The Character Movement

Expert Parenting?

Guest blog written by Pete Larson

Seven-year-old John sat in the back of his parents’ minivan and heard his name mentioned again and again from the front. John’s mom and dad were discussing their parenting techniques as they drove.

Earlier, John had been caught doing something that he’d been told repeatedly was unacceptable. John’s dad imposed what he thought was appropriate discipline to correct the behavior. John’s mom thought that the punishment didn’t exactly fit the crime, so they were discussing it. John sat and listened (probably agreeing with mom!).

Finally, he chimed in, “You two don’t have a clue how to raise a kid, do you?”

Mom and dad looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“You’re exactly right,” said John’s dad with a smile. “You are the first child we’ve ever had. We plan on making all of our parenting mistakes on you. Things should go much better for your little sister.”

Parenting is one of those things that you have to learn as you go. We make mistakes. We try to learn from them. We get better.

One day, I was talking with a mom of a 15-year-old son. She felt like she didn’t know how to be a good parent. She had read some books by “parenting experts” and they just made her feel more incompetent than ever before. “I’m just not an expert at parenting,” she exclaimed.

I replied, “To become an expert at anything, you have to put in long hours studying your subject. You do experiments and test theories. You put in time and effort to know your subject more than anyone else.” I looked her in the eye and said, “You may not be an parenting expert, but you are an expert when it comes to your son!”

She looked confused. So I continued. “Nobody knows your son like you and your husband do. By the time your son was four-years-old, you had studied him enough to have the equivalent of a master’s degree in your son. By the time he was six, you had a doctorate. You know more about your son than anyone in the world. You know what makes him laugh. You know what makes him sad. You know what scares him and what brings him joy.” We don’t need to become parenting experts to be expert parents.

The 17th-century nobleman and poet John Wilmot said, “Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children. Now I have six children and no theories.” After being a parent for nearly 23 years, I often feel the same way.

Give yourself a little credit. Most likely, you are a better parent than you were a year ago. Go ahead and get advice from the parenting experts and from other parents who have been there before. But just remember, you know more about your child than any of them. You truly are the expert!

Pete Larson is married with two sons in college and lives in the Minneapolis area. He is currently the Executive Director of Family Fest, a nonprofit organization in Minnesota that aims to strengthen families by offering family camps, couples retreats, youth retreats, presentations and family service opportunities. Pete is a former Youth Frontiers staff member. He delivered retreats across the Midwest in the 1990s and was instrumental in the early growth of YF.

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