I heard an excerpt from a Christian podcast a few days ago and it hit me wrong. Two women were talking and one said something along the lines of, "I wish I had lowered my expectations for my children." She went on to explain how that was the better, more loving thing to do--how we should make it a point to welcome people just as they are and reassure them that however they show up is good enough.
I call bull (sorry if you think that's too blunt).
Maybe it's the years I've been in education, but there's not much that makes me more frustrated about parental behavior than parents who have low expectations for their kids. I sat in a conference once where I listened to a mom talk about all the things her daughter wasn't capable of. I could only watch the tears welling in the 14-year old girl's eyes for so long before I spoke up, and I'll never forget the look on her face when I chimed in with what I thought she was capable of. I've been on the receiving end of rants from parents who couldn't believe I wouldn't let their kids turn in assignments weeks late, who told me it was teachers like made them worried about the future of education. I've listened to kids talk about how it wasn't a big deal to have a broken iphone because their parents would just replace it again. I've had parents tell me I had no right to take a cell phone away in class (despite school rules specifying I was to do exactly that). I've heard parents fume about it not being their job to make sure their kid is turning in assignments. I've listened to other moms cry about their kids' lack of effort and low grades, then watched them visibly cringe when I suggested grounding the kids from their cell phone or video games until the grades improved.
Parents, we have to have higher expectations of our kids. Kids aren't dumb, and like most of the human race, they are pretty good at figuring out how to get away with doing the least amount of work required. As parents, it isn't our job to make life easy for our kids. Instead, it's our job to teach our children how to become responsible adults. In fact, it's a biblical mandate:
"Train up a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not depart from it."
(Proverbs 22:6, NKJV)
There are also a heck of a lot of verses about discipline, but I'll leave that hornet's nest alone for right now.
I can't tell you haw many conversations with my kids have included something along the lines of, "It's not my job to make you happy or be your friend. It's my job to do my best to make sure you become the person God created you to be."
There's an idea that seems to be floating around right now that whoever you are right now, in this moment, is who God created you to be. The idea is that you don't have to change, you're perfectly good enough just the way you are. The problem is, that's not biblical. Yes, God calls each of us to come to Him as we are, with all our scars and wounds and imperfections glaringly obvious. The thing is, He then calls us to change. My mom used to tell all of her kids (the 3 of us who were her biological kids and the countless others that she claimed as hers through all the years of children's church) "I love you too much to let you act like that." It seems we forget that while yes, God loves us just like we are, He loves us too much to let us stay that way.
As Paul wrote to the church in Philippi:
"I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect;
but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One,
Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way
because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go.
Brothers and sisters, as I said,
I know I have not arrived;
but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m
leaving my old life behind,
putting everything on the line for this
I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts:
to cross the line, to win the prize,
and to hear God’s call to resurrection life
found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed."
We aren't good enough just like we are, and neither are our kids. Yes, we need to love our kids like God loves us. That doesn't mean making excuses for them. It doesn't mean ignoring when they mess up. It means providing the guidance and discipline that God provides for us. It means raising them up to become who God has created them to be by sometimes being the refining fire that cleans away the imperfections in the gold, or to remember that "iron sharpens iron" in our dealings with them.
That doesn't mean we expect perfection. As we strive to demonstrate an earth example of God's heavenly love, we have to also demonstrate His grace. But it does mean that we hold our children to high standards. It means we expect our kids to meet those expectations, and we don't make up their excuses for them when they fail to meet those expectations.
What do I mean by that? Well, kids are pretty much experts at coming up with excuses for why they did something they knew they weren't supposed to do or for not doing what they knew they were supposed to do. We don't need to give them any help. That means we don't need to say things like:
- "That teacher must not like you"
- "It doesn't matter what the deadline was for that assignment, I'll make sure your teacher has to give you a grade."
- "I'll make sure your coach doesn't bench you."
- "Math's too hard for you, it's okay."
I won't apologize for having high standards for my kids. In fact, I hope the expectations I have, as much as they frustrate my kids now, will push them to have higher expectations of themselves in the future. I hope they will realize that God's standards are what matter, and that nothing here on earth can ever compare to those. I want them to struggle with their imperfections and failings, because that's how we get better. I want them to see that all their efforts fall short of perfection, because it's only then that they will realize they can't become who they need to be on their own. Because like Paul reminded us:
"all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God,
and all are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."