What THE INCREDIBLES Taught Me About Parenting
By Demensio Barton, Contributing Writer
There’s a scene in the first INCREDIBLES movie that resonated with me as a parent.
Helen Parr, a stay-at-home mother who previously moonlit as a superhero, is called into her child’s principal’s office as an irate teacher levels accusations at Helen’s son, Dash. The teacher says he has video evidence of Dash placing a tack in the teacher’s chair.
Though the camera fails to catch Dash’s speed, Helen knows the teacher is correct, and her son is making trouble for their family.
This scene is one of my favorite movie scenes of all times because I can identify with Helen.
No parent wants to be called into the principal’s office to hear about how his or her child has misbehaved. Helen is clearly upset and disappointed with Dash, even without the video evidence proving him guilty, and she knows he must be punished.
This realization is something my wife and I know well. Over the years, we’ve had several experiences where we felt like our children were out of control our out to ruin our name. We remember the guilt, the angst, the frustration, the anger, and the disappointment from incidents like public temper tantrums in the mall to not obeying us in private to one child even getting kicked out of an expensive private school! It happened too many times to count!
What made it worse was when well-meaning teachers, administrators, fellow parents, or even strangers would come to us with unsolicited advice, offering “quick-fix” solutions that would often do no more good than duct taping over a problem instead of really getting to the root.
Unfortunately, often due to the shame and parental peer pressure, my wife and I would sometimes implement this broken advice.
Over the course of the years, my wife and I finally learned that parents should only take good, proven advice for child rearing – never bad, unproven advice that goes against your personal principles.
Above all, we learned to never make long-term decisions based on short-term problems.
For example, a well-meaning educator, who was also a friend and fellow parent, recommended our overactive elementary age sons begin to take Ritalin to calm them down.
My wife and I were not comfortable with that solution, and we chose instead to hold off on medication. Though it wasn’t a quick-fix solution, it was the right answer for our family.
Our sons eventually matured out of their over-activity. They needed time to learn and grow as people. As their parents, we needed to slow down and pay attention to their needs at that stage of personal development. The duct-tape answer wouldn’t have allowed us as much time to parent our children and instill them with the values we hold close to our heart. Though we are a busy family, this opportunity helped us grow closer together.
Proverbs 28:20 helped me to personally process this concept, especially in The Message paraphrase: “Committed and persistent work pays off; get-rich-quick schemes are rip-offs.”
When I read this verse, I saw how it applied to my family and children.
If I wanted a rich family life and rich family relationships, I needed to take the time necessary to nurture my family in order to receive the pay-off I wanted.
Like Helen in THE INCREDIBLES, we had to change our family lifestyle to make sure we were pouring into our children. At the time, we realized our careers took more of our time than our family could healthily sustain.
My wife left her career to home-school our family while I launched a business that would allow me more time and involvement with our children.
Over the course of time, I learned a very powerful lesson: Our family doesn’t need our left-over time. Our family needs however much time it needs. If we are wise, we will see this need and make the necessary adjustments to meet it.
Consider the example of the Ritalin recommendation. In its proper place, this medication can be an effective control agent. However, it was not the right fit for our family, and instead would have functioned as a quick fix to make the undesired behavior go away. This was not a long-term fit for our family, and we knew that. My sons needed their parents to be present and, well, parent them – not medication, even though it was a duct-tape solution that could have helped in the short run.
The next time your family encounters trials, remember that a quick-fix will not bring the payout you desire. True fixes for your family come from you giving your time, love, nurturing, protection, and forgiveness.