The Dangers of Being an Absentee Parent

As a parent, you need to be in the moment.

I like reasons.  If I understand why things are the way they are, it’s easier for me resolve things in my spirit.   I was reading a story recently the dangers of being an absentee parentwhere it mentioned hearts of fathers being turned towards their children.

I understand this idea of father’s hearts not being turned towards children.  I work with children whose fathers are absent – permanently, temporarily, or in spirit.  Josh Kissee of Manbuilders recently reviewed a book called “Father Hunger” dealing with the epidemic of absentee fathers.  If you don’t think it’s an epidemic, then visit a school in your community for a day.  Talk to your co-workers about their lives, or the people you come into contact with throughout your day.

But absentee parenting isn’t just about fathers.  Moms can be absent either physically or emotionally.  It’s heartbreaking to hear a young child say, “My mom doesn’t love my dad anymore” or a teen write in an assignment, “My mom chose her boyfriend over me.”  As an educator, I’ve heard it all.

What does it mean to have our hearts turned towards children? Does it simply mean to love them? 

I’ve seen a lot of damage done in the name of love.

Turning hearts towards children requires action  – being compassionate, intentional, and exerting emotional energy by nurturing them to be all they can be.  It’s not living through them, pushing our dreams on them, or giving in to them so they’ll be happy.

It’s developing their heart and character.

There’s a lot of enabling done in the name of love.   Enabling a child is tempting.  It goes against our parenting nature to see our kids suffer consequences from their choices. But turning our hearts towards theirs means they may experience adversity. When we take the pain away, they don’t grow as individuals.  When we eliminate pain, they continue to need us.

There was a time when my heart was turned more toward self than my kids.  Confessions of an out-of-balance-mom.  Several years ago I began running as a stress-reliever. I had a toddler, preschooler, school-age and preteen child.  Running became my escape from an otherwise hectic, busy household.  It became an idol.  One of my kids got my attention by hiding my running shoes.  I found them in an obscure location one day, well-hidden from anyone looking to run.  I still don’t know which child hid my shoes that summer, but I got the message.  One of them needed my heart to be turned towards them. 

Parenting well doesn’t happen by serving on every school committee or giving our kids the latest gadget.  Raising healthy kids and teens requires thought, care, and attention.  It requires selflessness in ways that aren’t comfortable.

  • It requires giving up control.
  • It is requires admitting we have parenting flaws.
  • It requires placing our kid’s best interest before our own.
  • It requires putting down rights and taking up grace.

I can’t change absentee fathers or displaced mothers.  But I can change the magnets in my life that pull away from the healthy development of my family.  I can be honest with myself about what each child needs from me and how I can turn my heart towards them.

 What about you?  What are the magnets in your life pulling your heart away from your child?

 

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Brenda has a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a BA in education. She's a speaker, freelance writer, author, counselor and teacher who's spent two decades working with and raising teenagers. She's a mom of four, from middle school to young adult, and lives with her family on a farm in Indiana. She writes about life, faith, and parenting beyond the storybook image at Life Beyond the Picket Fence at brendayoder.com.

Brenda Yoder

Brenda has a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a BA in education. She's a speaker, freelance writer, author, counselor and teacher who's spent two decades working with and raising teenagers. She's a mom of four, from middle school to young adult, and lives with her family on a farm in Indiana. She writes about life, faith, and parenting beyond the storybook image at Life Beyond the Picket Fence at brendayoder.com.

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