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SALT LAKE CITY — As my children raptly watched episodes of the popular series, “Mythbusters,” I considered a few parenting myths that could stand some debunking.
1. We are to make our children happy.
Surprisingly, this is not in our parental job description. Of course, we are to provide a happy environment (to the best of our ability and situation), and be happy parents (most days), and treat our children in a happy manner (except when they behead an expensive set of golf clubs).
But, having done this — again, not to perfection but to the best of our ability — it is up to our children to choose to be happy. If someone is pouting about a lack of new electronic devices, early curfew (“But everyone else gets to stay late!”), or work requirements (“The neighbor kid doesn’t have to do chores, they have a house cleaner.”), so be it.
This is the day of entitlement, and we as parents can get into a trap of thinking we must ... make sure our children are happy, smiling and thrilled with their lives. This is untrue.
Years ago a wise friend said to me, “We need to allow our children to be uncomfortable.” This is the day of entitlement, and we as parents can get into a trap of thinking we must give, do and be all to make sure our children are happy, smiling and thrilled with their lives. This is untrue. Providing temporally, physically, and emotionally in a wise and intentional manner, with smiles and love, is what’s in the contract. There is no fine print about a new iPhone 5.
2. Your children will like you.
They won’t. At least once (a week?) your children will say something like, "I hate you," or "I wish I had different parents," oreven "I want to live at so-and-so’s house because their parents are cool" (to which I’m inclined to say, let me help you pack). One day my 6-year-old became so incensed with one of my parenting decisions (i.e. how much play dough she could crumble over the counters) that she stormed to her room and promptly wrote on a large whiteboard this message: “Dear Mom, I hate you. Love, Sophie.”
This is parenting. We are not in a popularity contest, and we are not their BFFs. We are parents. As such, we will make decisions or enforce family-chosen standards that will not be appreciated. Thankfully, a new day dawns, life goes on and a different drama awaits (such as the length of a skirt that can be worn to a dance).
3. You will know what to do because you’re a parent.
You won’t. This is because, like most parents, you’re winging it. Unbeknownst to your children, you really don’t have the foggiest idea of what is the absolute best decision for a particular situation.
But you’re trying. And you’re faking it. And if you’re smart, in a given situation where an ultimatum is required, you’re buying time by asking touchy-feely questions such as, “Before I share my thoughts, what do you think is the right choice here?” While the child speaks, you are mentally — and frantically — running through scenarios of friends, neighbors, and (heaven forbid) what your own parents did in a similar situation. More often than not, you'll end up choosing the latter, as you swore you wouldn’t do when you were a parent.
These three myths are but a tip of the parenting myth iceberg. I encourage you to find, discuss and debunk the many others that still lurk about, including that we consistently give stellar advice in online blog posts.