Friday, July 30, 2010

Great expectations

“But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” -1Th. 2:7

When we built the new building at Doulos, I learned a lot about electric breakers. They are designed to switch “off” when the circuit is overloaded. It prevents the attached equipment from being damaged.

When kids feel pressure from mom or dad to achieve, they can become overloaded. Many times parents live out their own needs to achieve through their kids. Parents have to be careful that they don’t impose their own drive onto their kids. The “switch off” sometimes looks like anger, depression, or a lack of motivation.

As always, Andy Griffith addressed the issue in one of my favorite episodes titled “Opie flunks arithmetic.” By the way, the title is interesting because he didn't flunk math, he made a “D.” Anyway, when Helen tells Andy that Opie isn't doing too well in math, he's pretty relaxed about it. She recommends that Opie should do a bit more homework and he agrees. Barney however (good ole Barney) thinks Andy's attitude is completely off base. He starts talking about how the boy may not get into college and he gets Aunt Bee all worried. Soon, Andy is just as stressed and he tells Opie to buckle down and cut out his play time. Helen soon reports to him that since they last spoke of Opie, he is actually doing much worse and not only in math. Andy can't understand since he's been quite strict with the boy who has done nothing but study. Helen suggests that that may just be the problem. Andy resents Helen “judging” his parenting.

Andy, still upset over Opie's low mark in arithmetic, makes a big fuss and forces the boy to spend more time studying to bring up his grade. Of course this has the opposite effect. Helen finally steps in and tells Andy that all work and no play seldom works and Andy backs off. With the pressure off, Opie does better.

One of my favorite scenes is when Andy, realizing he’s been pushing Opie too much, comes into Opie’s room. “How was football today?” Andy asks. Opie responds, “I don't play too well these days.” Andy smiles, “Oh, I expect you’re about as good a player as you ever were. You just do the best you can in school. I’ll back off and you be a little boy.”

Andy “releases” Opie to be all he can be, not all dad wants him to be. Opie leaves the room with a huge smile. Andy realized that he needed to back off and let Opie be Opie.

If I want my outdoor security lights to shine brighter, I can't increase the brightness by increasing the electrical load to the lights. That will simply overload the lighting system. There’s such freedom that comes with me sitting on the swing in the backyard and realizing that the lighting is fine. Not perfect, but fine.

Be a parent that has released your teenager. It’s okay to encourage our kids to be their best and to try hard. But be careful crossing the line and imposing your own ideas and expectations on your teen. Let them achieve and reach their own potential, not yours. Pray for a heart that knows the difference.

And enjoy the smile.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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