Parents, the biggest lie WE feed our children?


#1

I've only been a mom for 4+ years and have pretty much, since day one, gone to bed consistently with the feeling and somewhat guilt of not being a worthy mother.

I always feel like I could've been more patient, more loving, more giving, more thoughtful, more prayerful etc. I just think that a child's angelic presence reminds us what we were made to be and of our being made children of God.

Personally, I thank God for this eye opener because it humbles me and it makes me want to be a better person.

What throws me off however is hearing almost EVERY other parent constantly saying " I'm doing my best, or, well, I've done my best" every time a problem arises in the family.

I see something really wrong with this picture and I feel our own parents did us a lot of wrong in constantly justifying themselves with this concept It really goes to fuel our mediocrity instead of striving for perfection. It's also a huge way of not owning up to
mistakes.

My question I guess is, do those who say " I did my best" really believe it or is it a conscious way of excusing oneself?.

For instance, parents whose kids have gone astray and say: well, I did my best. I had to work long hours, or away from home to provide tuition funds and clothing and house etc... Do they really believe that that's what parenting means?

Is it ever justifiable for a parent to feed their child this lie?
I don't think we should beat ourselves up for not being perfect but I do think it would do our children a lot more good if they saw us struggling to be so rather than using this blatantly false claim as our excuse


#2

I think you have to be careful.

Certainly parents need to constantly strive to improve their parenting skills and learn more about good parenting techniques.

But it is possible for a parent to have false guilt and always blame themselves for the shortcomings of their children.

You say two things in your post that worry me. (I'm a 54-year-old woman who successfully raised two beautiful daughters.)

  1. "gone to bed consistently with the feeling and somewhat guilt of not being a worthy mother."

  2. "a child's angelic presence."

I think that it's possible that you have crossed a line, and that you are ascribing false guilt to yourself. The word "unworthy" is quite strong. I fear that you are beating yourself up, and now you are trying to justify it by claiming that it's wrong for parents to say, "I'm doing my best."

All we can do is our best. How much better can you do than your best? Obviously if a parent is excusing their own bad behavior by saying, "I'm doing my best!", then that is wrong. But most parents mean it when they say this. They are making choices that seem right to them. So are you.

That's one reason it's important to have a family or a group of friends to hold you accountable as a parent. You need to be involved with other parents and then you can all help each other to make wise parenting decisions.

You might want to seek some counsel about whether you are experiencing false guilt. You should not be feeling "unworthy" as a parent. A child will pick up on that, and then manipulate you.

Second, yes, I agree with you that children can be angelic. But they can also be little terrors! I think that sometimes, parents are hesitant to see any wrong with their child. The first time a child does something wrong, the parents should merely educate the child that they have done something wrong, and that if they do it again, they will be disciplined. And then follow through. A child who is wilful, defiant, and untrained is NOT angelic! Children are capable of having a sinful heart and doing sinful things. Parents should not see "angelic" when their child is being a pill and needs discipline!


#3

I’m referring mostly to the fact that being a mother really opened my eyes to my shortcomings. It really made me realize how in need I am of God’s grace and I think that’s much healthier than feeling like we are irreproachable because we’ve done our best. Having done your best means being sinless as God doesn’t hold ANYTHING above our capabilities as sin against us.

Our sinfulness is precisely our lack of doing our best but in our childrens’ eyes we try to convince ourselves and them that we are as great as we should be aka. We did our best


#4

For me it is always safer not to try to judge the will of another but to always assume their good intention ~ as well as our own. If not by our own mistakes, how else would we really learn?


#5

the biggest lie told about parenting is the notion than no matter how your child "turns out" it is your fault. We take pride in the national merit scholar or star athlete as if we somehow are responsible for her achievements, and we beat ourselves up and allow others to shame us if she turns out to be a (fill in the blank). Neither science nor religion nor the social sciences have any solid explanation for why a certain child is autistic, gifted artistically, has a sexual identity disorder, is diabetic, a math prodigy, a tennis star, a psycopath, so the "blame the parents" routine simply has no basis in provable fact.


