Lies in Disguise - "Good moms have happy kids"

Lies in Disguise - Good moms have happy kids [from the jensens blog]

I've seen this quote about 100 times, and 99 times, I've just let it slide.  I mean, who wants to be known as the stuffy mom who yells at her kids for spilling milk and making a mess?  Who wants to be compared to museum moms of the 1950's, who (we hear) were strict with children about not touching vases or sitting on couches.  Not I!  But I wonder if this "dirty floors and happy kids" message isn't really the truth that moms need to hear either.

Why it sounds good
From the moment your little newborn cries for the first time, everything in you as a mother wants to comfort them.  They grow a little older, and you do everything in your power to dry their tears; pacifiers, white noise machines, rocking chairs, bouncing, bottles, nursing sessions - whatever it takes to show them they are loved and cared for.  And this is good.  There is a crucial season of a child's development which requires parents to soothe, dote on, and respond vigilantly to their child's perceived discomforts.  It's easy to get into this groove, and not really realize where the stage ends - and suddenly you forget that it's more important to care about what it means to love them in the long-term (which doesn't always include quenching a child's immediate cravings).

Here is the picture this quote paints:
The kids have been playing with their toys all day.  They are having a blast - laughing and giggling together.  Many projects and fun moments have been tackled.  Mom is right in the mix of things.  She loves playing and being with her kids more than anything else, and if that means leaving cleaning until later, so be it!  It's all about being available for her kids every minute of the day, to make memories with them and laughing.  Mom is all about the kids.  The kids love her for making them happy.  All is well.  You are a good mom.

Who doesn't want this?  Messy floors and happy kids...

Why it's a lie
Can I just assert for a moment, that there is NO command in the bible which makes us personally responsible for our child's happiness?
  • We are responsible for training our children in the ways of the Lord.
  • We are responsible for teaching our children God's word.
  • We are responsible for holding our children accountable for their obedience to us.
  • We are responsible for providing for their needs.
  • We are responsible for teaching them the difference between wisdom and foolishness, and for protecting them from foolishness.
  • We are responsible for loving them (the biblical way of loving, which Jesus modeled for us)
  • We are not responsible for making sure our children are entertained.
  • We are not responsible for preventing our children from experiencing boredom.
  • We are not responsible for giving our children everything they want.
  • We are not responsible for dropping everything we need to do in order to let the world revolve around them.
  • We are not responsible for making them 'feel' happy.
In fact, I would assert that moms who are pre-occupied with "happiness" as their end goal of parenting have some of the LEAST happy children out there.  Because a mom who makes it her primary mission to show her kids a good time, enables them to not learn how to find contentment and joy on their own - born out of tough circumstances and relying on God.  A mom who says, "my kids have to be happy for me to be a good mom" is putting a burden on her shoulders that wasn't put there by God and can't be done.

Moms, have you ever tried to make your kids happy?  Because I often try.  Every time I have just given my toddlers what they want - because I want to turn whining into laughing, crying into fun memories, and tantrums into high fives - my children just need more from me.  They are a bottomless pit of wants, and I can never do enough to satisfy them.
One cracker turns into, "and a cookie too please"
One extra minute on my phone turns into, "no, ipad too!"
One begging, pick-me-up moment becomes, "waaa! don't put me down!"

Trying to fill a child's desire for being happy and comfortable is impossible.

And besides the fact that we aren't responsible for our children's happiness, I wonder if the pendulum isn't swinging to from the 1950's extreme of "perfect homes and strict mean mommies" to "sloppy homes and run-ragged child-centered mommies".  Is this quote helping us become industrious women who find a biblical balance between keeping up with our homemaking responsibilities AND caring for the hearts of our children?

Why it matters:
Moms living by the mantra of, "all for the sake of happy kids" are at risk for neglecting important and crucial lessons that children need to learn.  Moms who are ignoring other important tasks and relationships to focus their all on their children are creating a false world-view for their kids that will be detrimental later in life.

Because it's possible that the mom who leaves a mess on the floor all the time because she doesn't want to impede her children's play is sending the unspoken message:

  • You are in charge around here.
  • This house revolves around you.
  • Having an orderly and sanitary environment isn't as important as having fun.
  • Mom doesn't care about dad's disdain for messy floors, she just wants her kids to be happy.
  • Guests just need to deal with our environment - it's about them adapting to us, not us serving them.
  • It's not that important for us to take care of the home and material possessions God gave us.

Children need to see that mom loves them, that she is present and available, that she is loving and nurturing, and that she values her relationship with them more than a clean house...
BUT
Children also need to see that mom works hard, has boundaries, expectations, standards, other responsibilities, and keeping her home in order is one of those things.

Probably the biggest issue with this "good moms have happy kids" mentality is that "happy kids" (who have been given every want and whim) will likely have a hard time grasping the gospel and recognizing their need to depend on God.
  • A child whose parent is meeting their every need will have a hard time seeing need for Jesus.
  • A child whose parent is bending over backwards and letting everything else slide to see their child 'happy' will likely think that the world is self-centered instead of God centered.
  • A child whose parents never allow them to be bored, discouraged, frustrated, unhappy, or dissatisfied, will have a hard time seeing their sin and need for a greater satisfaction found in God.
Lest you think I'm harsh and I want us all to have unhappy little children and pristine houses, let me reassure you that is NOT the case.  I want my children to be happy just as much as any other mom, but I don't think happiness is something I can give them.  I want them to experience some uncomfortable moments for the sake of being humbled before God, at which point I pray they can trust Christ and find true joy.

Because joy isn't based on circumstances.  And I want to have joyful content children, even if it means sometimes I can't play with them because I need to mop the floor.  And if I'm going to have messy floors, let it not be because I was striving for happy children, but because I was busy training them in the ways of the Lord.

p.s.  If you in fact have pinned this quote or have it on a plaque in your house, you don't need to take it down on my behalf.  I get that the heart of it is just to say, "sometimes it's more important to be with your children than it is to clean your house".  And that's true at times.  The meaning of this series is simply to deconstruct widely accepted cultural norms, sayings, and standards and view them critically in light of God's word - not to spoil all the fun in Hobby Lobby display plaques.  :-)  so quote in peace.

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Lies in Disguise is a series geared towards identifying unbiblical teaching and thinking, subtly infused into our day-to-day lives.  The hope is to encourage others to filter and discern all things through the truth of the bible. 
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