Do you really want to say that to your child?

Right now I’m sitting in an almost empty coffee shop section of a huge church in San Antonio. I’m alone except for a mother, grandfather and a child of about 8 years old seated at a table about 20 feet away. The child has an iPad as a babysitter while Mom and Grandpa stare into the empty cavernous foyer.

Occasionally Mom tries to get her son to do something other than play the iPad game and he bursts out, “I don’t want to do that. Leave me alone.”

Mom quickly obeys and grandpa just quietly minds his own business.

But then the little guy started into a screaming rant about the game that left mom helplessly watching and grandpa decided it was time to step in and exercise his authority. “Shhh. We’re in church.”

Remember, we are in a huge, empty foyer – more like a Starbucks than a church. I don’t think they even know I’m here. No one is in sight in any direction. No one is being disturbed by his noise, except mom and grandpa. And grandpa blames the need to be quiet upon being “in church”.

Should that bother me? It does. In fact it really irritates me and here’s why.

I’ve seen so many parents say and do things that baffled me. I just wanted to ask them, “Do you realize what you just communicated to your child?”

“Shhhh, you’re in church,” says the problem here is the church.

Little Rebel just heard, “I’m not the problem. Mom is not the problem. Grandpa is not the problem. The problem here is church. Church is a place you get in trouble for no reason at all. Me – good. Mom – good. Grandpa – good. Church – bad.”

But the problem is not that they are “in church” – cause they aren’t. The problem is Mom doesn’t love her son enough to endure the grief of confronting his self-will and helping him learn self-control. And who do you suppose she learned her poor parenting skills from? Instead of stepping in and telling the child to quiet down because civilized 8 year olds don’t throw a fit when they lose a game, grandpa blames the problem on the fact that we “are in church.”

Additionally, Grandpa just said church is a place you have to put on a mask – be fake. Outside church you can be a real horse’s patoot – scream and yell like a banshee when things don’t go your way – and it’s OK. But “in church” I have to be different. I have to “act” different.

Grandpa, the problem is not that we “are in church”. The problem is not even with little Rebel. He is just doing what undisciplined children, who are in bondage to their own will, do. The problem is:
1. You didn’t train your daughter to discipline her child. And worse than that …
2. Just now you were not willing to risk your grandson’s disapproval. So instead of assuming responsibility for being the one expecting him to behave in a manner befitting an eight year old, you shifted the blame.

Does this make sense or do I sound like a ranting 8 year old?
Tell me if I am missing something here.

Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.
– Proverbs 19:18

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  • Reply Claudia July 6, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Rick, I love your posts on parenting. You don’t sound like a ranting 8 year, nor a horse’s patoot (lol). And your 2 points about the real problem are spot on. We do a lot of parent training and try to hit on points like these quite often. I only disagree with one statement made here, and that is that the Mom didn’t love her son enough to discipline him. I think she most likely loves her son as best as she knows how, but like you point out, she wasn’t taught proper parenting, as evidenced by the way her father handled the situation. A lot of us grow up in disfunctional families and pick up bad habits from our parents. This is why we need more people like you to help point people in the right direction. Thanks again, and keep them coming!

    • Reply Rick Malm July 6, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      Good point. It isn’t really about loving enough as much as it is about knowing how to express real love. I’ll likely go back and tweak that phrase. Thanks for the input.

  • Reply Holly T July 10, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Spot on !

  • Reply Scott July 12, 2015 at 12:09 am

    Makes sense.

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