#6

[quote="1inICXC, post:3, topic:250922"]
I'm referring mostly to the fact that being a mother really opened my eyes to my shortcomings. It really made me realize how in need I am of God's grace and I think that's much healthier than feeling like we are irreproachable because we've done our best. Having done your best means being sinless as God doesn't hold ANYTHING above our capabilities as sin against us.

Our sinfulness is precisely our lack of doing our best but in our childrens' eyes we try to convince ourselves and them that we are as great as we should be aka. We did our best

[/quote]

I think I look at it differently. Me becoming a mother really opened my eyes to my parents' shortcomings. BUT, they also came from a time when our society didn't have so much awareness or resources as we do know that gives parents today the skills and tools to be a better parent than their own parents were. When my mom has said "I did my best", I truly believe she did her best. Her best fell short in quite a few situations, but she didn't have the skills or didn't even know how to get the skills to parent better. People just didn't talk about parenting like we do now. Her generation just wasn't as pro-active as we are. I don't think she feels irreproachable when she says she did her best, she just didn't know any different when she made her parenting decisions with me and my brother.

My dad was similar, he grew up in a generation that a father was a good provider, not necessarily a good supporter. A father went out and worked. Fathers today are much more involved in their children's lives, in all aspects. My father didn't know how to be emotionally available. So when he said he did his best as a parent, he did because being a provider was all that he knew how to do. There is no sin in that.


#7

I think that the only lie that would matter is if we teach our children that everything bad is the fault of someone else and that we are responsible for all the good things.

Suffering is part of life and teaching them that all good (including trials) comes from God.


#8

In the sense of how each of us was raised or conditioned, we may beleive that we are doing the right thing only to find out years later (with age comes wisdom) that we were in fact miserable failures as parents. The really good news, is that God created eaach one of us in his own image and likeness, endowed with all the same gifts or availability thereof. In spite of my own shortcomings, my children are their own people, not my extensions or creations or products. They are loaned to me as unborn children in my womb, then I am charged to care for them, love them and teach them what I can. How they "turn out" is taking what they learned from me, what they discover for themselves or by God's grace and what they choose to do with their own free will.
Let yourself off the hook. Just pray for the gifts you need to complete your task as a parent and then move on. God makes each one of us individually. don't take too much credit or too much blame. It helps no one.


#9

[quote="puzzleannie, post:5, topic:250922"]
the biggest lie told about parenting is the notion than no matter how your child "turns out" it is your fault. We take pride in the national merit scholar or star athlete as if we somehow are responsible for her achievements, and we beat ourselves up and allow others to shame us if she turns out to be a (fill in the blank). Neither science nor religion nor the social sciences have any solid explanation for why a certain child is autistic, gifted artistically, has a sexual identity disorder, is diabetic, a math prodigy, a tennis star, a psycopath, so the "blame the parents" routine simply has no basis in provable fact.

[/quote]

This is certainly true in psychology. The days of "blaming the parents," particularly the mother, have gone out of fashion with the decline of acceptance of Freudian theory and the emergence of cognitive neuroscience. The parents no doubt exert some influence on their children, but there are a variety of other interacting variables as well.


#10

[quote="1inICXC, post:3, topic:250922"]
I'm referring mostly to the fact that being a mother really opened my eyes to my shortcomings. It really made me realize how in need I am of God's grace and I think that's much healthier than feeling like we are irreproachable because we've done our best. Having done your best means being sinless as God doesn't hold ANYTHING above our capabilities as sin against us.

Our sinfulness is precisely our lack of doing our best but in our childrens' eyes we try to convince ourselves and them that we are as great as we should be aka. We did our best

[/quote]

I am constantly forced to look back and I say, oh, gee, I should have done this, but then I look back and remember why doing that was not the best decision back then. IOW, we make our decisions with what we have at that moment.

And sure, we can mess up. I could take the money for my talented child's lessons and spend it on shoes, or whatever, and in that type of instance we were not doing our best. But I think a lot of that "I did my best" is an acknowlegement of the actual limitatiins we faced.

It is so easy to look back and say, it would have been better if we had done something else and then blame ourselves. But if we are honest, usually if we had known then what we know now, we would have.

