse my size, the volume of my voice, speed, use of words, etc. to overpower them and get what I want? Do I consider us equals when it comes to respect, dignity, and the value of their opinion (even if I don’t agree with their opinion)?
· Do I put my childrens’ and husband’s preferences before my own or do I want things to be all about me?
· As they get older, will I encourage interdependence and then independence instead of making all of their decisions or making them do it my way?
· Am I willing to sacrifice for them and not resent it or hold it against them?
Here are a few excerpts from Kimmel’s book that really challenged me (this section is kinda long, but oh so good. If you don’t feel like reading it all, just jump down to the prayer at the end):
Kimmel defines love as “Love is the commitment of my will to your needs and best interests, regardless of the cost (52).” Ego has no place in loving this way. LOVE IT! He expands:
1.) Love is the commitment of my will…in other words, doing the loving thing may not always come naturally to you. You may have to muster courage, say no to your fears, and place your feelings in check. Love is about making decisions based on the covenant we have with that person.
2.) To your needs & best interests…not to “MY needs & best interests.” Love sees our needs as a “B” priority compared to the best interests of the person we are called to love. It is not in our children’s best interest to give them everything they want, to make life easy for them, to side with them when they are clearly wrong, or to circumvent consequences for their sins. It is not in their best interests to facilitate false fears holding them hostage, to fight all their battles, or to rescue them from all their wrong choices. Love is about meeting their ACTUAL needs, not their selfish needs.
3.) Regardless of the cost…Secure love understands that loving someone is often inconvenient and sometimes painful. Loving your kids costs money, time, and sleep. It might cost a mom decades of time originally planned to be spent on her career. It might cost her her figure. It might cost a dad a promotion. It might mean that there are some amenities or lavish vacations you must do without. It definitely means eating crow, swallowing your pride, & asking for forgiveness a lot (52-53).
Grace can’t be some abstract concept that you talk about in your home. It has to be a real-time action that ultimately imprints itself on your children’s hearts…The primary way to give our children grace is to offer it in place of our selfish preferences. They receive grace when we choose not to commit sins against their hearts when our human nature would suggest that it would be okay to do so. In fact, the greater grace that children receive is when we can even see the sins we are inclined to commit against their hearts followed by our willingness to go against our selfish urges. Kids want things, need things, say things, or do things that either bother us, embarrass us, or hurt us. But sometimes we are hurt because we might be exercising immaturity, insecurity, or indifference. We take things that are huge to children and trivialize them, or we take small issues and magnify them out of proportion (141).
The third characteristic of grace-based homes is this: they are homes that give children the freedom to be candid. These are homes where what is on the child’s mind can end up as dinner dialogue without fear of payback. That’s because homes of candor create give-and-take between parent and children that promotes honesty dipped in honor. Grace makes the difference because it keeps honesty from getting ugly. It ratchets up the free exchange of heartfelt things to a much higher level of forthrightness—a careful forthrightness that guards the other person’s dignity (185).
We need to create homes where we talk about the deep and sometimes troubling issues concerning our children in a way that builds them up and makes them better people.We also need to create environments where our children have the freedom to do the same with us, and this applies to their disappointments in us as well. Kids have questions about their sexuality as they get older. They need to feel free to discuss anything with us that might be troubling without embarrassing them or sensing that it will cost more than it’s worth. In our weak moments, we might do something that angers or humiliates them or crushes their spirit. Grace-based homes provide an outlet where the children can respectfully voice their disappointment without fear of reprisals (186).
The most significant benefit of candor for our children can be the most painful to us. This happens when we allow our children to be forthright regarding how they feel about us. Most parents don’t even give their children this option. Children in these types of homes are quick to figure out that their mother and father aren’t interested in hearing their feelings about them. They aren’t looking for an authentic relationship at the heart level with their children. It’s common for these children to tell their parents what they want to hear rather than what is on their minds. This isn’t the pursuit of truth but rather the careful airbrushing of an illusion…The unwillingness to give a voice to the hurts we have placed in our children’s hearts is the epitome of high control…In contrast, it is our openness to “openness” that draws us closer to our children’s hearts and to God (198).
Kimmel later points out how much God values candor in His relationship with us (200). He wants honesty from us as we talk to Him in prayer. He wants us to share our struggles, hurts, and questions with Him and doesn’t hold it against us if it doesn’t come out perfectly. He doesn’t punish us if we express anger or disappointment towards Him (the Psalms anyone?). He accepts us as we are. If God wants us to be this honest in our relationship with Him, can we do the same for our children?
What about you, can you “leggo your eggo?” Do you know your insecurities and weaknesses? If so, how can you keep them from having a negative impact in how you parent your children? What buttons do your kids push that you need to respond to instead of react at? How quick are you to apologize to your kids?
Forgive my ego. Forgive my pride. Forgive how sensitive I am about my insecurities and failures. Give me a teachable heart. Help me to let go of my defenses. Replace my defensiveness with openness. Help me to approach my relationships with humility and Your wisdom. May there be less of me and more of You.
As we raise these children, may we be quick to admit when we’re wrong, be open to constructive feedback, and be willing on a daily basis to put others first. May our children see that it is normal to have weaknesses and how to deal with them in a way that brings You glory. May we lean on you in our areas of weakness. May your power and strength shine through us, especially in those areas.
Help us know how to speak to each child’s heart in a sensitive way. When we accidentally or intentionally hurt our children, may we be quick to admit it and work to undo the damage done. May our hearts be broken over how we have wounded those most close to us. Give us the strength and the courage to face our selfishness, our sins, the ugly in us that you need to change.
Lord, you do not have a “seen but not heard” relationship with your children. Help us to follow your lead and create an environment in our home where our children feel free to express their thoughts and feelings. May they know that we want to hear from them, even if it means having to face some ugly truths about ourselves. Help us to not take our childrens’ words or actions personally. And may we care more about what You think of us as parents than what others do.
As Proverbs 2 says, may you turn our childrens’ ears toward wisdom and their hearts toward understanding. Give them teachable hearts, ones that call out for insight and search for it as for hidden treasure (Berndt). May they come to value feedback as a way to grow and become more like You. May they be secure in who You’ve made them to be…strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and foibles.
We love you,
In Jesus’ Name, Amen