“I guess I just loved them too much.” I’ve heard these words before—just recently, by someone talking to me about their child’s rebellion.
But these words just don’t ring true to me. Every time I hear this statement, I think the same thing. How could loving someone too much lead them toward a destructive path?
I’ve wrestled with this long and hard before deciding it’s just not a true statement. We simply cannot love our children too much.
The truth is: we didn't love them enough and we know it. We know it because we remember all the times we should have loved them, even when it was hard for us, or them, or all of us; but we didn't.
Love always does what is best for others, no matter how difficult. But love does not rule our lives because we feel it. It rules our lives when we act on it.
But fear leads us to take the easy way out and do what is best to feed the fear, to make ourselves feel better, without regard for others.
It is fear that causes us to love our children selfishly.
We must not love out of selfishness and fear
When someone says they loved their child too much, what they are really saying is that they couldn't bring themselves to do what was best for the child, because they didn't want to hurt their child’s feelings. That is not pure love, but a selfish love born out of fear.
The reason we don't want to hurt another’s feelings is rarely if ever about the other person. Too many times, parents fear getting hurt themselves by drawing their child’s disfavor. We want to be our child’s good friend instead of the parent they need us to be.
Sometimes, selfishness causes us to do what is most convenient for us, not what’s best for our children.
If we truly do what is best for someone, we don't worry at all about how hard it will be for us. It is selfless love that drives us to do what we know is best for our children, no matter what.
But if we can't bear the feeling of hurting their feelings and we lack the courage to do the right thing for them, then we simply take the easy way out.
Anyone that says “I loved my children too much” is acknowledging they knew all along they were doing the wrong thing, but hoped it would just work out somehow.
Still, the right way is not always cut and dry. It’s more an ever-moving target that is always dependent on the circumstances, the long-term consequences and the heart of the child.
Be consistent; but let them win … sometimes
One of the first things my dad told me when I had my first child was: let your yes be yes and your no be no, most of the time. He said if a child wants something bad enough and it won't hurt them to have it, be careful not to break their spirit. Let them win sometimes, but definitely not all the time.
Indulging and indifference make for unhealthy extremes in parenting.
Just because we can do something for our children does not mean we should. The question we should ask ourselves all the time is the same. What is best for my child in the long run? Parenting decisions that we make that come with immediate gratification and cost us and our children later are almost always fearful and selfish decisions. The decisions we make that have an immediate cost to us and our children but a long-term benefit are almost always actions prompted by courageous and loving decisions.
Indulging is not an act of love. But neither is indifference.
Discipline with love
We should discipline out of love, not anger or frustration.
We must always remember when we have to make hard decisions that we know will hurt our children's feelings, it’s important to explain to them why we are doing what we’re doing. Tell them how much we love them, why we believe our decision is best for them, and that we hate more than they do when our parenting hurts their feelings. Explain that we love them so much we have no choice but to do what is right for them. And then we should love them through the disappointment.
We can destroy our children if we teach them to value their feelings and act in their own interests, no matter what.
But if we want to save a child, we teach him or her to seek the truth at any cost and strive to do what’s right in God’s eyes, no matter how they feel. When we make decisions we know are not best for our children just because we don't want to hurt their feelings, we set them up for destruction.
I want to do everything for my kids
The hardest part of parenting for me is wanting to do everything for my kids instead of making them get their own hands dirty. It’s impossible for our children to grow emotionally or spiritually and to learn, if we do everything for them.
I remember I first learned this when I told my oldest daughter Faith I would pay her $10 if she cleaned up a bunch of palm leaves I was cutting off the palm trees in our yard. It seemed like a good idea and she was excited about it. Then, after watching her drag only one limb at a time across the yard to the burn pile, I found myself thinking I could knock this out in five minutes and a couple drags.