The Right to Act Like Your Child’s Parent

The RIGHT to BE a PARENTEvery Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s column encourages parents to take back their responsibility and right to train up their children.

I often gaze wistfully at that fashionable fall outfit: an oversized tunic with a belt over leggings. It looks so comfy cozy. But even though I like it, I can’t quite bring myself to buy it. Leggings on someone on the wrong side of forty doesn’t quite work for me, even if the tunic does cover a multitude of flaws.

Yet increasingly leggings aren’t working even for those on the right side of forty, namely because people aren’t pairing them with long tunics; they’re wearing them with shorter shirts. What was once fashionable becomes floozy. It’s not even flirty; it’s just gross.

There are some parts of one’s anatomy which should never be covered in thin, skin tight fabric.

As terrible as it is when adult women commit this fashion faux-pas, it’s worse when teen girls do it, because it means some parent somewhere has allowed a child to dress in public like that. One mom I know is heartbroken about her daughter’s clothing but feels rather helpless. Her daughter refuses to wear anything except tights as pants.

I do not understand this helpless attitude, whether it’s about clothing choices or other teenage behaviours, and I would like to tell parents, loudly and clearly, you are the parent. You have the right–indeed the obligation–to set standards.

If you do not exercise your right to act like a parent, then you are abdicating your responsibility to our culture. Our culture is the one that adores Miley Cyrus’ new persona. Do you really want to turn your child over to that?

Parents should not feel guilty for acting like parents, and yet so many of us are insecure.

Do we even have the right to tell our kids what to do, or what to wear?

The insecurity is understandable. In 2008 in Quebec, a 12-year-old girl took her father to court for grounding her from a class field trip. She had been using the internet inappropriately and sending inappropriate texts, so he put his foot down. She sued. And the Quebec courts, even on appeal, have decided the girl was right.

With this sort of ridiculousness around us it’s easy to feel like we don’t have a right to demand things of our kids. The schools should raise them, and if our culture has decided that Miley’s antics are the new normal, who are we to say they’re wrong? We may be uncomfortable with all the texting, and with all the explicit shows kids watch, and with the sexual activity, but these things are normal today. To fight back is like trying to hold a tsunami at bay. It’s too much.

Yet is it really?

What does it matter what the rest of our culture says?

It is not our culture that is going to have to deal with the repercussions of a teenager dropping out of school, or feeling great shame for something he or she has done, or getting hooked on drugs. It is you, the parent.

It is not our culture that will have to pick up the pieces, patch a broken heart, or help someone detox. It is not the school that will be there when a girl derails her educational future because she gets pregnant, or a boy decides to waste his life on video games instead of investing in college. It is you. You are the only one who loves your child more than life itself. You are the only one with a vested interest in how your child turns out. You’re the only one, then, that really matters.

So do something! You have power. You control the wifi, the television, and the money that pays for the cell phone. Use that power. Say no. Be a parent. And please, no tights.

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  1. Thanks for the great post! I feel there are so many things that parents can be looked down upon, for being too ‘harsh’. I feel that almost any kind of disciplining or nay-saying is regarded as ‘cruel’ in today’s world, and I have been told by more than one person that certain things I do to discipline my child will traumatize him and he will grow up unattached, etc (and I’m talking basic things, like a little spank now and then or not giving him something he asks for when he is screaming for it rather than asking politely). But ultimately- I am the parent! I am doing the things I do because I love my son dearly and I want him to grow up to be a good man. We are supposed to be our child’s parent, not their friend! The greatest people I know today had parents that disciplined and put their foot down and taught them correct principles! Because if we as parents don’t do it, no one else is.

  2. I agree! I don’t understand those parents who look at their kids, shrug and go “well, what can I do?” What can you do?!? Almost anything would be better than sitting there being confused about your role in their lives!
    Jay Dee – recently posted…Is masturbation a sin?My Profile

  3. Thank you! I find it sad that our culture has come to the point that parents need to apologize for parenting.

    My husband had a conversation a couple nights ago with a gaming friend who was complaining about her son’s need for a specific type of shoe and how it was such a huge expense etc. He asked her why didn’t she just say no and she told him, “Just you wait until you have kids. You’ll spoil them too.” Everyone listening in to the conversation cheered when he told her that he did, in fact, have two kids and a third on the way, and they have never been hurt by us not spoiling them. (I did mention he could have suggested the alternative of making her son work/pay for the shoes considering he is 15!)

    The best way to ensure that your kids turn fulfill their roles as constructive citizens is to fulfill your role as their parent.
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  4. Well said! Sadly, all too often kids seem to be smarter than the parents; I have a lot of respect for parents who work hard to actually _be_ parents–loving, teaching, and disciplining their kids in the midst of a very caustic world.

  5. Stefanie Carroll says:

    I love being the “mean” mom… I say that jokingly and lovingly to my kids. But the rewards of “parenting” vs. being buddies is starting to really pay of with wonderful relationships (but me still the parent) as they get older. That said, I just have to say, I’m on the other side of 40 and enjoy one pair of leggings with a long sweater dress (to my knees) and a nice scarf and it looks classy (or so I’ve been told a few times) BUT feels as comfy as PJ’s! I feel like I’m cheating when I wear that outfit to work or on a night out because of the comfort!! hehe 😉 I think the mistake women make is trying to buy clothes at the stores their teen girls would shop at… that is NOT cool! :)

    • Christine C. says:

      I think the leggings and tunic combo has a lot to do with body type instead of age, actually. I’m a bigger woman in my 20s, and on the rare occasion that I’ve worn that particular outfit, I’ve been catcalled (which usually signals to me that my outfit is a little inappropriate, or draws too much attention to myself.) It’s a shame, though! It IS such a comfy outfit!

    • i think there’s a difference between wearing leggings with a dress and with a tunic length shirt too. wearing leggings with a dress doesn’t bother me regardless of age, as long as the dress is age appropriate. i do that just for warmth lol.

  6. I love this. Thank you. You are so right.

  7. Thank you for this, Sheila! It is about so much more than clothes. I am a mom of 2, in my mid-twenties, and my mother calls me frequently to complain or solicit advice about my teenage brother. We have a confusing relationship as it is, and most of the time I tell her to pray about it, but on occasion I make suggestions. Her answer is always, “He won’t LET me do that.” He won’t let you? How do any of us discipline our children if we have to wait for them to be okay with it? I’ve had to hold my tongue many, many times because she is my mother and not a girlfriend. In situations where the child is in charge, all respect from child to parent is lost.

  8. Amen, sister! Couldn’t have said it better myself! God’s Word puts the responsibility for raising children on the PARENTS. My husband and I are the parents of 5 children. Three are grown and married (and we have two darling grandsons). We still have two teenage boys at home. We spent twenty years in children and youth ministry, homeschooled for six years, taught in Christian schools, and have worked hard to support Christian education through local Christian schools. I have been astonished at the number of parents we have crossed paths with over the years, who complain about their children, but fail to set godly standards. If we as parents do not teach our children to love Jesus, the world will teach them not to!

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