What's Luck Got To Do With It? Why hoping for the best is a bad parenting strategy
One of my defining moments of parenting came one evening as I sat in a youth worker meeting at church. The topic on the table was the latest “insert song/book/movie/activity” that parents were letting their teenager engage in that had us all scratching our heads.
“What are they thinking?”
“Don’t they see where this will lead?”
“Where are these kids’ parents?”
The youth pastor heaved a big sigh, shrugged his shoulders and said, “I think most parents are just hoping for the best.”
That answer didn’t sit well with me. I thought about it a lot over the next several days and I came to the conclusion that he was probably right, but I refused to be counted in those numbers. I didn’t want to passively hope for the best. I resolved to be a parent actively working to get the results that I wanted.
Why do parents take the hope for the best approach to parenting? Parenting is not the lottery. We can do more than hope for the best, cross our fingers and wish upon the stars because really…. what’s luck got to do with it?
I believe parents who have found themselves on the “hoping for the best” parenting journey have fallen prey to common parenting myths. There are three myths that parents believe that lead them to buy into this parenting strategy: defining good parenting by how a kid “turns out”, thinking that great parents always get things right, and believing that parenting is a gamble.
Myth One: How kids turn out is the measure of good parenting. No! Successful parenting is dependent only on the parent. Parents lead and guide and teach and love but make no mistake--the child has the ultimate say in how they turn out. How a kid turns out is not wholly dependent on the parent. A good kid is icing on the cake but it is not a guarantee in good parenting. Do not fall into the “hope for the best” mode because you are afraid that, despite our best efforts, your kids may go off the rails. Let that reality be the very reason you decide to take care of your side of the equation and let our children be responsible for theirs.
Myth Two: Good parents do not make mistakes. If this were true there would be no such thing as a great parent! We all make mistakes. Sometimes-big ones. Thankfully mistakes are not the problem. Ignoring them is. The truth is, not only can parents be successful despite their mistakes, making mistakes in front of our children will make them stronger adults as long as they are also watching us handle the situation with humility, honesty and action. Our kids need to see us fail and our kids need to be allowed to do the same. Learning to get back up and move forward is a critical life skill.
Myth Three: Parenting is a gamble. The reality is that parenting is an action not a result. Anyone can have a lock on being a great parent. Anyone. Parenting is defined by what we do not what is produced. It is a process. Where we start matters much less than if we are moving in the right direction. Great parenting is not a gamble. Great parenting is being in the game. Showing up. Doing the hard stuff. Holding our kids (and ourselves) accountable.
I am not trying to be simplistic and pretend that parenting is easy. Great parenting is hard work but it is possible for anyone who is willing to step up to the plate and take a swing. Busting these myths, wrapping your mind around these truths and applying them to your parenting will bring you a freedom and energy that is a game changer. Embracing the fact that you are only responsible for what kind of parent you are going to be and making sure that your child knows that they are responsible for their own choices keeps you from hauling around the weight of burdens that are not yours to carry.
Mommas, you do not have to hope for the best. You can be the best. Work for it! It does not guarantee that your kids will get in line, but it does mean that in the hard moments of raising your kids you can know with confidence that you are doing a great job. Because luck? It has nothing to do with it.