In Part 1, I described the fact that parenting a toddler is HARD whether you decide to tame their feral instincts at 2-years-old, or if you put it off until they’re 20-years-old. One way or another, someone has to teach those little humans how to control themeselves, because no one wants to spend much time with a selfish, screaming kid (of any age)…
But what happens when the child’s two parents disagree about how to discipline?
What if one of the child’s parents is more firm/authoritative, while the other wants to be more “gentle” and niiiiiiiiiice?
When that happens, the parents better find a way to get on the same page–quickly! Because those kids will exploit weaknesses and pit the parents against each other if they’re not totally united in agreement…
Back in 2014, I used a Good Cop vs. Bad Cop analogy for a blog post that ultimately ended up in Peter Heck’s book, Strangers. He titled his chapter “Scared Christians,” which is so relevant to this parenting series that I’m going to repost it here.
Yes–it is a little weird to quote Pete, while he’s quoting me. But the way he covered the subject matter with a personal example of his own fit-throwing daughter is just perfect. Here, read it:
“Be on guard for an insidious lie that Satan tells loudly and often. It’s the lie that equates telling hard truths with being un-loving. Not long ago a friend of mine, Amanda McKinney, wrote an excellent blog post about what real Christian love is. It stuck with me because both Amanda and I are at the same point in our lives – raising children.
She points out that when you’re the parent of young children you are likely to hear (quite regularly) your kids scream about how you’re a terrible parent and must hate them or something. I caught my oldest daughter Addie doing this on my cell phone camera once, and I use it in various speaking presentations to illustrate the point. Addie was misbehaving, breaking a rule that she knew not to break. My wife got on her about it, and Addie crossed her arms, started to pout, and then said in the most offended voice she could muster, “I guess you don’t love me anymore.”
My wife, always the delicate one, responded with, “Addie, that’s just dumb.”
But it wasn’t dumb to Addie. Since Jenny was telling her she couldn’t do something, there was really only one conclusion her 6-year-old mind could come to: “Mommy doesn’t love me.” After all, if Mommy did love her, she would obviously let her do whatever she wanted to do, right?
The pinnacle of love is complete and utter permissiveness, is it not?
Amanda points out in her blog that if parents actually started believing their kids when they said that–if they started “loving” children the way the kids wanted to be loved rather than needed to be loved–there would truthfully be no loving parents anymore. Why? Because it’s patently obvious that love isn’t always affirming, it isn’t always condoning, it isn’t always saying “yes.”
Christians, we could do well to learn that lesson. The moment someone who isn’t a Christian says they don’t feel loved – or worse, they say they feel ‘judged’ – we immediately begin believing that we did something wrong. Or even if we don’t, we are soon buried beneath an avalanche of criticism from our Christian brethren rebuking us for ‘driving someone from the faith.’ We are pummeled until we sheepishly issue some kind of apology for not showing the ‘love of Christ.’
Go back to that scene on my cell phone camera for a minute. What would have happened if, instead of filming and chuckling to myself, I jumped up and took Addie’s side? What if the moment she proclaimed that Mommy doesn’t ‘love her anymore,’ I flipped out on Jenny and said, ‘What have you done?!’
What if I bombarded Jenny in front of Addie and our other two kids, with reproach and scolding, belittling her and telling her how much she was damaging our relationship with our children? What message would that send to Jenny?
Or worse, what kind of confused message would that send to our kids?
Welcome to the modern American church where believers can’t wait to tag the ‘judgmental Christians’ as they proudly assume the mantle of ‘loving Christian.’ It’s what Amanda calls, “Good Cop/Bad Cop Christianity.”
In my opinion, it’s fine for Good Cops and Bad Cops to work on a team. It’s fine for two parents (or two Christians) to have slightly different styles which complement each other.
…But, if you have a “teammate” who is so afraid of the fit-throwing child that he/she is willing to yell at YOU, then that can’t be allowed to continue.
Theoretically, it’s possible to pull off a Good Cop/Bad Cop routine when a child is behaving incorrectly…if the “Good Cop” actually allows the “Bad Cop” to do the necessary tough-loving.
But, in too many cases, we see the “good cop” parents and Christians preventing the “bad cops” from having a role at all.
In fact, now it’s common for the so-called “loving” cops to tell the “bad” ones point blank: “You don’t sound like Jesus” and “You don’t speak for the church.”
These are real-life examples of one parent/Christian jumping up to take the child’s side and scolding/belittling another parent/Christian in the name of “love,” exactly as Pete described.
He asked what would happen if he did that to his wife, Jenny?…and, unfortunately, we already know what would happen, because we see it playing out in Church culture with frequency.
The children take over, expecting the permissive parents to defend them from the “mean, unloving” parents all of the time.
This disagreement about how to discipline must be worked out before the Body of Christ will be able to raise strong, mature disciples again. We cannot keep allowing the permissive parents to coddle the angry children in the name of “love”…
…because the children are the ones who suffer in the confusion.
Parenting is HARD enough, without the firm/authoritative parents being forced to take all the blame when the children do what children do. The “nice” parents must be held accountable for undermining their teammates and causing chaos.
Stay tuned for Part #3.