People who make things look easy really get on my nerves. You know who I’m talking about. Ever watched one of those cooking shows on TV? You see them making some recipe in 10 easy steps and it always comes out looking hot, beautiful, and delicious. So you try it at home and all you end up with is a giant mess of something ugly and inedible. Or maybe you’ve watched one of those home improvement shows where the host can build, repair, or decorate just about anything and it turns out great, all on a shoestring budget. So in a fit of inspiration you make a trip to Home Depot, spend twice as much as you wanted to, come home and four hours later all your spouse can say is “maybe we can call someone to come fix it tomorrow.” Why does it seem to be so easy for some people? Why are so many things in life easier said than done?
I’ve found that parenting is often like that. You look around and it seems that other parents (you know the ones) have it all together. They say “stop” and their kids freeze, they say “no” and their kids instantly comply without a peep, and they say “jump” and their kids seemingly ask “how high?” You just know it can’t be real; you know it can’t really be that easy. But still, to watch and listen to them, parenting is a piece of cake. And then, to add insult to injury, you come across a video of a parenting expert and he or she makes it sound so very easy. So you go home and give it a try with your child, but much like the recipe gone awry or the repair job that fails, all you end up with is a big mess. It was easy for them to say, but oh so very hard for you to do.
Well there is good news – you’re not crazy and you’re not alone. It turns out that many of these things are in fact ‘easier said than done.’ Experts have even given this reality a name: the illusion of expertise. In overly simple terms, this regularly occurring phenomenon describes how we often observe others explaining or demonstrating something and we mistakenly believe that we can replicate it with a similar level of mastery or competence, if not also ease. But therein lies the illusion. True expertise, true mastery only comes with consistent and quality repetition and with constructive feedback regarding mistakes. That’s just a fancy way of saying that you have to practice. There is simply no substitute, and parenting is not exempt.
Practice is not a foreign concept to us parents. Our kids are involved in a bewildering array of sports, activities, and school performances. We have no problem pushing our kids to practice. Even homework can be thought of as practice. But practice our parenting? That sounds crazy.
Yet that is precisely what we need to do. Let’s all admit it – parenting is hard. At times, it’s downright impossible. And I am convinced that it is supposed to be, in no small part because through the hard and in the midst of the impossible God is at work in our lives to shape and mold us in ways that He can only do through the parenting journey. Dan Allender, in his terrific book How Children Raise Parents, puts it this way: “parenting is the space in our lives where we are most open to the work of God to change us – if we will only allow our children to lead us into spiritual maturity.”
So as we pursue a more holistic way of understanding and relating to our children; as we learn to love our children the way God loves us…let’s not forget that we have the privilege and opportunity to put our faith and commitment into practice each and every day. But there are no shortcuts – at least none worth taking. Giving your child voice, creating ‘felt safety’, connecting while correcting, giving choices, using playful engagement, implementing an effective time-in, repairing your mistakes…these all require practice. A lifetime of faithful practice and learning from our mistakes. And although practice won’t make perfect (there’s no such thing when it comes to parenting), God will use it to change you and your relationship with your child.
For more on the importance of practice in parenting, watch this short video by Amy Monroe: