The best parenting advice I can give
Don’t leave when I tell you, I don’t have kids. I don’t, but I’m going to give you some parenting advice anyway. I’m going to give it because I didn’t get it from myself. I’m going to give you the best parenting advice I’ve come across, not because I came up with it, but because I experienced it, and it worked.
Here we go. In order to give you my advice I need to tell you a story. It’s about me. It’s about how my parents made what could have seemed like an insignificant and unrelated choice that literally shaped who I am today and what I do for a living. It’s about a choice that probably wasn’t the “right” parenting choice, but I’m so, so glad they made it.
When I was 12, for some inexplicable reason I received an offer in the mail to join a Christian music “club”. The idea was that you got an introductory offer of 12 CD’s for “just” the price of shipping and handling (which probably ended up being over $20), then you received 1 CD a month to listen to, decided if you liked it and keep or return it. I, at 12 years old, having no income or way of paying for any of this, filled out the form, chose my 12 CD’s and mailed the pre-paid postcard back. A few weeks later my dad walked into my room with a questioning look, 3 square boxes of what I knew contained 12 CDs… and a bill.
In that moment my parents had a choice, what were they going to do with me?
The “right” answer would have been to make me return the CD’s and cancel my subscription, then make me do chores to work off the cost that they had to pay. While what I did might not have been “sin” it was certainly stupid and I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I expected them to get mad, I expected that I would be disciplined.
But I wasn’t.
In a moment of what I can only explain as parenting genius, my parents held it together and didn’t flip out. They let me keep the CD’s and paid the shipping and handling charges. I kept the overall subscription, but figured out how to cancel the feature where I automatically received a CD every month. When they would have huge sales once or twice a year I would get a bunch of CDs, some of which I paid for and some of which my parents bought me. I kept the subscription for years and probably bought over 100 CDs during that time. I really did end up getting a lot of music at a good price.
But the most significant thing that happened in that moment was that I became a music addict, and my parents became my suppliers. I learned about the artists and memorized the songs. One of my friends and I would play a game where they would choose a CD from my collection, play about 5 seconds of a randomly chosen song and I would tell them the artist, album title and song. I was really, really good at this game. I was exposed to and learned to appreciate a style of music that focused on God, so much so that when I started writing my own music a few years later, that’s what came out.
A few weeks ago I brought this memory up to my dad and asked him what they were thinking?! Now, as an adult, I can totally see my fault in this, but I’m so thankful they reacted like they did and not like I thought they would. My dad said that they had talked about it at the time and while it wasn’t a good thing that I did, it was a good thing that I was getting into and they wanted to support me in that. They would rather pay for a subscription to a Christian music company than have me spend my money buying secular music. While I was independent to a fault (and sometimes still am), at least I was being independent toward good things and not rebellion.
Truly. Parenting genius!
They couldn’t have known that almost 20 years later I would be a full-time musician (I had never pursued that at any point of my childhood or teen years). Their sacrifice was really an investment into not only my spiritual journey, but also my professional one as well, and they had no clue. (I was a horrible piano student at the time.)
They probably didn’t make the “right” parenting decision, but it was an awesome one. One that I’m really, truly grateful for. They didn’t depend on a cookie-cutter, parenting book guideline. Rather, they took a look at me as a person and what I did in light of that, then they acted as they thought was in my best interest.
Now, to be fair, my initial purchase aside, I was very wise with my buying, didn’t take advantage of their generosity and always asked before buying anything else. I’m pretty sure I got told not to sign up for any other “great offers”, but other than that I got nothing but support in my pursuit of Christian music. If I ever get rich off of this thing I should probably buy them something big as a thank you. We’ll see how it goes.
So there it is, from a person without kids to all of you parents out there: the best parenting advice I can give you is to assess the situation before you freak out. Ask if the choice your kid just made was really a sin or just childish stupidity? Is the thing good, even if the choice wasn’t the best? Is what they’re after something that should be corrected, or just their way of getting there?
Who knows, that stupid decision of theirs might just be the key to their future?
“Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.”