Category Archives: Parenting

Completely Useless

Here’s the most embarrassing thing I can tell you about myself:

I am the best foosball player I know.

Foosball table

That’s right. You heard me. I do not personally know anyone who could best me at maneuvering a plastic soccer ball using only 11 armless men impaled by a steel rod. I developed this skill when I was 17.

In October of my senior year of high school, a friend and I found two old, broken foosball tables that were being thrown away and pieced them together into one working set. It’s a good thing that we kept the left over plastic men because our varsity basketball team played on that table so much throughout the course of the school year that we had to replace over half of the men. As a 17 year old I spent countless hours honing my ability to pass off the walls, fake shots, hit angles, defend every possible play from specific positions, and play equally well with either hand from any position.

I can’t count the number of times that skill has been valuable to me, but I can ballpark it around…

ZERO

My foosball ability is embarrassing because I now recognize what it represents—the fact that most hobbies require learning very specific skills and I chose a completely useless one.

If I had that year to live over I would not be the best foosball player. Instead I would possess the following skills:

  • Type correctly with my hands in the right position
  • Play the guitar
  • Play the piano
  • Speak a language other than English

Each of those skills have been developed by millions of young people because they chose to enjoy hobbies that allowed them to learn a useful skill. These realizations have changed my outlook on my responsibility to the next generation. I’m not sure my goals as a parent and educator have changed, but I am expressing them differently after wrapping my head around the ideas in these two posts.

I wrote this one about a year ago:

God Doesn’t Use Ordinary People

Marc Neppl wrote this one in October:

What I Wish Is Knew in College

I state my goals this way now:

I want those I am responsible for educating to love God and develop every ability He gave them into a useful skill that He will allow them to exercise.

Respect vs. Understanding

I have rarely had a problem being transparent. I think that I’ve done pretty well throughout my life admitting failures and weaknesses. I typically don’t mind discussing my shortcomings and needs with others who  have similar goals and can think through difficulties with me. And then I became a parent…

It is tough to admit personal struggles in parenting. It’s easy to admit my child’s problems, but much more difficult to confess that I cause many of those problems. It’s not easy to admit that I’m an imperfect father. In fact, I generally mess up with my children daily. I lose my temper, I expect too much, I expect too little, I belittle their work, I misplace value in their accomplishments, I fail to punish poor behavior, I fail to reward good behavior, I don’t admit to my children when I make a mistake…and the list goes on.

Most of my parenting mistakes are caused by a failure to balance two ideas:

I must treat my children with respect…BUT…I must understand they are still children.

respect vs understanding

When I fail to respect them I fail to recognize their individual personalities. I stop caring about their opinions, desires, and wants as I view them only as responsibilities. I forget that they have ideas and that what they are saying is important to them. I belittle their activities, experiences, and discoveries as childish or mundane. I tend to think of them as “in the way” or as a part of a job that I have been given.

When I forget they are children I start expecting a level of maturity and competency of which they are incapable. I get angry when they make simple mistakes and I speak to them harshly when they struggle with simple tasks. I expect them to know the proper way to behave in every situation and abandon their child-like imaginations when “important” things are happening. I choose not to understand their confusion about new experiences or inability to comprehend other’s actions. I expect them to anticipate adult behaviors and understand complicated processes.

Both of those problems sound really easy to manage in isolation. They are much more difficult to manage when they both must be approached simultaneously. The problem is that I tend to wildly swing the pendulum between those two ideas:

  • People I respect don’t make childish mistakes, so when I’m showing proper respect I forget they are children.
  • It’s very hard for me to show respect to someone when I am allowing for immaturity in every action.

Here’s the transparency- I DON’T HAVE THE ANSWER!!! I have some ideas and some things that I am trying to focus on to help me to find the right balance. Here’s what I’m trying to remember each day as I face the task of finding balance in my parenting:

  • A child’s value is not based in his accomplishments. He was made in the image of His Creator and that should be enough reason to respect him.
  • Immaturity is what makes childhood fascinating. It sparks imagination and learning.
  • Kids experience stress too. Their problems are huge to them.
  • Undivided attention is a great way to show respect.

What about you? How do you show respect to children while still allowing for them to be children?