Even though I set high expectations for my kids, I don’t conceal from them that I’ve fallen short of my own standards for them.
The other day my son asked how I did when I was in school and I admitted to him that I had to go to summer school to avoid failing 6th and 7th grades. My senior year? I failed that one too. I not only retook my 12th grade year but barely passed it the second time around, finishing nearly last in my class of 1988.
There’s a lot of other stuff like that about me but I try not to let those failures convince me that somehow I should expect anything but the best from my kids. In fact, quite the opposite. I think parents who truly love their children want them to do better and more things than they were able to growing up.
A major life test I want my children to do great at is related to staying sexually pure until marriage. I think sex is awesome but it’s made to be truly “safe” and enjoyed in the covenant of marriage. Is this standard perhaps old fashioned, delusional or just plain out of touch with how sex crazed our teens are nowadays, maybe but it doesn’t matter. In our home, my kids will know everything there is to know about sex but I will never lower the standard just because everyone else is indirectly arming their kids with messages about “safe sex” or “condoms.”
Some of you would say I’m a hypocrite for asking my kids to do what I wasn’t able to do. “You did it before marriage, so what moral authority do you have to tell them that they can’t?”
You would be right to say that it’s hard to ask your kids to follow a standard I wasn’t able to keep. If I was to make a list, I can make a list of other things I failed at when I was a young man. Even though these are the standards I want my kids to adhere for their benefit in life I also believe in granting your children the room to mess up. I’m teaching them that no matter what they’ve done wrong, their father loves them and they can talk to me about anything. The flip side of all this is that when they fail, they have to know that you empathize with them and will not judge them. We didn’t like it when people do it to us and we shouldn’t do it to our kids, no matter what they’ve done. That’s part of keeping it real with your kids as a parent.
So next time somebody reminds you how you shouldn’t be so tough with your kids because you expect the best from them, tell those people to go fly a kite. No matter what failures you’ve had in your life, you raise the standards you have for your kids REAL high. If you consistently keep those standards high, maybe on those times when they fall short, they will miss the mark but not as badly as we did. Don’t let your life’s failures and/or guilt make you settle for lower school grades, apathy about teen sex and worse. Yes, you should keep it real with your children but always aim real high.