Alarm bells are ringing – get out the tool box

. . .when the alarm bells go off, we want to put out the fire. We assume — understandably — that we can make a child feel better by making her problem go away. Parents are habituated to this from the moment of a child’s birth: feed when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired, hold when they cry. We bypass empathy and go straight to the problem solving.

But as your daughter grows more independent, and her peer culture becomes more influential, it becomes almost impossible for you to make her problems “go away” (in my experience, most girls come to accept that long before their parents do). In fact, peer aggression is one of the first moments many parents come to that painful realization: I’m not going to be able to control her world. I can’t fix it.                    – Rachel Simmons

This excerpt from an article by Rachel Simmons today in the Huffington Post stopped me in my tracks.  She described one of the toughest realizations of parenting.  I can’t fix it.

I can’t fix it.  I can’t control his/her world.  And, I can’t be their God.  Ouch.

The article goes on to say that one of the things that evades parents when their girls are bullied is empathy. Listening, reflectively to their feelings, seeking to understand their pain.  It’s a tough place to be as a parent. In a position of empathy, sitting on the sidelines with your child, rather than as their champion going out to fight the fight for them.  There are times when you do step in for your child.  When a 4th grader was punching kids in the stomach on the bus when 1st graders didn’t give him their milk money, we stepped in. But when friends were spreading hurtful lies and rumors, we couldn’t step in, we couldn’t fix it.  Sometimes I think I listened and empathized.  Sometimes I jumped in head first with solutions and bypassed empathy all together.  And along with that came a large dose of righteous anger and ‘we’ll see about that’ attitude. Not the most helpful attitude for a parent to share with their child or teen.

I find fixing to be more fulfilling for me.  But perhaps empathy, listening and understanding is more fulfilling for the child.  My ‘children’ are now 20-somethings.  But it’s still the same.   Now more than ever they need someone to listen, understand and reassure.  Not fix things for them.

The scriptures say, Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Don’t think you know it all.  Perhaps another way of saying, you can’t fix it.



Filed under Family

5 responses to “Alarm bells are ringing – get out the tool box

  1. Andy Newhouse

    Thanks for sharing – but this definitely isn’t limited to parenting! I’ve had to learn this lesson (several times…) as a husband also. Great reminder.

  2. Barb

    Just what I need to hear as yesterday I was confronted with my controlling and fixing behavior. After all my planning, harassing and bullying, I thought I had the “perfect” plan to “fix” my teenage grandson. Problem was and is, it is not his plan.
    My loss of self esteem and helplessness hit me directly in my heart and I was wounded, hurt and angry. Why couldn’t he do things “my” way, after all I had done for him…
    Fortunately, I myself was convicted for trying to be his God. God made it clear to me that I was “To trust in him with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding and to acknowledge him in all my ways and he would direct my path”. I am continuously amazed by my lack of ability to understand what is my responsibility, God’s responsibility and my grandson’s responsibility. Later in the day, my contact was one of compassion, understanding and love. Changing myself leads to better communication. The alarms are going off and I can only listen, comfort and be available when and if he asks me to help him soften the sound.

  3. Julie Kaiser

    Again, I say… I am so thankful for your wisdom! What would each of us be if it were not for our friends who have walked these paths before us… and those who are walking them with us!!! I am so grateful for the friends like you that God has placed in my life!!

  4. Sue Plemons

    Thanks Kathy, good words to remember, practice and remind ourselves again and again when in the midst of wanting to fix!

  5. Elizabeth

    This is good advice. I struggle to let go of my 19 year old girls as they become more independent (RAPIDLY). They are making their decisions,some with my blessing and others with my wrath! Even with their bad decisions i want to help them and listening and having empathy is a good way,not i told you so or stepping in and taking over and in this way demeaning their life choices. It IS scary to let go and know you can not fix everything in your families life. It is tough to put the control in Gods put the girls in Gods hands.But it does make sense.

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