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Peter Pan Parent

October 17, 2018 | by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

Some parents never want to grow up.

The question in the recent Sunday New York Time's Social Q’s column caught my eye. Under the heading of Micro-Mini Mom, I read a teen’s words that I believe reflect the feelings of many children.

“I am a 14 year old girl and I get along with my mother pretty well. But she tends to wear clothes that are appropriate for girls my age-and totally wrong for 42 year old mothers: skirts that are way too short, cropped tops and cutesy branded tees. I feel humiliated when my friends see her dressed up like that. But when I try to discuss the issue calmly; we end up screaming at each other. What can I do?”
-- Gillian

I have spoken to children who have described how ashamed they’ve felt when their father’s danced inappropriately at their Bar Mitzvah or ruined the night by drinking themselves into the most humiliating of experiences. I have tried to help children find peace after speaking about mothers who dress in little outfits and ridiculous stilettos, thinking they look fashionable, but in their daughter’s eyes, they are only a source of embarrassment.

The issue goes beyond ‘not in good taste’ and a little too much liquor. As parents, we are responsible for setting certain standards of behavior in our family’s lives. The way we dress, the way we party, the way we speak, all impact the way our children see us. And if our children believe that we belittle ourselves through our behavior or clothing, we become diminished in their eyes.

Too many parents are trying to raise children while they haven't finished growing up themselves.

There is a trend in our world today where parents are just not interested in the responsibility that parenting entails. Too many fathers and mothers are trying to raise children while they have not yet finished growing up themselves. We don’t want to look older, act older, or miss out on the fun. We find blogs complaining about having to be home at night, doing carpool, or needing to sit down and concentrate on boring math homework. “Been there, done that, I need to get away from it all.”

I call them ‘Peter Pan Parents’. Every neighborhood has them. We find fathers and mothers who would rather be out or on vacation than deal with the stresses of life. Some dress in beat up sneakers and tattered jeans or match their Juicy outfits with their kids so that they still feel young. As their children grow they become stuck in time, refusing to move on.

Related Article: Rabbi Weinberg & Taking Responsibility

The trouble is that in the process, we lose our dignity. And when our dignity goes out the window, so does the esteem that our children should have for us. It is important for us to remember that children need parents to respect. Of course we want to create a warm and loving environment in our homes. But at the same time we cannot fall into the trap of thinking that we and our children are BFFs. As a parent I have a most crucial mission: to guide, to lead, and to inspire. I am here to mold character and raise a child with soul. How can I possibly accomplish all this if I did not yet accept the responsibility that honorable parenting brings?

We are our children’s greatest role models. If not us, who will our children seek out for direction?

Scandals swirl around our favorite stars. Athletes, Hollywood actors and actresses, great politicians – no one is immune. Popular shows and music videos encourage our kids to mock decency. Gossip magazines scream out wild headlines describing outrageous scenes and desperate lives.

If we want our children to speak and carry themselves with respect, we must be the first in line.

If we want our children to speak and carry themselves with respect, we must be the first in line. Judaism teaches us to revere both body and soul. We dress with dignity. We give thought to our words and language. The way we live reflects the majesty that lies within.

Honor and respect are basic foundations of our homes. Effective discipline is contingent upon the relationships we have with our kids. Parents who live with dignity give their children an image to revere, admire and respect.

Your children need to honor you. Not because you crave admiration or obedience. Respect is a cornerstone of our relationship. When children show respect, they are accepting their parents as their life guides. The greater their respect, the stronger the bond grows between parent and child. But this cannot be accomplished by parents who act as if they are still in college (or high school).

We begin by living with dignity and honor. We begin by taking a good look at ourselves.

There is a part of parenting that requires us to dig deep. We must let go of our selfish needs and finally grow up. We may be tired. It might not always be fun. Yes, a vacation or going out seems better than giving baths or driving carpool. But when I finally reach the moment where I am prepared to live with dignity, to parent with honor, to seek out moments that define me as a parent, then I have come to a place in my life that will be cherished beyond my days.

Join Slovie Jungreis-Wolff's Jewish parenting course that gives you time-tested solutions based on Jewish values. Click here for more information.

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