Why I'm an Aggravated Parent

A report came out last month from Child Trends showing the number of parents aggravated with their kids has more than doubled in the past decade.

You know what? I’m aggravated too. But not at my kids.

I’m aggravated that we live in a society that’s always plugged in—emails, Facebook, Pinterest, texting, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever our latest social media drug.

I’m aggravated that our measure of success as parents is not the Jones’ next door, but the Jones’, Smith’s, Marshall’s, and Brown’s from our church, the Wright’s, Miller’s and Kennedy’s from Facebook, and the Wood’s, Stewart’s, and Snook’s from Pinterest—never mind we’ve never even met some of these families or seen them in years.

I’m aggravated that parents are so stressed today running their kids from one sport to another activity to homework to bed and all over again—with work on top of it.

I’m aggravated we no longer see our kids as assets anymore, but liabilities. In decades past you’d never see graphics on “The Cost of Raising a Child.”

I’m aggravated that some of the most popular parenting strategies cater to the parent at the expense of the child’s emotional welfare. And somehow we’re okay with that.

I’m aggravated that parents in the 21st century—with ever-changing technologies, two working parents, more pressure for extracurricular activities, and social media the constant measure of success—have more pressure on them than ever before.

Parents in generations past didn’t have these issues. And you know what? We all turned out quite all right.

I’m a parent. I understand how difficult it is. But when my kids become the reason for and brunt of my aggravation, it says more about my heart than it does my child’s behavior.

In our own day-to-day chaos—balancing work, home, and family demands, running kids from one activity to another, keeping up with the Jones’ on social media, etc. etc.—let’s not forget that kids need to be kids. That sometimes my son throws a temper tantrum simply because his brain isn’t developed quite well enough yet to handle overwhelming situations. And what he needs is a mom and dad who are safe enough to help him navigate such moments. Not become aggravated at him because he’s ruining our day.

Aggravation directed at our kids is an adult temper tantrum, and a sign something is too overwhelming for us to handle. Yet nobody puts us in “time out” for it.

If this is you—if you’re burnt out, tired, and exhausted—take the pressure off.  Your kids need you.

Reduce your aggravation by setting boundaries in your life. Use the community around you to take a break. Go on a date with your spouse. Unplug from technology. My wife and I just canceled television in our home for this reason. Set social media boundaries. And make intentional time each day one-on-one with your child. Research shows 20 minutes of one-on-one command free time with each child per day can radically change behavior.

And most importantly, die to yourself. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, “I die everyday.” As a parent, I need to die to my own desires, every morning spending time with Jesus. When I don’t, the aggravation comes all too easily.

Get aggravated with me, will you? For the sake of our kids, get aggravated at all of the 21st century noise vying for your attention. Sit down and figure out a way to filter it all so your kids don’t innocently fall victim to it. And so you don’t miss out on some of the best moments of your life—enjoying your kids.

Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is an advocate for families and parenting in the 21st century. He loves coming alongside families to provide encouragement, support and practical counsel. Josh specializes in combining the scientific research with biblical wisdom to provide the best-of-all-worlds perspective on raising stellar kids, having an awesome marriage and living a full life. He is the coauthor of God Attachment and The Quick Reference Guide to Counseling Teenagers. Together with his favorite writing partner and wife, Christi, Josh is working on raising his own baseball team, starting with their son Landon. For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.com and follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.