The Business of Parenting

I read one of the best articles on parenting yesterday. Five Habits of Exceptionally Likable Leaders. Oh, yeah, it’s an article on business leadership, but, really, as a former business major (really, I was, I had practically forgotten that) I could write a book entitled “Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Parenting I Learned in Business School.” Because, business done right, is an amazing thing. It’s just that we only see the corporate greed side of things when we read articles in the paper and watch the news.

Same thing with parenting. If we judged parents by what we see in the news, we’d come to the belief that all parents are abusive, drug addicted, felons. We all know that is false, but, at least here on the left, we can’t see that it’s also false for business.

All that to say, there is a lot in modern business practices that actually applies to parenting, this article is one of them.

He starts off explaining how well his company was doing and how he thought everything was fine. We find out quickly that this wasn’t the case. That reminds me of something I’ve seen in parenting over and over. As long as the kids aren’t getting into trouble at school or getting bad grades or back talking, we think we are doing a bang up job, and so does everyone else. Then we get sucker-punched with the truth of how our kids view us, usually when they hit puberty and the proverbial blinders are removed and kids no longer idealize us, but see us and all our faults.

You can go two ways at this point. My observation is that usually parents go on the offensive at that point. We get more strict, we crack down on the child. What this man did is what we should do. We need to self-examine at that point. What are we doing that is creating a problem? In my case, I was a very critical person before I was saved. I was raised by critical people who rarely offered any praise and I attended a church that was the same. I thought God was critical and harsh, therefore I was as well. As a result, when Farmer Boy hit his teen years, he became harsh and critical.

This was an eye-opening time for me. I sought advice from clergy, all of which were absolutely useless. One pastor said he had no idea what to do, another said I had to be even more strict with him, forcing him to conform to my will with threats of violent punishment. Not one person suggested that I try love and caring. (And I think it should go without mention, but I will, just in case you are wondering, Zelena was no help at all because he didn’t care.)

I was fortunate that shortly after things went to heck, I was led to the church I now attend where the pastor taught something radical, namely that God loved. I know people from my old denomination think that’s taught there, I would have said that it was when I attended ,but it’s not really, unless your definition of love is 1) a God who lets you do whatever you want yet, 2) considers you lucky that He condescended to save you.

His first point on his list is “Don’t complain in front of your employees.” Not even about the weather. Man, this really hit home for me. I think I do a good job of not complaining. I mean, I’m not like my mother who can find something to complain about all the time. In truth, I do far more complaining than I ought. I like to call it “being real” but it’s really just what it is, griping and whining.

His second point is really important and is unpopular in conservative parenting. Speak to people, teach people, the way they need to be spoken to, not the way you want to speak to them. Again, I really thought I was doing well at this. I have allowed my children to develop their own interests and have tried to encourage the positive attributes of their personalities. But most of the time, I have spoken to them as I saw fit. Not just in anger, but in frustration or even in what I think might be kind. Lately, I have been examining how I am speaking to my two more “difficult” children. I’ve been forced to ask myself if I’m speaking to them in a way that makes them receptive? Am I truly listening to what they are saying? Or am I just trying to get myself heard and, again, forcing them into conformity for my ease?

Point three gets discussed in a lot of parenting books. Pick your battles. I would just like to say on this that if you don’t learn this by the time you have a teenager, you can do some serious damage to your relationship. There are more important things than clothing and hair and make-up, but in some conservative circles, parents would rather battle over these and lose their children than to lose face in their church and community.

People follow people not ideas, is so important to remember as Christian parents. We can inculcate our children all we want in their early years but if we haven’t loved them, they are more than likely to walk away from the faith to get their need for love filled. Our faith can be important to us, our faith could even be the absolute truth, but, as Paul said, if we have not love we are a banging gong and a clanging cymbal. No one wants to be around that noise for long. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance, not His perfect theology, even as perfect as God’s theology is.

And, lastly, humility. Wow, there’s one my parents and grandfather could have stood to learn. Being humble was not something I was raised to be. It has taken its toll on my belief in God. I found myself recently realizing that I somehow had it in my head, without even knowing it, that being a Christian meant I wouldn’t be wrong. I would never have said it that way, but when God opened my eyes I realized that I had a lot to learn about humility. Being humble with our kids is important. My parents could never admit they were wrong, unless they had some sort of manipulation in play. My grandfather was the same (without the manipulation part). I modeled myself after them without even realizing it. Fortunately, as I said in the last section, God’s kindness leads us to repentance and He has been kindly teaching me about being humble.

I had been out of the workforce for many years before my brief stint at the cleaning company. I had forgotten just how cruel people are. I’ve been isolated, even since I left Zelena, in the safety of my church and among Christian and other kind and supportive friends. Working reminded me that the world honestly believes that a person performs better if abused and mistreated and insulted. Like I tell people, I left that job because it was too much like being married to Zelena. Never a good word to say, only finding everything I was doing wrong. When I asked if there was anything I was doing right, I was ignored.

That situation forced me into my current state of reexamining my parenting. I know I was doing better, but it wasn’t until I was faced with that pathetic behavior again that I realized that in many ways I was still doing some of the same things.

If a business wants to be successful, the boss has to put the needs and cares of his/her employees at a higher level than old tradition taught. If not, they face what the cleaning company faces, ridiculous high turnover rates. That’s terrible for business, but it’s deadly for a family.

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