Performance parenting | Mark’s Remarks - Republic-Times | News

Performance parenting | Mark’s Remarks

By on May 14, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Parenting is a tough job.  

When your kids are nearing adulthood, you tend to look back and wonder if you made mistakes, even though it makes no sense to do that. Sure, you can wonder and you can even be regretful, but you can’t go back and fix it.  

I’ve told all of my kids I was sorry for losing my temper in the past or making a mistake, but you certainly can’t go back and undo things. Apologizing helps, of course. We all make mistakes and need to own up to it.

An interesting thing I’ve noticed about my own parenting and most parents, really, is that we succumb from time to time to a terrible thing I call “performance parenting.” It’s a nasty part of parenting, I’m afraid. For some of us, it comes and goes. For some parents, it’s a way of life.

What is performance parenting? It’s when we get across to our kids that they must perform a certain way to get our love and respect.  If we are blessed enough to realize this about ourselves and stop it, thank goodness.  But as I said, some parents do it from day one and never stop, even when their kids are adults.

I’ve watched countless sporting events in my years as a parent. We tried just about everything. I will never forget a time when I watched a little boy make a mistake during a sporting event and then burst into tears on the field. The only thing he could do was motion to his parents and shake his head.  It was uncomfortable to many of us, because we had watched the parents, week after week, berate the kids and talk awful to him if he made a mistake on the field.

This time, he was practically paralyzed on the field as he just stood there and cried. I didn’t pay attention to the reaction of the parents and was afraid to turn around, but I can only guess the eventual reaction wasn’t positive. Or maybe it was. Maybe this was the moment they realized that they weren’t doing it right.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had conversations with people about disappointing their parents.  It’s maddening. Even older folks who should be far removed from worrying about such things are still connected and worried that they will let their parents down. 

My question is: why are we worried? Let’s stop it!  I’ll bet some of our parents would say the same thing.

I listen to a lot of sermons on Bott radio and I heard one recently that eluded to a lot of what I’m talking about, but it went on to talk about the cycle of performance parenting and how it can lead to relationship issues that are ongoing.

Parents who raise their children to believe they must fit into a certain mold or do certain things to gain their parents’ love and attention often become grandparents who do the same thing.

Parents, your children need to know they can come to you with mistakes or concerns and not be met with disapproval, intense questioning and judgment.  Grandparents, when you try to show your grown children how to parent by questioning everything they do, you are continuing to “performance parent” your children. 

Furthermore, grandchildren don’t need you to tell them their clothes don’t match or their rooms are messy. They don’t need you to tell them they need to comb their hair or do better at math. They need you to take an interest in the things they do. They need your encouragement. Sure, if they are going down the wrong path, you have a right to speak up.

Criticism and judgment are not needed, especially from grandparents.

Children and grandchildren, whether grown or not, need unconditional love and acceptance. They especially need it from you, as most people in the world don’t readily dole it out.

Kids of any age need to know your love for them is already infinite. They don’t need to perform or work to increase that love.

Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.