Christmas is over and it’s the week before New Years. People head out to the retailers to return gifts or buy discounted items. When I go to a store I expect good customer service. I’m giving the company money and they should be thankful I’m doing my part to keep them employed.
While it’s normal to expect good customer service in retail, many kids have come to hold the same view with their parents. Parents have become the customer service representative for their children. Let’s take a look at what happens usually when parents assume the customer service roll. The theory behind customer service is that the customer is always right. You must, at all cost, not disappoint the customer. From the kids’ side, they quickly learn to assume that “all roads lead to Rome.” If something in life doesn’t benefit the kid, they have no reason to participate in it. It leads to a very selfish existence. A poll recently cited that a large majority of 20yr olds view themselves as their gift to the world. If you are that great, everyone should comply with your wishes because you think you are always right. On the other side, from the parent’s view, you could never measure up. As a parent, when would know that your kids have received enough praise, enough things, enough of anything? You wouldn’t know and an insecure parent doesn’t lead but is led by their children who hold the power of saying when it’s enough and when it’s right.
How did some parents shift into this customer service position? Well our past great philosophers has sold us a story. The foundation has been laid upon the assumption that children are born innocent. Thanks to Adam and Eve, we inherited a sin nature and even Christians sometimes forget this basic element. So according to current beliefs, if you provide a good environment, heap praise upon your child and reduce stress, a child will be great. Where does any sense of personal responsibility come into play for the kid? This model places all the work, blame or praise on everything else but the child. Ironically, how maddening it seems to a child when everyone else takes the credit for good things. Of-course there is fairness when placing the blame on others for their own failures. What a crazy belief system and we are seeing it played out before our very eyes. If the world does not wait on me, I’ll go out and make them do it! I demand personal customer service or else!
Since I am not my boys’ customer service agent, what can I do differently? I will try to allow my boys to experience natural consequences to their decisions. I’m not going to throw my boys to the wolves, but I will allow age appropriate consequences to occur when my children try things on their own. I will not rush to do all the thinking or planning for them. For instance, my boys love to climb and jump. If James was 5 feet off the ground and about to jump, I’d warn him that it was too high and I’d move over to catch if he jumped anyways. But if James was a foot or two off the ground, I’d warn him and if he jumped anyways, it would hurt but not to the point of needing a doctor. A good sore arm can leave a lasting effect on what smart behavior is. Just ask any man what lessons he learned from childhood and most likely it will be some stupid stunt that hurt like the dickens and he’ll laugh as he tells the story and what he learned. When I let my boys try, knowing that their core being is flawed and so in turn their actions will sometimes be flawed, they will start making the connections for themselves what the best action should be. While they are young, I’ll be making more of the decisions and doing more sheltering from some consequences, but as each year passes I’ll be sheltering less and letting my kids make their own choices more. I hope that my children will be able to look back at their accomplishments and be able to have pride because their character and success will have been dependant on what God has given them the ability to do. My security as a parent will come from the fact that I directed my children to depend on what God has given them and how they used it. My hope doesn’t come from my customer service, but rather is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness living through us.
So while you are waiting in that line to purchase or return, remember that your job as a parent isn’t to be their customer service representative. Let children deal with disappointment and consequences now so that they can handle them when they get older. They will soon learn that some roads lead to Rome and others lead to great places, outside themselves, like Hawaii.