As a parent, do you ever feel prickly?
Merriam-Webster defines “prickly” as “covered with prickles.”
Two prickly creatures that come to mind are the puffer fish . . .
and the porcupine . . .
1. THE PRICKLE CAUSE
When my children are . . .
I tend to puff up like the puffer fish and the porcupine, my prickles catching, poking and piercing every little thing my kids do or say that is wrong. I become like a porcupine in a balloon factory.
And then their responses multiply my prickles. You know what I’m talking about . . . .
The condescending laugh, making it known that they are wise and that I am a fool. Or the gratuitous, “Yes Sir,” so that I will be quiet. Or telling me what I want to hear so they can get back to their texting.
Every fiber of my being wants to pounce and correct. Show them clearly and irrefutably the waywardness of their ways. But no matter how inspired my rebuke, no matter how eloquently I lay bare their irrationality, no matter how much I yell, I get this . . .
You’re smiling because you’ve encountered that brick wall before, haven’t you? That cold, hard surface of intractability? That loathsome stare of hostility and disrespect? The unwillingness to bend in the face of irresistible force?
2. THE LABOR OF SISYPHUS
Chris Knight sings a song called, “Bridle on a Bull,” which partly goes like this:
Don’t put a bridle on a bull,
He’ll never do what you want him to.
Don’t put a bridle on a bull,
He’ll just take you for a fool.
And if you take him by his horns,
That bull will run right over you.
I’ve struggled with that bridle and been run over many times. And I know going in that I am not going to “win”; it’s an unwinnable battle. So why do I continue rolling that boulder up the mountain like the Labor of Sisyphus?
In my head, I truly want to open my children’s eyes to the truth, but in my heart, I just want to win the unwinnable battle. Selfishness overshadows benevolence. This attitude leads me to statements like:
“I can’t just let that go.”
“If I don’t tell him, he will never learn.”
“He can’t disrespect me like that and get away with it!”
“He can’t possibly believe what he just said.”
“Why does he not ever put up the milk?”
3. THE GIFT OF A WISE WOMAN
My wife just shakes her head at me and says:
“Let it go.”
“It’s not worth it.”
“Choose your battles wisely.”
“With teens, you have to focus on the big
things and let the little things go.”
It’s more important to build a relationship with them
than to show them every way they are wrong.
Grrr. I know she’s right, but it’s so hard to back into my hole with my prickles out.
4. THE SOLUTION
So, what’s the solution?
I’m still in the game, so I don’t have the magic answers, but here are some observations:
My children stop listening to me after about 3 minutes.
They hide in their rooms more when there is a lot of conflict.
Many times they don’t believe what they are saying but will defend it unto death.
Many times they absolutely do believe the shockingly irrational statements they make.
Many times they intentionally go in the opposite direction when pushed.
The world never ends when I don’t convince them of their ignorance.
The world never ends when I let the small things go.
The world never ends when I listen to my wife.
If a parent hovers over his child, there will be an endless number of opportunities to critique and correct. But what is the profit if relationship is forfeited?
Is the goal perfection? Are expectations reasonable? And would that parent want someone hovering over himself with that same level of scrutiny?
With so many opportunities to tear down, parents must learn to ignore the small things, hit the big items, and look for opportunities to build up.
I fail miserably and repeatedly at this, but I know the bigger picture is more important than the constant little battles.
5. THE BIG PICTURE
Above all, I want my children to love God and to have a happy and healthy relationship with me.
I want them to talk to me.
I want them to come to me with problems.
I want them to desire and enjoy spending time with me.
I want them to call me regularly when they are grown.
But that will not happen if I continue rolling that boulder up the mountain. That will not happen if my prickles are always out.
No one wants to be around someone who
constantly corrects or rebukes him.
No one wants to be around constant conflict.
No one wants to be friends with
someone who argues constantly.
Children want to be respected. They want to be nurtured. They want you to be a friend, not an enemy.
They will exercise their budding independence awkwardly and frustratingly. I often want to unscrew my kids’ heads and examine the contents to determine what practical joke God is playing on me. There has to be a Whoopee Cushion in there, right?
But parents need to build up their children, not tear them down. They need to teach and shepherd, not conquer.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
A parent cannot build up his children with his prickles out; too many unimportant things get impaled.