The Bad Kids. You know who they are…
The kid who drew a violent and inappropriate picture in school. The child who threw a tantrum at the store because she didn’t get a candy (and the mom who gave in to the cries), the child who kicked the teacher and spit at her. THE BAD ONES. The ones you wouldn’t dare invite over to your son’s birthday party or your mommy play group.
And speaking of parents, they are just as bad! Letting their children get away with murder. Giving into cries and whines at the grocery store. Letting them watch violent and inappropriate television shows. It’s really no wonder those kids act out the way they do!
If only their parents read more parenting books. If only they were consistent in discipline. If only they disciplined at all…
I want to tell these parents so many things. So many personal experiences that if they only heard, would change the way they saw themselves and their kids.
So here goes. Listen up, parents of the Bad Kids. This is for you…
Your child is not bad
Milk goes bad, meat left out at room temperature goes bad, vegetables in my bottom crisper drawer go bad…but not kids. Kids aren’t bad and don’t “go bad”. Do children make bad decisions? YES (just like adults do). But children are not weighed on a goodness scale. They are kids. People. Human beings developing in a sometimes difficult world. They don’t need to learn the mathematics of positives and negatives in an attempt to be deemed “good”. Let them just BE. Give them space to learn about emotions and consequences and rewards without letting those learning experiences define them.
I don’t judge you
I see you. I may not always understand your specific struggle, but I see you. I see you have hard days, sad days, days full of anxiety, days of loneliness, days of exhaustion, days of fear and dread. I SEE YOU. I validate those emotions and know you are doing your best with that you have been given. I won’t judge you if you give your child a sucker after an exhausting trip to the grocery store (or even if your child kicks a teacher!). There is always more to the story than meets the eye. I promise not to make snap judgments of you or your child, no matter how big or small infractions are.
I respect your privacy
Your kids may be throwing sand on the playground and you may react in a tone (some deem) to be “too soft”. Or maybe your child just threw Legos all over the room because it was time to go and you swatted their butt. Or maybe you see your child running amok all over the church courtyard and you do nothing but drink your coffee. I won’t call you a pushover, or abusive, or oblivious.
I’ll call you a PERSON.
A person who may be going through a divorce and needs the quietness of coffee and Jesus at church (while letting her kids run around in a safe place). A person who knows her child will immediately apologize after a well-measured swat on the butt. A person who was in an abusive relationship and has a hard time speaking in anything above a whisper now.
Or maybe it’s none of those extreme things. Maye you just had a bad day at work. Whatever your reason, it is valid. Your emotions are valid. You are doing what you can in that moment. I respect your parenting decisions and your privacy. I don’t need to know the details of your past or present situation before I accept you.
Your struggle is real
When you tell me you are struggling with your child, I won’t dismiss it as a stage, or “bad parenting choices” or say “this too shall pass”. I will support you by acknowledging your emotions. I will hear you when you cry that you are feeling overwhelmed. I will offer camaraderie by sharing my own struggles. I will be transparent, approachable, and loving because I know that is what you need most right now. And even if you choose not to share those struggles aloud, I will understand that everyone is facing a battle I may know nothing about. I won’t dismiss the possibility that you are struggling and doing your best.
Let’s get away for a while
I know that parenting is hard. I know that it consumes us and we are never quite “off duty”. But let’s try. Let’s go see a movie, have a meal, let’s go and enjoy some tennis lessons Miami or walk around the mall…anything to help us feel whole again. I’ll even arrange for my babysitter to watch your kids, too. How does Friday at 5 sound to you? I’ll even pick you up!
You may have noticed that the things I want to say to these parents are not tips or advice. Once upon a time (before I had kids), that might have been the tone of this article. But not now. Now I have two boys who sometimes are the most helpful boys in the world, and sometimes look like they’ve never received a minute of discipline in their entire lives. I’ve felt the looks of judgment from strangers, friends, and family as my kids (and I!) have difficult moments. I understand the deep yearning these parents have for compassion, grace, and support.
So to the parents who came here thinking I was going to sit here and dole out one-size-fits-all parenting advice to the mom with the “Bad Kids”, would you read this:
Before we judge another parent, have you considered…
Are these parents battling depression and having a hard time staying positive?
Did they lose a child and are choosing to spoil their now one and only child with gifts and love?
Are they foster parents limited by the discipline choices available to use?
Are they parenting a special needs or exceptional child with no respite from their daily needs?
And after considering all these possibilities, consider this: does it matter?
Do these parents need to have a big story to validate their parenting style? Can we possibly just accept, love, and support them as they are? I hope so. Because I am a parent who desperately needs to hear the answer to this question as a yes. Are you?
Would you share this with a parent who needs to know you support them?