Before I had children, I thought I'd be able to work from home with my baby sleeping peacefully in a bassinet. Well, my oldest was an active child who did not sleep very much, and wouldn't have stayed in her bassinet for very long :) Reality is just terribly kmperfect, we are imperfect, and that's life.


#11

To the OP -- you're simply struggling with something known as the "human condition"! We are all fallen creatures, and while some people may tell themselves that they are doing their best as a way of justification, most of us simply realize that we are trying our best and constantly fall short.

It is wise to also follow that phrase with "I must try harder to be like Christ" so that we don't settle for "the best." But again, due to the effects of original sin, we all find ourselves somewhere in between those two statements. Children learn that their parents aren't perfect, and the wonderful part is that learning that fact can be a helpful experience for the kids, in order to learn how to deal with their own struggles as they grow up.


#12

There are some things which are open ended. Some of the commandments are that way: Honor your father and mother, Keep holy the Lord's Day. How much honor do we owe our parents? How holy must we keep the Lord's day? We can never be perfect in these things because there is never a point where we can say , "That's it. I've done everything I'm commanded by these.

The same holds for many things in life. Parenting is a big one. (My credentials? I have 6 grown children). An Irish priest once explained in my presence that our parents did the best they could, given their situation, knowledge, resources, etc.

We do the same. We do the best we can with what God gives us. You see in scripture that God takes our small effort and makes it big, like in the loaves and the fishes. He can also take a bad situation and bring good out of it. ( My daughter and I both grew tremendously in our faith after she was involved in a serious auto accident)

A church in our region recently had a sign that said, God doesn't choose the able; He enables the chosen. When He gives you an important job to do, He gives the ability to do it: and He fills in the gaps if we let Him.

Humility comes when we realize we can't do it without God, and we ask for His help, listen for His guidance, and open our hearts to receive His grace. "Oh Lord, I am not worthy..."


#13

[quote="Sherry_G, post:8, topic:250922"]
In the sense of how each of us was raised or conditioned, we may beleive that we are doing the right thing only to find out years later (with age comes wisdom) that we were in fact miserable failures as parents. The really good news, is that God created each one of us in his own image and likeness, endowed with all the same gifts or availability thereof. In spite of my own shortcomings, my children are their own people, not my extensions or creations or products. They are loaned to me as unborn children in my womb, then I am charged to care for them, love them and teach them what I can. How they "turn out" is taking what they learned from me, what they discover for themselves or by God's grace and what they choose to do with their own free will.
Let yourself off the hook. Just pray for the gifts you need to complete your task as a parent and then move on. God makes each one of us individually. don't take too much credit or too much blame. It helps no one.

[/quote]

I pretty much agree with your statement. Half a century ago I made a decision I thought to be the right thing to do. It has come back with a vengeance. I relive the decision daily. It not only effected the one person it was intended to help, but now three generations have been effected adversely. I hope there are justifications for the mistakes we make.

Sherry G, this is not aimed at you. I am just throwing it in to get a reply without writing another post. What is the "Biggest Lie we feed our children?"


#14

This thread has been the most civil, friendly, compassionate, supportive thread I have read on CAF. I should have read them all before my comments to Sherry G.. All of you have a valid point to your posts.


#15

Something I picked up along the way that I believe is true is, "One mark of adulthood is forgiving our parents for being human." We "do our best", but it is a best with various limitations, including how our decisions will turn out in the long run and what the total situation is when a decision is made.


#16

You know what...when I feel that I could have done better or I should not have yelled, etc. I will tell my dd how I am feeling. I do just that. I say something like, "Mommy feels terrible for yelling at you yesterday. Mommy should learn to be more patient with you. You are a good girl and mommy sometimes just gets too angry. I love you honey. You are a good girl."

I am actively taking accountablity for my actions with my dd. I am letting her know that I'm not perfect and that I'm making mistakes. I think the important message she receives is that mommy's imperfections are not her fault.

I always take accountability and own up to my mistakes with my kids. I feel really comfortable with this approach and I plan on using it going foward as they grow older.


