Escaping the Comparison Parent Trap

by

Ann WilsonBy Ann Wilson

Have you ever thought to yourself, This world is so big and so dark and they’ll face so many challenges, so what do I know? What if I don’t get everything right that my kids need to learn? The training stage reveals our perceived deficiencies. We want to impart everything our kids will need in order to grow into healthy adults, but we can’t.

For me, a conversation with my close friend Callie really opened my eyes to a comforting yet truly vertical perspective. One day, she casually said she knew God had picked her to be the parent of her children, who were both biological and adopted. She knew he had chosen her and no one else, so God must know she had exactly what her kids needed.

This sounds a little self-aggrandizing until you get to the core of what she was saying. She was not saying she had no faults, understood everything her kids needed, and was the answer to all of their problems. Not in the least. Instead, she was taking refuge in the truth of God’s sovereignty and his promise to direct our steps, if we invite him to do so. This means he was the one with no fault, full understanding, and, more importantly, was the answer to all of their problems. This goes back to the manager versus creator idea. God is the owner, but he grants us stewardship of various parts of his creation, including his kids, whom we get to call “our kids” as well. But as people, they are under his creative purview, not ours.

The parable of the bags of gold gives us a perfect glimpse into this concept and reveals ways we are more ready for the tasks of parenting than we might think. Matthew 25:14–15 reads:

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called
his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he
gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another
one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his
journey” (emphasis mine).

Did you catch it? The master entrusted what was valuable to him to servants who were also valuable to him, and he only gave them what he knew they could handle—that is, according to their ability. This can be such an insulting concept in a comparison world because we all tend to approach every issue with the unspoken feeling that we are all equal in ability. Yes, we are equal in worth, but we are not equal in ability. This shouldn’t be an insult; it should be a comfort.

Callie had grasped this concept. God had given her exactly what she could be successful at stewarding as a parent—and at the end of this parable, everything goes back to the master anyway. God lets us share in the raising of his kids, but we don’t have a higher level of love, concern, or affection for them. I don’t think this means we ever have to completely give them back. I think God intends for us to enjoy our loved ones together for eternity. I do, however, think it means we have to remember whose they are and who we’ve given them over to—that is, we must release ourselves from the errant notion that their complete growth, future, and outcomes are solely dependent on us. That’s a lot of unnecessary pressure, and it simply isn’t true.

When Callie introduced this concept to me, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Once again, however, comparison and insecurity are not just issues of the head, but more so of the heart. I understood what she was saying, and I found myself longing to have that level of confidence and security in my heart. It took some time, but the information eventually began to produce transformation.

I began to believe that God designed me knowing the kids I would have under my roof. He had already equipped me with passions, talents, ideas, and a personality that our kids needed. I didn’t have to feel out of place in my own home or even in my own skin. He was the Master who had the ultimate control over their outcome, and I had been tasked with helping to manage the ones he loved so dearly—a task for which I was uniquely suited because he had lined up my life’s situations with my abilities to handle them.

This changed everything. Instead of hating myself or constantly trying to change everything about myself to become worthy of this impossible task, I began to explore who God had already made me to be. When the condemnation of comparison wasn’t my primary concern, I was free to ask questions like, Who am I? and What is important to me?

I began praying more than just for God to change me to be a better parent. That’s a fine prayer we should all pray at times, but it can lead us into assuming that God didn’t already know what he was doing when he placed these kids with us. I added to this prayer a request for God to help me know what he had uniquely placed within me that I could easily give to our kids.

Your home will be an extension of you. The air of your house will carry your unique personality. So who are you? What are your motivations and strengths? Through what lenses do you tend to view the world?

If you don’t know, it’s time to begin exploring.

________

No Perfect ParentsAdapted from No Perfect Parents: Ditch Expectations, Embrace Reality, and Discover the One Secret That Will Change Your Parenting by Dave and Ann Wilson. Click here to learn more about this book.

Following the wildly popular Vertical Marriage with the same charming, relatable dialogue between mom and dad, bestselling authors and national hosts of FamilyLife Today Dave and Ann Wilson dive headlong into the monumental task of parenting in the 21st century.

Raising kids with hearts for Christ may be the hardest thing you ever try to do, but it’s also the most important thing. Packed with funny and honest stories, compelling illustrations, biblical insight, and practical steps you can put into practice today, this hands-on parenting manual will encourage and equip every parent through any stage.

Founders of a multi-campus church and family coaches with 30 years of experience, Dave and Ann share the hard-earned but easy-to-apply principles that ensure a strong parent-to-child relationship and a strong foundation for your child. You’ll get a front-row seat to the multidimensional nature of parenting through a conversational back and forth between Mom and Dad and even comments from their adult sons on what worked, what didn’t work, and why. An inspiring and resourceful guide, No Perfect Parents will cover essential topics like learning to discipline without losing your mind or causing more chaos, the parenting guilt trip, the teen years, and the top five parenting mistakes.

For parents and couples preparing to have children, Dave and Ann offer hope and strategies that really work, and some that didn’t. No Perfect Parents will let you into the real, even raw, struggles and joys of raising kids that can impact their generation in a powerful way.

To get the legacy that you’ve been praying for, start here. Your kids will thank you later.

Ann Wilson has served alongside her husband for more than twenty-five years, cofounding Kensington Community Church, speaking at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember®, and hosting their own marriage conferences across the country. They live in the Detroit area, and they have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody; three daughters-in-law; and five grandchildren.

Dave Wilson was the Detroit Lions chaplain for 33 seasons, a lead pastor, and a nationally touring speaker as well as the radio host with his wife, Ann, of the nationally syndicated radio show Family Life Today. But it’s his singular passion for enriching lives through spreading the Word and wisdom of God that truly defines him. As the cofounder, alongside his wife, of Kensington Community Church, a national, multi-campus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend, Dave’s energy and experience allow him to engage with crowds of any size.

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