When Parents Don’t Know All the Answers

Parents know they don’t know all the answers. Still, our little ones look up to us with such hope and expectation. They believe in us. Our friends, coworkers, and our children’s teachers may all consider us “good parents.” But in our own hearts (and to our chagrin sometimes in public and before others) our weaknesses become apparent, often with the untimely assistance of our children, who often do or say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and our image of being the perfect parent is suddenly tarnished in front of everyone. However, we can’t know what to do with our children on every occasion. We would like to appear to others as though we never make a mistake, but that’s a pretty uncomfortable (and in truth, impossible) load to try to carry.

The secret is not to try to be smarter or better than everyone else, but rather to view your imperfections and inabilities as an asset, and use them as stepping stones. Look at some of the advantages of such weakness: Firstly, when you know you are weak and insufficient in yourself you are quicker to seek and accept God’s help. King David testified: “This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:6). The apostle Paul desperately cried out: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me…? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25). “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). When we are weak, then He is strong in us and for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). Dependence on God will provide you with strength and wisdom that you could never attain on your own, and will therefore make you more likely to succeed in the challenging journey of parenthood.

Secondly, weakness helps keep us humble. When we are humble, we are less judgmental of others and more loving and merciful with our children. We’re also usually more open to the suggestions of friends and family, who, being a bit further removed from the trees, can sometimes discern the forest better than we can. “Blessed are the poor in spirit [the humble], for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

Thirdly, when you know you are weak, it is much easier to please God than when you are strong and proud and you feel self-sufficient. Weak and humble people know they need help; they need God and so call out to Him for the answers, and God promises to take extra good care of them.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

By showing your children that you are weak and fallible and in need of God’s help, you are actually setting a wonderful example to them, which can in turn help you develop a closer relationship with them. When a parent is proud, pushy, impatient and easily upset, children often dig in their heels and resist. It’s like Aesop’s fable of the contest between the sun and the north wind:

The sun and the wind once had a conversation, in which the boisterous and argumentative wind contended that he was the stronger of the two. The wise and kindly sun, sensing an argument in the making that could only result in ill will, tried to let it pass. The wind was unrelenting.
“I’ll prove I am stronger!” said the wind. “Do you see the old man down there? I bet I can get his coat off of him quicker than you can!”
So the sun sighed and went behind a cloud, and the wind blew and blew until it was almost a tornado. But the harder it blew, the tighter the old man clutched his coat to him. Finally the wind gave up and calmed down.
Then the sun came out from behind the cloud and smiled kindly on the old man. After only a short while the man mopped his brow and pulled off his coat.
The sun had shown the wind that warmth and kindness was stronger than fury and force.

When you try too hard to force your children to do something you want them to do, they’re likely to pull their cloak of resistance more tightly around themselves. But use the warm sunshine of love, humility, and honesty, and their lack of cooperation will turn to willing compliance. With just a little time, patience, warmth, and love, even the toughest nut will soon break open of its own accord and spring forth, grow, and blossom.

In view of the advantages of a humble attitude, don’t let a few weaknesses hold you back or cause you to feel negatively about yourself. You can be your weak, helpless, human self and still be a great parent. One honest tear of humility, truthful acceptance of your weakness, and confession of your dependence on God can mean more to your child than all the parenting awards in the world.

Children are intimidated by life, too. There are plenty of things going on in an older child’s life that his or her parents don’t see or know about. Children often face fears and battles that for them are like matters of life and death. They need to see that you are not so different from them, and most of all, they need to see how you turn to the Lord for help with your weakness and problems.

Try to help your children open up to you about the things that bother them. Sometimes it just takes a warm hug, a look into their eyes, and a few words: “Is everything okay? Is there anything you want to tell me?”—And then be a good listener. You may not be able to solve their problems yourself. That’s not the point. But you can pray with them and help them learn to ask God for His help. You may not be able to be with them 24 hours a day, especially as they get older, but He can.

The Family Garden
The family is a garden
With flowers sweet and fair.
The parents are the pruners
Of each child in their care.
God made the family garden,
Allowed each blossom to unfold.
He blessed the family garden,
With budding beauty to behold.
Love controls the pruning tool,
Used by parents every day.
Trust is the timeless tool
That guides a family in God’s way.
—Wilma L. Shaffer
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