#17

I saw my mother struggle to raise 4 children alone. We all made poor choices throughout our childhoods/young adulthoods along with the good choices. But you what? My mother really did do the best she could. She did the best she could with the resources she had, and I am none the worse for wear for her not being perfect. Did she lie to us by telling us she was doing the best she could do? No, not in my opinion. Did she lie to us by telling us that she was not perfect and never would be? Of course not.

Neither are you lying to your children by admitting that you are not perfect and that you are indeed doing the best you can. Will you fail? Certainly, at some things. Will you learn from the failings? I sure hope so. Will you have great successes at other things? You bet! Will you learn from those successes, too? I pray you do. THAT's what doing your best means. It's not an excuse not to keep progressing. It's not an excuse not to continue to learn and improve. It just means that sometimes, despite your very best efforts and despite what you know to do, things will NOT work out the way you want them to. Sadly, sometimes that means that your kids will not turn out the way you wanted them to. Sometimes you just do have to realize that your best may not be good enough, but at least you did what you could.


#18

The biggest lie would read more like “I did a perfect job raising you” rather than “I did my best”. If we make those decisions with love and still make mistakes I believe we can say we have done our best.


#19

I am very uncomfortable when it is characterized as a lie when someone tries to put a good face on things. If you want to say that yesterday was "merely acceptable" and not "the best", OK, but let's aim a little gentleness at ourselves in how we put that. You'll be hard-pressed to be harsh with yourself now and then be as patient as you need to be when your children start growing hair on their legs. You'll want to have a sense of humor about human foibles by then, trust me on that!

I think parenthood puts us on the spot to walk the walk of sacrifice. The effort inevitably shows us how far from sanctity we really are. Are we doing our best? Mostly, yes. Should we be satisfied with that? Well, no. God's not going to be satisfied until he's made us into saints, and we ought to get used to that being the blueprint for this remodelling project! :D

Also, I want to echo the caution about seeing our children as "angels". Children who haven't reached the age of reason aren't culpable for their self-centeredness, but none of us started out as angels and magically became self-centered when we hit the age of reason. We all pretty much thought the universe revolved around us (or ought to have done so more than it was doing!) since Day 1! Our kids are not different than we were in that respect. If that comes as some sort of a shock to us, it will be our kids who suffer from our naiveté.

It might be, though, that the OP has yesterday's best confused with the eternal best that God intends her to reach. I think it was St. Teresa of Avila who said God is easy to please and impossible to satisfy. It is not that we aren't doing our best. It is that God intends to make eternity's best far better than yesterday's best. The work of getting from one state to the next is always done in a moment called "today." We get there by doing a fearless examination of yesterday in order to change today's course more toward our true goal, but not by beating ourselves up about it.

God intends to make us saints by his mercy, not by relentless application of condemnation. We have to repent in order to find that mercy and the grace to have God transform our weakness, but we aren't meant to spend a lot of time listening to the Accuser.


#20

[quote="Serap, post:16, topic:250922"]
I am actively taking accountablity for my actions with my dd. I am letting her know that I'm not perfect and that I'm making mistakes. I think the important message she receives is that mommy's imperfections are not her fault.

[/quote]

I have found it worthwhile in my interactions with my kids and in refereeing them that two formulas are important:
1) Apologies don't work unless the apology comes after the "but":
Excuse Wording: I'm sorry I yelled, I shouldn't have done that, but I'm really tired.
Apology Wording: I'm really tired, but I'm sorry I yelled. I shouldn't have done that.

2) There is almost never just one responsible person. Assigning blame to someone else does not automatically take the heat off of you. Examples:
"Mommy yelled and shouldn't have" does NOT imply "You were a good girl" any more than "You were being naughty" implies "Mommy can yell all she likes."
Rather, you can say, "Mommy shouldn't have yelled at you, and you shouldn't be using my things without asking. We both have something to work on, don't we? What shall we do about that?"

As I tell my kids, if you use other people's bad behavior as an excuse for yours, you'll always be the worst-behaved person in the room. Until everyone else acts right, you'll give yourself a reason why you don't have to! When others misbehave, we have to find good ways to respond to that. We aren't allowed to just react any way we like, and blame it on them.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.