Parenting: It Really Isn’t about You Anymore

Posted July 23, 2010 by

Something I see often is parents saying one thing but doing another when it comes to making a decision between what they want for themselves and what’s best for their children. If you ask any parent what is the most important thing to them, they will answer “My kids” almost instantaneously. While I truly think that people believe this in their heart, they often don’t act that way. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. When it comes down to making this type of decision, the thing that is important to the parent often ends up taking priority over what is in the children’s best interest. To be blunt, parents in certain situations act selfishly and then try to rationalize it.

This is why one of my Ten Simple Rules for Being a Better Parent is “It’s Not About You Anymore”.  Now, this is very difficult for a lot of people to swallow these days, because the first thing parents need to stop doing is acting selfishly. For example, my wife and I have a friend in his mid 40’s with a four-year-old son. This person loves music and plays in a band. He does a have a real job, and until recently the time he spent playing in the band could definitely be considered a hobby, which is good because we all need some Me Time. However, over the past year or so, this hobby has become more of a part-time job. In fact, he is booked nearly every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night for the entire summer. Now, if this were his full time job it would be one thing. Since it isn’t, what we have is a parent who is away at work all day during the week, and then every night during the weekend. As you can imagine, this is having an impact on his young son.

We as parents need to be able to step back and draw a bright line between Me Time and being selfish, because when we cross over and act selfishly our children know it, and that is not good parenting.


John McPherson is a leadership and management consultant in Salinas, CA. John and his wife Christina have two children, Fiona and Carson. Both John and Christina’s parents had a great influence in their upbringing, which helped them define how they would parent their children. Over the past ten years, John observed how many parenting practices have strayed from the principles he and Christina have found to be successful, and this led him to write a book on parenting, entitled "Ten Simple Rules for Being a Parent in a World Turned Upside Down".

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  1. Carole Banks Report

    Dear Kady W:

    What James Lehman, author of the Total Transformation Program recommends for those who are divorced is that you only focus on what takes place in your own home and not what occurs in your ex-spouse’s home. This will prevent the kids from playing one parent against the other and it keeps them ‘out of the middle’ because you’re not asking them what happens when they visit their Dad. Kids are capable of learning different rules for different settings, just as they do for home and for school. If the kids try to argue that their Dad allows them to do something that they are not allowed to do at your home, don’t criticize the Dad, of course, but simply say, “You may be allowed to do that at your Dad’s house, but in this house, these are the rules.” Hold the kids responsible for their behavior choices when they’re in your home.

    For more information on the challenges of divorce, refer to Lesson 5 of the Total Transformation Program and this article by Carri and Gordon Taylor: Blended Family? The 5 Secrets of Effective Step parenting

    We appreciate your question and wish your family the best.

  2. Kady W Report

    I agree whole-heartedly with this article, and can’t wait to get the book. I have struggled with my ex-husband (father of my children), as he is constantly asking, ‘what do the kids’ want?” when making decisions, often causing me to look like the “bad guy” mom. He makes decisions based on what will make the kids happy, so he can be ‘happy”, or at least not have to put up with the kids being upset with decisions. I think there is a lot of selfishness on his part, but he always says it’s for the kids, but it usually is not what is best for the kids, but best for him. If I say anything, he ramps up his disapproval of the way I want to handle things,and tells the kids I’m being too hard. In a nutshell, I could use some advice on how to be a better parent without the support of the other parent,when the other parent is actually telling the kids that I am being unreasonable expecting certain things. At least I can be assured that I really am trying to do things that are best for the kids. It is just soo much more difficult when I have to deal with an additional challenge of dealing with his poor parenting and actual undermining of my authority. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Louise Sanborn Report

    John – There is great wisdom in what you say! I see and hear it all the time, “My kids are so important!” and yet, actions don’t back up that statement. I think it’s really important that we be honest with ourselves, and recognize the onset of me-first selfishness. You’re right – our kids recognize it, and learn to act the same way, even if we’re not honest enough with ourselves to call it what it is. Both the honesty and the putting-others-first are 2 great values our world could use more of!

  4. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Report

    John, this is so true. I hear so many parents saying, “If I’m happy, my child is happy,” but I don’t think that’s always necessarily true! Kids are happiest when they are taken care of, given limits, and shown a lot of love, in my book. Great post — thanks for joining our Parent Blogger team!



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