Are You Parent A or Parent B?

~ by Roger Madison

Imagine receiving this call from your son:

Son (we will call him Johnny): Dad, I need you to help me out.
Dad: Sure Johnny, what’s up?
Son: I just talked to Mr. Smith at school and he is not going to let me participate in the game tonight.
Dad: Why is that?
Son: He says that I didn’t complete my term project on time and so I have an F in the class, kids with F’s aren’t allowed to play, according to school policy. But it’s not my fault my dad, I didn’t know the term project was due yesterday.

Most of us as parents have had a conversation with our children similar to this one. Please feel free to adjust the details to fit one that you have had. Now the question, which parent are we?

Parent A has empathy for his son (a daughter would never not complete her assignment) and understands how badly he wants to participate. Parent A also is looking forward to the game, it’s against a rival school and he enjoys watching his son compete. Perhaps the team is less likely to win without his son playing. However, Parent A sees a much larger teaching opportunity and responds this way:

Dad: Ok, let me get this straight… your term project was due yesterday and you didn’t turn it in because you didn’t know it was due? Son, I am going to take you at your word that you didn’t know but that doesn’t excuse you from being responsible. You should have known that was due and turned the assignment in as requested. I can’t help you get in the game tonight, you will have to work that out with Mr. Smith. I can help you review the syllabus and get organized so that this doesn’t happen again. I love you son and hope you will learn an important lesson here.

Parent B also has empathy but takes the Papa Bear approach and becomes angry. He doesn’t think of the teaching opportunity that exists, instead he thinks of the embarrassment this will cause to his son and family. He thinks about the team likely losing the game because his son won’t be able to play. Parent B quickly transfers responsibility to the teacher and the conversation goes like this:

Dad: That is ridiculous. I will call Mr Smith right now and straighten this out. There is no way my son is missing this game, not against our rival. Mr Smith has always been hard to deal with. He should understand how busy you are. Don’t worry son – I will get you in the game tonight, I will take it to the principal if I have too.

Unfortunately – there a lot of Parent B’s in the world today that unwittingly teach their children that they are not responsible and that they are victims. Next time you are faced with one of these conversations try stepping back and thinking about the bigger picture and the teaching opportunity that exists. Sometimes being a parent requires us to show love in ways that our kids won’t appreciate until later.
Good luck out there, love your kids the right way, and appreciate the opportunity to watch them compete – it is fleeting!