Parenting Without Fear


Why have parents become so tentative about the task of raising their children?

Q: I worry so much about my children and wonder if I'm raising them wisely. Every few days my husband and I encounter a problem we don't know how to handle. Is it common for parents to feel this way?

A: Yes, it has never been easy to raise healthy and productive children. After all, babies come into the world with no instructions, and you pretty much have to assemble them on your own. They are also maddeningly complex, and there are no guaranteed formulas that work in every instance. And finally, the techniques that succeed magnificently with one child can fail bewilderingly with another.

This difficulty in raising children is a recurring theme in the letters we receive at Focus on the Family. We have heard it so often, in fact, that we decided to conduct a poll to ascertain the common frustrations of parenting. The answers received from more than a thousand mothers and fathers were very revealing. Some responded with humor, especially those who were raising toddlers. They told the most delightful stories about sticky telephones, wet toilet seats, and knotted shoestrings. Their experiences reminded me of the days when Shirley and I were chasing ambitious preschoolers.

Tell me why it is that a toddler never throws up in the bathroom? Never! To do so would violate some great unwritten law of the universe. It is even more difficult to understand why he or she will gag violently at the sight of a perfectly wonderful breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, bacon, and orange juice--and then go play in the toilet. I have no idea what makes a kid do that. I only know that it drives a mother crazy!

Unfortunately, the majority of those who responded to our questionnaire did not share funny stories about cute kids. Many of them were experiencing considerable frustration in their parenting responsibilities. Rather than being critical of their children, however, most said they were troubled by their {i}own{xi} inadequacies as mothers and fathers!

Their answers, including these actual responses, revealed the self-doubt that is prevalent among parents today:

"I don't know how to cope with my children's problems"

"I'm not able to make the kids feel secure and loved"

"I've lost confidence in my ability to parent"

"I've failed my children"

"I'm not the example I should be"

"Seeing my own bad habits and character traits in my children"

"My inability to relate to my children"

"The guilt I feel when it seems that I have failed my daughters"

"My inability to cope"

"Knowing it's too late to go back and do it right"

"I'm overwhelmed by the responsibility of it all"

Isn't it incredible to observe just how tentative we have become about this task of raising children? Parenting is hardly a new technology. Since Adam and Eve graced the Garden, perhaps 15 billion people have lived on this earth, yet we've become increasingly nervous about bringing up the baby. It is a sign of the times.


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