Self-proclaimed “experts” abound. They write books and articles, appear on the news, offer conferences and workshops, and set up websites. Some of these “experts” have a wealth of wisdom to offer, while others are offering up nothing but hot air (at best). I do my best to be one of the former, but you can be the judge of that. At any rate, perhaps no issue has attracted more “experts” than the ever-challenging role of parenting. Now, I’ve got my opinions as to who are authentic parenting experts and who are the quacks. If you take any time to peruse my website, you will get some idea of the experts I endorse. However, there is one expert I want to commend to you as a parent that I believe tops the list. And the winner is:
The parent in YOU that makes great decisions when you calmly think through a difficult situation and make the best choice for your family without worrying about what the experts say. Often when parents make poor choices in relation to their children’s upbringing, it is a result of one of two things (or maybe both). One common error is making decisions out of our emotional reactivity. This means we are short circuiting our thinking/reasoning capacity, and blurting out choices based purely on our immediate emotional reactions. Don’t get me wrong. Emotions are an extremely important part of our makeup as created human beings. God gave us our emotional selves. However, most of the time when something happens that doesn’t go the way we would like (as with our children), there is some element of fear mixed into our immediate emotional reaction. AND FEAR IS NOT A GOOD DECISION MAKER.
When we take the time to process our emotions in response to whatever our children have done or said or hinted or whatever, we are actually turning to the expert within ourselves and sorting out good wisdom from knee-jerk reactivity that is likely based on fear. And we drastically improve our chances of making a really good parenting choice. It starts with taking time. Granted, with very young children, you need to act fairly quickly so they will connect your response to their behavior. Plan ahead. Many of the goofy things young children do tend to fit into some basic categories, so have responses ready for each category. This way you don’t have to think so quickly, and you set yourself up to make great decisions. As children get older, particularly through the adolescent years, their choices become much more complex, sometimes requiring more thoughtful responses from parents. So, take your time. Let them wait. Who says you have to deliver some grand consequence at the moment trouble arises? Some expert?
Which brings us to the second major reason for parents making poor choices about child-rearing – we are so quick to second-guess ourselves, because we are surrounded by so many “experts” who know far more than we do, and yet can’t even agree with each other. “So, how could I possibly make the right choice without expert guidance?!? My kids will just have to do their best to survive my feeble attempts at parenting.” If you find yourself caught in this frame of mind, please snap out of it! You can do it. You have good and reasonable parenting instincts within you, even if your own upbringing was awful. Even if you have made terrible mistakes as a parent, you can change. I truly believe you have it in you to be the best parenting expert your kids need.
Some will find it helpful to receive the guidance of some good books or counseling along the way, but the purpose should be to help you develop your own healthy parenting ability – not learn how to parrot the techniques of some other “expert.” I believe the primary reason (among many) for this widespread parenting self-doubt is the tremendous mobility and disconnection of post-modern families. We all need teachers and mentors and people who believe in us. Without experienced family members to teach and guide and affirm us in our life’s journey as parents, it is natural to turn to someone else. And there are so many competing “expert” voices, it can make you want to throw up your hands and quit.
But don’t quit! Here is how I determine if someone is a bona fide parenting expert. I ask, “Does their advice make sense to me, does it fit within my Biblical worldview, and does it work?” And by doing that, I am basically proclaiming myself to be expert enough to discern good from bad, in the parenting arena. Try it for yourself. I’ll be you can tell the difference, just as well as I can. And you may just find that your own instincts and ideas work better than those of the “experts.”