Creating Stress For Your Children

There’s a difference between stressing your children out and intentionally allowing them to live in the tension of life circumstances. I am discovering this every single day that I am a parent.

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com

My 12-year old daughter flakes out a lot. And when I say a lot I mean, a lot!

In just a few short weeks of school being back in session, she has forgotten her gym clothes, her lunch box, her change of clothes to wear after gym class, her homework, her deodorant stick for after gym class, and many other things. She’s going to lose her bike too! Not because I’m mean and will take it away, but because she continually forgets to put it in the garage, and leaves it behind our 12-passenger van. It will be gone because it’s going to get crunched under the van tires!

She’s a flake alright! But I love her.

Unfortunately, though, I find myself lecturing her over her flakiness. The other day, I lectured her about forgetting her change of clothes after gym class. The day after that, I lectured her over her lunch box and the fact that she continually forgets to wash it out, creating quite a lovely discovery at the end of a long weekend. I’m trying hard to not be this type of parent, I promise.

The other day, however, I did not lecture her over something else she flaked out on. Amazingly, as we drove along to school, I just spoke a simple line of truth and then said nothing beyond that. She sighed and exclaimed, “Dad, stop, you’re stressing me out!” No problem! I stopped right then and there.

Later on, after I dropped her off at school, I got to thinking- good! You need to stress out about this stuff. Until you stop flaking out on some of the realities of life, I want you to feel the weight of your decisions.

I know what you’re thinking- ouch dad! Ease up on the girl! Maybe you’re right…perhaps I do need to lighten up! 🙂

Actually, I know you’re right. Here’s why:

I’ve discovered, in more than a decade of parenting, and more than 15 years of working with families, that creating stress in your child’s life is unhealthy. Allowing the stress that you feel personally over something (your own hang-ups, workload at the office, or the frustrations you have at home) to rest on your children can be very destructive. Especially since they are still growing and their understanding of the way life works is still in development.

They are learning to live in the tension of living. You and I, being adults, have experienced more life, more tough seasons, more bad decisions, and more of the day in and day out stresses of life. They have not. But the truth is, they will. And my 12-year old is starting to realize how much the weight of her decisions can dictate her life. That’s a good thing!

After her statement to me in the car the other day, I asked myself this question- “I  don’t want to stress her out, but I do want her to learn how to make better choices. How do I do that?” The answer I came up with was this:

As a parent, I need to intentionally allow my children to dwell in situations where they begin to learn to manage the tensions of life, or the tensions of their bad choices. This is one of the healthiest things I can do as their parent. Lecture them? No. Add my stress over life to theirs? Absolutely not!

Stand by as their guide but allow them to feel the weight of their choices (or flakiness)? Definitely!

Question: What is your perspective on this? Do you agree? Disagree? What have you found to be helpful? 

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