Here’s something I’ve been thinking about… Why is there such a tendency among parents to assume the worst about our kids’ intentions and actions? It seems like everywhere I go I notice parents who are very quick to assign negative intent toward their tiny children.
There have been several times in our marriage when Clay has done or said something that I immediately get mad about or get my feelings hurt over. Oftentimes, the thing I’m so upset about is a complete distortion of what he meant or how he felt. Something he has said to me several times is, “Emily, why do you always have to assume the worst about me? Why can’t you just tell yourself, ‘He probably didn’t mean it that way; maybe it was an accident or maybe he was having a bad day and dealing with something unrelated to me.'” He was so right. It’s so easy for me to jump to conclusions and get mad…it’s so easy to automatically assume that he meant it the way I interpret it. But as his wife who love him dearly and knows how much he loves me, it would be a much more loving and gracious response for me to react as he suggested. To assign positive intent, deciding to think well of him and his intentions.
Isn’t it the same with our kids? I think it’s so easy for us to assume that they’re acting like manipulative little beasts when maybe it’s our interpretation that’s a little off. Why do we assume that when our kid gets in a toddler spat with another child that it’s our child’s fault without even knowing the situation? Why is it easier to play-off to another parent that our kid is probably the troublemaker, not their little angel? Why are we so quick to judge the intentions of our children’s hearts?
I think as Christians part of it is that we take the concept of our child’s sinfulness a little too seriously at times. Now I’m not trying to make any theological statements about the extent of children’s depravity, I just wonder if because of popular Christian teaching we tend to see everything they do through sin-colored glasses. As though expressions of discomfort, unhappiness, or pain are something that only result from a sin nature and aren’t related to hunger, tiredness, tummy aches, sadness, etc…
I think about this in comparison to my relationship with Clay, and I realize that if I were to assume that any slightly negative expression or action of his was a direct sin that I must get mad at him about and punish…well, that would really drive a wedge in our relationship. Thankfully, Clay’s mature enough to where he can say, “Emily, get a grip, I’ve just had a bad day at work and I’m tired. Lay-off.” Evelyne can’t do that. She can’t tell me that she’s got a headache and feels overwhelmed with the busyness of other kids and our day. So when she’s being fussy, my goal is to not immediately assume that she’s just being an impatient little sinner, but maybe she’s actually just behaving like a normal little human who doesn’t know how to talk.
Like I was talking about earlier, shouldn’t we show our children the qualities of Jesus…like patience and kindness and grace? I imagine that if Jesus was with my child and she was whiney and on the verge of a tantrum, His first response wouldn’t be to roll his eyes and say, “Well, there she goes sinning again!” I’m not saying that there is not some sin mixed-in with their actions, I just wonder if we overestimate its expression in them and we forget to look for the image of God that is also imprinted on their hearts. Because it’s there. Evelyne was created in the image of God just like Clay and me. And just like it’s not my job to judge the sinfulness of Clay’s heart and always look for the wrong in his actions, I’m not sure if I should be on the lookout for every possible manifestation of sin in Evelyne. It is there, and it will come-out. And when it does, I’ll teach her what it looks like to take that sin to Jesus. I just don’t want to be on Sin Patrol and look for it where it may not even exist. I want to assign positive intent to her actions as I would anyone else I love and look for the expressions of the image of God in her life.
What do you think? Why is it so easy to assume the worst about our kids?
See also Showing Kindness to our Children