Parents have much to learn from President Trump.
Love him or hate him, one of our new president’s primary traits is self-confidence bordering on arrogance. (Obviously, if you hate him, you will suggest that he crossed that border long ago.)
I won’t make any claims about Trump's parenting because I haven’t watched him parent. But I have watched him lead our country for the past five months. His tendency to believe in himself and the value of his perspective have put him crossways with the vast majority in the mainstream press.
His take on everything from the inaugural crowds to wiretapping in his office to Russia to “covfefe” shows the same pattern. He is right and everyone else is wrong.
Parents have much to learn from him when this happens. Donald Trump is a classic case study of what NOT to do when interacting with your kids. I admit that I am painting in broad strokes, but here is our new president’s typical pattern.
How POTUS Tends to Get it Wrong:
1. The president makes a claim about something.
2. Someone questions his facts or the validity of the claim.
3. The President doubles down on his original claim.
4. A great deal of evidence is presented that his claim is inaccurate.
5. The President stands by his original claim. He insists something is wrong with those who would question him.
6. Any impartial person who views all the evidence (not vetted by an extreme right wing organization or by a fake new site) can see that the President is wrong.
7. The President sticks to his guns. He then changes the subject, probably making another claim that sounds a bit “off” to most rational people.
8. Our President loses credibility with his constituents.
When someone is wrong but won’t admit it, he might have a pride problem. It shows that he is unwilling to consider another perspective. In and of itself, this is a huge deal.
But it’s even worse when the person is wrong and everyone knows he is wrong. If at this point he is unwilling to admit it, then his pride problem has evolved into a credibility problem. The people around him see his pride but they also see his arrogance. He is proclaiming, “I am right and nothing will change that. I am unwilling to concede.” Credibility gone.
The same exact thing happens in many homes. Parents will walk with their kids through all the same steps we have seen our new president walk through with the press. Again, here’s an over-generalized example.
How Some Parents Tend to Get it Wrong:
1. A parent does or says something that is wrong. It might be a “worst parent of the year” sort of thing.
2. His child/teenager questions the action or the words. In both verbal and non-verbal ways, he might communicate, “That hurt me.”
3. The parent doubles down. He indirectly communicates, “I am the parent. I am never wrong. Deal with it.”
4. His child/teenager expresses clear evidence and reasons why the parent got it wrong this time.
5. The parent accuses the child of being disrespectful or of overstepping his bounds. Shame and authority are employed as weapons.
6. An impartial witness would clearly see that the parent blew it this time. He didn’t handle himself well. The child’s heart is a casualty of the battle.
7. The parent ends the discussion. He might say something dismissive like, “Because I said so.” He makes it clear that there will be no more debate on this issue.
8. The parent loses credibility with his child/teenager.
When dealing with our naïve and occasionally clueless kids, we parents often know more than they do. We have to lead accordingly. But knowing more than they do doesn’t mean we are infallible. Our kids, particularly our teenagers, start to figure that out.
That’s why it’s so important to admit it when we blow it or make a bad call. If they know we are wrong but we don’t own it, we lose some of the delicate and essential credibility we have with them.
So what’s a parent to do?
First, be willing to listen to the perspective of your kids. Even if they are young and their opinion is a bit goofy, you can honor and value them by letting them have a voice.
Second, realize that you are allowed to change your mind. If your teenager makes an argument that sounds valid, it’s okay to come back to him or her a few hours later and say, “You convinced me.” It’s not a parenting fail. It’s teaching your teenager that their opinion matters.
Finally, be willing to say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry.” This is critical when you say or do something that, upon reflection, you realize was sinful. Your influence increases when your kids know you are willing to humble yourself before God and them. They know that you are a work in progress, just like they are.
All of this helps to teach our kids the gospel in our homes. It demonstrates that all of us are capable of doing and saying the wrong things. We are all on equal ground in our need for a Savior. We are all works in progress.
Our President is a fallen man, just like the rest of us. He is new on the job and he’s going to do and say some things he regrets. We need to give him a little grace. However I would respect and believe in him a whole lot more if he would occasionally say, “I was wrong on this issue. I totally blew it. Know that I’m trying to get it right.”
I bet your kids feel the exact same way about you.
*For the record, this is not meant to be a political post. If you make a comment about politics instead of parenting, I probably won't post it. And to be clear, I'm committed to praying for success for our president, just as I have with every president before him. ;-)