Parent Advice You Don’t Normally Hear

Now that my sons are in their thirties, mostly well-adjusted, and pursuing their life callings, I’ve had the chance to rethink my parenting philosophy. Although I have limited data points, as my oldest with his political science PhD would be quick to remind me, I have developed three unconventional parenting axioms that I now swear by. They are:

Under parent your oldest, over parent your youngest

Any well-intentioned new parent will be armed with the latest parenting wisdom when their chosen one is born. They will climb any mountain, swim any sea, and pay for any lesson to give them a leg up on their future. It will take extraordinary amounts of time, emotional energy, and cash to get them prepped, trained, and admitted to their rightful destiny.

By the time the last one comes along, though, we’re wiser, tireder (not grammatically correct, but if you’ve been there, you know it’s accurate), and perhaps a bit poorer. Thus, the baby ends up with fewer boundaries which translates into less accountability and ultimately more freedom. All of which can be a good thing, but many times not. And “when not” it can get expensive, just sayin’. To sum up, my oldest would have benefited from less parenting and more freedom and my youngest from more parenting and less freedom.

One caveat with this axiom is that when your first born arrives, you have no comparative data by which to discern the intensity level of your parenting efforts. My only advice—whatever your current level is, dial it back.

Lower your expectations

I didn’t say “no” expectations. I said lower the expectations you have. The overwhelming odds are that your kid/s will not be Division 1 athletes, valedictorians, or admitted to an Ivy League school. It is also highly likely that they will choose friends that aren’t good for them, experiment with drugs and alcohol, and have sex before they are married. Whenever we rigidly hold them to these extraordinary expectations, we set them, and our relationships with them, up for a lot of disappointment, frustration, and failure.

You can keep your inflexible expectations or your relationships with your kids. But you can’t keep both. Thankfully, I opted for the latter.

Obsess Less

If I had known my sons were going to grow up and move halfway across the country, I wouldn’t have been so obsessed with them when they were younger. We get preoccupied with our children’s lives to the point we forget about our own—and we and our marriages suffer. Eventually, our kids suffer too. Our insufferable hovering robs them of the life experiences that prepare them for their best futures. Just remember, those sweet bundles of joy will one day have a life of their own, on their own. Don’t forget to take care of yours in the meantime.

When my boys were young I didn’t have these axioms to work with. Perhaps they will work for you.

J. Johnson

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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