Dry Cleaner Parents


Just like we can drop our clothes off at the dry cleaners and get them cleaned up, many parents try to hand their kids off to someone else to raise.

We take our wrinkled or soiled clothes to the dry cleaner to have them cleaned and pressed by professionals. It’s so handy to drop them off and have them handed back to us looking like new. That’s what, in effect, dry cleaner parents will do with their children. They don’t feel equipped to raise them, so they “drop them off” for experts to fix them.

Frequently, these parents will be from a double-income home where both parents are either too busy for their kids or just don’t feel “gifted” to work with them. They are also accustomed to a culture that allows them to drop any possession off to a professional for cleanup, correction or repair — their car, their clothes, their broken watch… and their children. Although the home environment may have spoiled or damaged their child’s character or psyche, they hope a school, counselor, soccer team, or church youth group can fix the damage. (Plus, if something goes wrong, they have someone to blame.) Sadly, they delegate their most sacred trust: their own kids.

The problem: Dry cleaner parents don’t furnish their kids with the mentoring and authentic face-to-face time they require. They prefer to abdicate and pass the buck of responsibility.

The issue: Some of these parents delegate their responsibility, because they reason that connecting with kids is just not their specialty. They may have inadequacy or identity issues — either they don’t feel up to the task or they just don’t believe parenting is their thing. Others, I fear, are just self-centered and oblivious; they find it too much work for them to actually connect with their kids. Consequently, they hide behind the fact that they are busy with so many other priorities — even work, which enables them to pay for their child’s interests. These parents need to run toward the very challenge in which they feel they’re weak. They may also need to examine their schedules and their priorities to make room for actually relating to the children they are raising. Relationships make it all happen. Parents must build bridges of relationship that can bear the weight of truth.

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