Why is it that parents, kids and ego seem to be such an unhealthy combination?
I don't mean in the form of our children's success in school, sports or music.
I'm talking about behavior. I noticed this recently as my friend Lynne, mom of 5, reprimanded one of my children for behaving badly.
Shocked? No. I couldn't have been happier. Lynne and her husband love my kids, and she was spot on about the poor attitude one of my children was displaying.
Lynne and I easily correct each other's children. But we've often noted that there aren't a whole lot of people with whom we can do that.
In contrast when I was growing up, if Mrs. Cooper called my mother to report that I had behaved badly, my mother wasn't the least bit offended. Because my friends' moms were not being critical of her, they were just loving me, as my mom did their kids. Of course, I wasn't happy when one of those phone calls came in because I then knew I was in big trouble. But at least in this best sense, it really did take a village to raise a child.
My mother's ego was not tied up in my behavior. Her and my dad's goal for their five children was to shape our characters. They seemed to understand that that shaping process could be a very messy.
And, they lived in a time when whatever one's parenting philosophy, there was one thing which seemed universally understood -- children were little people with large-sized, flawed characters, who very much needed civilizing. Naturally then, in the process of raising a child and working to help him grow in integrity, that flawed character would occasionally, or maybe frequently, display itself. Even if a parent intervened in all sorts of "right" ways.
A parent's calling was to respond over time as well as she could to such displays -- not take them personally.
Today the common view of parenting, consistent among most parenting "experts," is that children's characters start out as essentially "clean slates" and it's up to us parents to write upon them. But if that's the case, then when our children misbehave it really is our fault as parents. It means we didn't consult the right expert or follow the right formula. It's all about mom and dad. If someone dares to correct our children, they are really correcting us.
As long as there is a prevalent belief that parenting is primarily about finding the right "formula," instead of helping to better shape an inherently flawed character, we can't separate our egos from our kids or rightly be a village for each other's children. We parents will be too busy being defensive about our parenting.