Recently I read this social media post: “Today marks a year since I paid nearly $200 to be told my dog was faking struggling to breathe in order to be carried.” The flop-eared pup in the accompanying picture is really cute. Isn’t it amazing how easily we can be misled and manipulated? If our dogs, cute as they are, can fool us into carrying them, just think what our children are capable of!
Yes, it’s true, and any wise parent will tell you: your children will fake you out, mislead you, and manipulate you. They’ll be cute while they do it, too. It wasn’t their fault. Someone else did it first. They can’t break away from screen time to do the chore because they have an urgent homework assignment to work on. They don’t feel good. Their puppy-dog eyes would rival those of the dog with breathing problems.
Scripture teaches us that our children are a blessing from the Lord; they are evidence of His favor and kindness. But Scripture also teaches that our children are born with a fallen sinful nature, and that they need a Savior. Parents must learn from God’s Word and seek His wisdom in order to be able to train up their children to love and serve God and to be men and women of integrity. Also, parents must be honest about their children and be ready to see their children’s attitudes and behavior for what they are, especially when it involves misleading or manipulating.
In my years of observing students and families in a school setting, I’ve seen more times than I can count when children pulled the wool over their parents’ eyes or led them around on a string. Maybe the child wasn’t even aware she was doing it, or maybe the parents were aware and were so dazzled by how cute she was that they just accepted it. Or maybe the parents enabled the child to do it and now it’s just easier to keep accepting it.
So in the spirit of encouragement to you as a parent (and also speaking as a dad who has been faked out by his own children!), I offer these bits of advice.
Don’t accept excuses from your children. Accepting excuses from your children is like throwing gasoline on a fire – it flares up into more and more creative and manipulative excuses for not doing the right thing, the hard thing, or the uncomfortable thing. Sometimes our children need us simple to say, “I’m sorry but I love you too much to accept that. You can do it, you will do it, and you’ll do it right away. So get busy!”
Don’t do it for them if they can do it for themselves. This is probably especially applicable to moms, but dads can be guilty here also. As your children grow, they should be given more and more responsibility and higher and higher expectations. We’re not raising children; we’re raising adults. Children who get used to someone else doing for them what they should be doing for themselves become lazy, irresponsible, excuse-driven adults.
Don’t believe everything your child says. Follow the Cold War dictum of Ronald Reagan: Trust but verify. Don’t assume everything your child tells you about the school day is the way it really was. Assume you’re hearing one side of it – a side that might be right but that just might also be flat wrong. We shouldn’t assume our children are liars, but we should realize that they are born with self-justifying lies in their hearts ready to come out.
Your children will learn to mislead and manipulate by watching you. In fact, our children learn from everything we do – and don’t do. So there is a high premium on us refusing to give excuses, accepting responsibility, and walking in integrity. It’s our job to teach our children virtue by showing them what virtue looks like when it is lived out.
So the next time your child gives you the ol’ puppy-dog eyes and needs to be carried because their legs hurt, look them in those big brown eyes, smile, and say, “Not today, dear. You’re walking!”