Why do our children turn out the way they do?
Dr. Ray Guarendi, psychologist and media personality, says it’s like a three-legged stool:
- the way we bring them up
- the way they’re wired
- and the culture they’re brought up in the middle of
Does that sound like common sense? It does to me—now. But it’s a far cry from the crazy-making assumption lots of new mothers have lurking in the backs of their minds—one which still rears its ugly head in my own brain sometimes, 28 years into the child-raising business—and it’s this:
How my kids turn out is all my doing.
This is false.
Doesn’t it matter how we raise them? Of course it does—but most of us don’t need to be reminded of that. We’re all too aware of it already. We’re trying! We’re working on it!
How they’re wired also matters. Of course we’ll want to make the most of their wired-in strong points and overcome or compensate for their wired-in weak points—but it’s not 100% under our control. It never was.
Finally, there’s the (deranged, fascinating, bizarre) culture they’re being raised in. Again: something we didn’t invent and in many respects never would have invented. Something that the Almighty, for His own inscrutable reasons, has arranged to coincide with our childrearing years, and without consulting us. It’s one more facet of the hand we’ve been dealt: the raw material for us to make of what we can—but it’s not our doing.
This, considered rightly, is good news. We help our children make what they can of their wiring and the surrounding culture, but we didn’t invent either one. We don’t have to shoulder all the blame or snatch all the credit. As the saying goes, You’re not as good as your best kid, and you’re not as bad as your worst one.
I hope this is an encouraging thought to all my readers. Many mothers still have reason to grieve when they look at their children’s lives, but they don’t need to add to that grief the guilt of imagining they’re the one and only cause of whatever’s gone wrong. Many of us—I count myself here—see our children turning out surprisingly nice, or see their lives running surprisingly smoothly—and we should take care not to pollute our joy with self-righteousness, as if that were all our doing.
Let me end with some excellent advice someone gave me when I was once consumed with worry about one of my own kids: whenever you catch yourself worrying, say a quick prayer for that kid. Not a long, complicated, time-consuming prayer: just a quick one. Then get on with whatever’s on your plate, and try to do that for the glory of God. You’ll end up praying for—and therefore doing something constructive for—your kid a lot more often than you otherwise would. And you’ll be less likely to neglect everybody else who’s counting on you. Everybody wins!
So happy Mother’s Day! And try not to worry!