Oct. 3, 2016

How not to make this mistake as a parent

Negative effect of "good dad, good mom syndrome"in families

You who are parents, and I who am not, all know that the art of parenting is tough. Of course, there is great joy in having children as couples. Couples get excited mostly on two occasions: the wedding day and the day of arrival of their first baby, no doubt about that. The joy of having the baby is exhilarating, fun. John Thomas writes, "The arrival of the first child is a moment of immense personal satisfaction and importance for a couple. It will also be the moment that changed everything. Each marriage partner will have to accept new roles. Each will begin to think and act in different ways. While both spouses may consider the new baby a most blessed event, there will inevitably be moments of anxiety that are joined with those of wonder" (Thomas, J.L., (2002), Beginning Your MArriage, pgs.102-103). This is absolutely true.

What changes in marriage when children begin to arrive? Language changes, feelings change, attention diversifies, feeding habits, etc. Everything! The art of bringing up children has great challenges. It helps to strengthen the love between parents if well handled. It can also cause confusion if not carefully managed. Jealousy may set in. Some parents fail to balance the attention between spouses and children. While some give excess attention to themselves at the expense of the kids, some give excess attention to their children at their own expense. This can be a tricky game, but it does happen in marriage.

As children grow up, one great mistake parents make in marriage is what I call the "good dad or good mom syndrome". I had an encounter with a couple who almost had their marriage destroyed by this factor. One parent was giving the kids the impression that he/she was their better parent and that the mom/dad was tough on them. The children started loving him/her more than the other parent. This parent would gossip with their kids against his/her partner. They would say crazy stuffs about their mom/dad with the "good" parent without the parent-culprit knowing. It kept happening until one of the kids ran away from the house. The "good parent" was aware of the kid's whereabouts but didn't tell his/her spouse. The truth is that the children in their smartness had pitched their parents against each other since that was the smart way to get what they wanted. And then the hands of the "good parent" was tied. He/she didn't know what else to do. And that was ridiculous.

Recalling the great experience of Richard and Lois here, I still see in them a model of healthy parenting which could be helpful to young couples. Rich and Lois are now married for sixty eight years, and still strong together. They told me that one of their strengths in raising their kids was that they never disagreed before their children. Even though they might have different opinions on issues, they couple said they tried to settle their differences in their rooms. This made the kids never to think that any of their parents was a walk-over dad or mom. And the children love them both and respect them greatly. That's a great approach in parenting.

Take also the example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. At the Passover in Jerusalem, the child Jesus got lost. He was a teenager (twelve), the very critical stage of child upbringing. The parents looked for him and eventually found him on the third day. I'm particularly moved by the reaction and statement of the mother, Mary on finding the child Jesus. "...and his mother said to him, "My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you" (Lk.2:48). Mary used an inclusive language. She used the "we", the language of inclusive parenting. Mary didn't let the young Jesus feel that she was the better parent than Joseph. She made the young child know that his behavior pained her as much as it pained his dad. She didn't play the good mom here. What a lesson.

So, parents, avoid making the mistake of playing the good dad or mom at the expense of your partner. It has adverse effects. Children might like you early in their growth for being soft, for being "the real guy", but they will regret it when they mature. Parenting is a collective act, especially where both parents are living together. It could be dicey but it is a joy to see both of you stick together in your decisions. The good dad is the one who tells the truth to the children, so also the good mom. The good dad is the one who disagrees with the child when the child wants to make a wrong decision. The good parents stand their ground.

And you know what, as President Obama dined with Anthony Bourdain in a Vietnamese restaurant in May, the CNN documentarian told the president, "My daughter's eight and she put a ketchup on eggs the other day, and I didn't know what good parenting called for at this point". President Obama said to him quickly, "An intervention. I think you just got to say, you know what, this is not acceptable" (Check out Parts Unknown, CNN reports, Sunday, September 2, 2016). That's good parenting, sometimes it is not acceptable.