A Plea to Parents

After nearly 3 years of listening to stories from broken people whose pain began in childhood, I want to make a plea to anyone charged with the well-being of a child. 

So many dysfunctional lives began when a parent put his or her own interest/stupidity/addiction/laziness before the high calling of parenting. The following is an open letter to parents. If it offends you, good. Maybe it's not too late to change.
Dear Parent,

Your grown child sat before me today. Let me describe her. Does this sound like the child you thought you were raising?

A string of sexually dangerous relationships, broken marriages, children she cannot support who won't know their fathers, substance abuse, no self-respect, and no idea that moral boundaries exist for her protection. She may think money, sex, friendships, partying, another boyfriend, or a shopping spree will ease her pain. Or she may have so numbed her emotions she doesn't care anymore. She doesn't know where else to turn. You never taught her.
What you did teach her was that you wanted to be her friend. You wanted her to be poplar, sexy, sought-after, everything you were not. You didn't want her talking bad about you to her friends, so you said YES. 
Yes to skimpy clothes at 13. 
Yes to preteen dating. 
Yes to making idols out of immoral celebrities. 
Yes to experimental drinking at home.("At least she's not out with her friends doing it!"
Yes to staying out too late. 
Yes to failing school.  
Yes to strange men filing through your house. 
Yes to babysitters you did not know well enough. 
Yes to unsupervised play with relatives and friends. (Would you like me to tell you what they were really doing in the other room?
Yes to her boyfriend in her bedroom. ("They said they weren't doing anything.") 
Yes to disrespectful talk and behavior. 
Yes to whatever she wanted that left you alone.
But you said NO, too. Without realizing it, you said no to structure and healthy restraint. 
No to a spiritual foundation.("But I sent her to church most of the time.") 
No to self-control. 
No to morality. 
No to personal safety. 
No to wisdom. 
No to self-worth. 
No to age-appropriate responsibility. 
No to giving her a safe place to fall. 
No to guarding her heart like the treasure it is. 
No to healthy role models. 
No to allowing her the thrill of earning what she wanted. 
No to consequences that matched her behavior.
It took too much time away from your friends/the computer/work/ boyfriend/alcohol/TV to actually spend time teaching her anything about life. You assumed she would pick it up at school or church. As long as she wasn't causing you problems, she must be growing up fine. Fighting was easier than  enforcing boundaries. Giving in was easier than fighting. And refusing to set clear standards was easier than giving in. So she basically raised herself.
"No," you argue. "She had plenty of adults in her life helping me raise her right. We were at grandparents', aunts and uncles', best friends' houses every weekend."
And what did you do when she got up the courage to finally tell you what those trusted adults were doing to her? You didn't believe her. You scolded her, mocked her, or told her you'd take care of it. And nothing happened. Maybe you did get mad, report it, make a scene. But it got dropped. The molesters got a slap on the wrist; they came back home, and life moved on. You got over it. Surely she did. Or you never got over it and she always knew it was her fault. She spent the rest of her childhood parenting you.
What you did was write on her heart an indelible message: You do not matter. She had embarrassed you by telling. Caused trouble. Cut off your financial support. Deprived others of a valued relationship. No amount of "I love you's" could carve away the message engraved in stone. She may look successful on the outside, but that's because you never looked inside. Neither has she.

If you taught her anything at all about God, it was that he was either a distant angry hypocrite she could never please, or he was an impotent Santa Clause to whom she owed nothing but an occasional prayer and a guilty conscience. At best, He was a good-luck charm for when things got really bad. Her spiritual well-being wasn't high on your list of priorities. Too much trouble. Too many good excuses. Too many distractions that were far more fun.
So now she sits before me, blank eyes, deadened conscience, shattered heart, no good answers for the mountain of problems she brings with her. And they all began inside that bright-eyed 5-year-old who only wanted to play Barbies, go to birthday parties, and dream about Prince Charming. She's got to take responsibility for her choices now, but it would have been so much easier to make right ones if you'd done your job.

She was yours then; she's mine now.
You didn't want her talking about you to her friends, but we're talking about you now. Wouldn't it have been better to have been called The Meanest Mom in the World by a bunch of 14-year-olds than to have to read about yourself on some stranger's blog?
If you see yourself here, let this be a wake up call. Your sons and daughters are beautiful, wonderful, and full of potential. I'd love to meet them, but not in the counseling room. 
Please do us all a favor--Raise Your Children.


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