This three-part post addresses parents of difficult children, but can be generalized to apply to anyone hoping to influence a person who is morally ambivalent.
When a child’s alarming behavior threatens to establish itself as permanent traits through repetition, someone who cares is desperately needed to intervene on behalf of the child’s character and future. Tragically, some parents are so minimally invested in their kids or their standards are so low for them, that they are nonchalant about their own child’s highly concerning character and behaviors.
Those parents who do intervene are often criticized by those who have no comprehension of the child’s willfulness. Some kids are determined to sabotage their own lives and the peace of their family. Their parents’ words might be anything but sweet, but appropriate and necessary in a situation worthy of disapproval.
To an outsider who gets only a snapshot of a committed parent and child in a struggle like this, it can be misinterpreted as the parent being hyper-critical or harsh. A longer look would reveal this is a worn but committed parent, dealing with a child determined to defy all that will benefit his life.
It depletes a parent emotionally and physically to uphold high hopes and expectations for their child. The temptation to take the path of least resistance is always present, offering gain of instant relief from the conflict. But also present is the knowledge that it will come at the price of lost long-term peace and diminished character development.
Our children’s potentials are before us, waiting to see if we will believe in them or give up on them. No matter how tired or frustrated parents become, a child’s life is significantly influenced by our expectations. Their full potential is theirs to apprehend, not ours to limit by mirroring to them a belief that mediocrity is the pinnacle of their potential.