QUESTION: I resent my parents. They've never abused me or anything like that, but they do such stupid things. My dad's work has been the only thing he's cared about. How can I respect people like that?
JAMES DOBSON: Let's assume your complaints against your parents are valid -- that they didn't do a very good job of raising you and your siblings. Nevertheless, I urge you to cut them some slack. You'll learn someday just how hard it is to be a good parent.
Children are infinitely complex. In fact, I believe it is more difficult to raise children now than ever before. Be assured you will not do the job perfectly, either. Someday, if you are blessed with children, one or more of them will blame you for your failures, just as you have criticized your parents.
Let me share one more suggestion with you and others who have been angry at their parents. Given the brevity of life and the temporary nature of all human relationships, can you find it within your hearts to forgive them?
My mother closed her eyes for the last time on June 26, 1988. She had been so vibrant -- so important to each member of our family. I couldn't imagine life without her just a few years earlier. But time passed so quickly, and before we knew it, she had grown old and sick and incompetent. The human experience is like that.
As I sat at her memorial service, I was flooded with memories and a profound sense of loss. But there was not the slightest hint of regret, remorse or guilt. There were no hurtful words I wished I could have taken back. There were no prolonged conflicts that remained unresolved between my parents and me.
Why not? Was I a perfect son born to flawless parents? Of course not. But when Shirley and I had been married only two years, I remember saying to her: ''Our parents will not always be with us. We must keep that in mind as we live out our daily lives. I want to respond to both sets of parents in such a way that we will have no regrets after they are gone.''
Again, I urge you not to throw away these good, healthy times. Please be careful not to create bitter memories that will hang above you when the record is in the books. No conflict is worth letting that happen.
QUESTION: I have to fight with my 9-year-old daughter to get her to do ANYTHING she doesn't want to do. It's so unpleasant that I've about decided not to take her on. Why should I try to force her to work and help around the house? What's the downside of my just going with the flow and letting her off the hook?
DOBSON: It is typical for 9-year-olds not to want to work, or course, but they still need to become acquainted with it. If you permit a pattern of irresponsibility to prevail in your child's formative years, she may fall behind her developmental timetable leading toward the full responsibilities of adult living. As a 10-year-old, she won't be able to do anything unpleasant because she has never been required to stay with a task until it is completed. She won't know how to give to anyone else because she's thought only of herself. She'll find it hard to make decisions or control her own impulses.
A few years from now, she will steamroll into adolescence and then adulthood completely unprepared for the freedom and obligations she will find there. Your daughter will have had precious little training for those pressing responsibilities of maturity.
Obviously, I've painted a worst-case scenario with regard to your daughter. You still have plenty of opportunity to help her avoid it. I hope your desire for harmony doesn't lead you to do what will be harmful to her in later years.
(James Dobson is president of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80903; or www.family.org. Questions and answers are excerpted from ''Solid Answers,'' published by Tyndale House.)
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