Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
You just can’t trust children to tell you you’re being a bad parent.
Case in point: I knew I’d been fooled last week when the kids all started thanking me right after I paid the supermarket cashier. They’d waited until money exchanged hands and the deal was done. Then they all started jumping up and down excitedly, thanking me.
The six year old said effusively, “Dad, you’re a much better shopper than Mom.”
The cashier looked up at me. She knew I'd been had. She looked at all the stuff I’d bought and then at me.
Suddenly I saw before me the list of things being stuffed into bags that Mom never lets them eat like:
Cocoa Puffs and Apple Jacks.
Hershey’s Chocolate for their milk and their ice cream.
Ice cream with some kind of extra chocolate swirly stuff mixed in.
Double Stuff Oreos. Because if there was one thing Oreos needed, it was more stuff.
No produce whatsoever. I didn’t even think to go down into that area.
I realized that what I thought was a shopping trip had turned into a shopping spree on my watch. The thirteen year old said as we pulled into the driveway, “Mom’s going to kill you.” They all agreed. The kids were acting like I’d taken them all to the tattoo parlor and got us all matching Chinese symbols for our lower backs. When we got in, my wife looked at all the stuff and she simply said, “I’ll go shopping tomorrow to get the stuff we actually need.”
It turned out I’d forgotten eggs, toilet paper, milk, and laundry detergent among other things. I could’ve blamed the kids but here’s the thing. I’m the parent and parents shouldn’t depend on kids to let them know they’re doing a good job.
In fact, if your kid thinks you’re an awesome parent you’re probably doing something wrong.
If you think all the parents your kids play with are oversensitive, you’re probably not doing it right.
If your kids aren’t sighing, groaning, or complaining about what you’re asking them to do at least once a day you’re probably being too easy on them.
If you’re the parent that other kids tell their parents that they should be allowed to do something because your kids are allowed to, you’re probably not strict enough.
If your kids don’t cringe when you say, “its for your own good” you’re probably too easy on them.
If you never say “for your own good” you’re definitely too easy on them.
If the prospect of your child being mad at you dissuades you from correcting them or punishing them, then they need correcting and punishing.
If your children tell you to stop talking during Church, you might be not taking Mass or your children’s faith formation seriously.
If the words ever come out of your mouth that your children are your best friends and they’re under 15, you’re definitely doing something wrong. If they’re 17 and you say it, you’re definitely definitely doing something wrong.
If you say things like “Well, kids just grow up faster nowadays” and shrug, you’re probably thinking of parenting all wrong.
If you have no idea what websites your children have visited over the past month because you think kids need freedom, you’re doing it wrong.
If you don’t know the names of your kids’ teachers at school, you’re not involved enough.
If you don’t know the names of their friends at school, you’re dangerously out of touch.
If your child doesn’t accept your friend request on Facebook and you haven’t thrown out their computer, you’re on dangerous ground.
If a guy honks in the driveway for your daughter and you let her go out, he’s rude for honking and you’re executing radically judgment for letting her go.
If they’ve quit three or more teams because their coaches are jerks, the problem is probably a little closer to home.
These are not hard and fast rules. There are always an exception or two. Feel free to add your own rules on parenting below.