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Skipping the Rules

The college admissions scandal dominated the news and media outlets this past week. Wealthy families paid a college placement specialist large sums of money to ensure their teens’ admission to elite colleges. Those indicted included Hollywood actresses and venture capitalists, fashion designers and vineyard owners, dentists and college coaches. What is going on these days? Have parents lost their minds? Is this a rare occurrence? Or does “acting as if the rules don’t apply” happen more than we read about in the news?

I can remember years ago chaperoning a group of 12th grade students to an amusement park near the end of the school year. A couple students dropped out at the last minute leaving two open spots, so I decided to bring along my older two children Carley and Alex. Cameron, our third child, was left out, plus he was too young and too short to ride the big rides anyway. He was so mad! After a long day at the park, we arrived home to a new family member. Not a dog, or a cat, but a hamster. Kristen, my wife, felt so bad for Cameron not being able to go that she let him skip school and took him to the pet store instead. Cameron appropriately named the hamster Skippy which to him was a reminder of an epic day, but to us it was a reminder of our “parenting fail”.

By my own admission, we all do things for our kids that maybe we shouldn’t. It’s no excuse, but being a parent is amazing and rewarding while also very hard and extremely challenging. The uncharted territory comes with huge investments of time, lack of sleep, sometimes little money, heavy doses of discipline, with some worry thrown in and offers no guarantee that what we’ve done is going to pay off. We do our best and give God the rest!

Most of us have heard the word ‘Helicopter’ parents – those parents that hover over every single decision, grade, team and interest their children have. But the new parenting term I heard recently is ‘Snowplow ‘parent – this is one that clears any and all obstacles out of the way for their kids’ success. Attention parents (and I’m reminding myself too) – your kid needs to fail. Yes, that’s right. They need to experience what it looks like and feels like to get a poor grade on a paper, to lose a ballgame, to get their heart broken. It’s not going to kill them. They will learn to get up, dust themselves off, and grow from their mistakes – like you and I did. They may even seek your advice after a failure and realize you might just know a thing or two.

How does this all play out in marriage? Well, parenting can and does cause conflict between a husband and wife if you are not united. Kristen and I have two different personalities, therefore two different parenting styles. I am usually a ‘No’ person when she often says ‘Yes’. Our kids picked up on that early and would play us off each other. We had to learn how to respond and discipline as one. I can assure you this didn’t happen overnight. It took time and required much communication. We learned to go behind closed doors to discuss decisions and share frustrations, but never in front of the kids.

While you are two separate individuals, it’s critical you remain unified as one set of parents. Otherwise your kids will divide and eat you alive! Parenting did get easier as we figured out how to do it together as one. Decisions were still hard, but by working together, we decreased the conflict between ourselves.

Whether you have babies, teens or in-between – even if you are planning on having kids someday - it’s a good discussion to have. Talk to your spouse and decide how you can parent together as one. You can choose to be a helicopter, snowplow or “hamster” parent but I’m a firm believer in learning from other people’s mistakes…so take it from me, this is one lesson you don’t want to skip!

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

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