Parenting, toolboxes, credit and houses

vintage toolsRecently, someone said lots of wonderful things about one of our children and in amongst it all, we were complimented on our parenting and encouraged in how we have raised our children.

As parents, this sort of feedback is always a shot in the arm because, as you would know if you are one, you never really know how you’re doing. And often, we only see what we could have done better with hindsight. So having such words spoken while ‘still on the ground’ is true encouragement indeed.

Naturally, I’ve been thinking about what was said. To take credit for our children is a bit like handing someone a toolbox, watching them build a house and then tell everyone we built a house.

You see, to me, parenting is really about providing our children with the tools for living. Which tools they pick up and use, and which ones they deem unnecessary is entirely up to them.

Essentially, they are building the house and deciding which tools they’ve been given will build them the kind of house they want to live in. They are hammering the nails in, deciding where the walls go, whether the house faces east or south, how many rooms it has. Sure, we may be called in for advice, or handed a paintbrush every so often but they are building their house.

Of course, as parents we hope that once their house is built, it will be a place we like to be in, and a place where our child will want to invite others to enjoy.

But at the end of the day, it’s theirย house, not ours. And while we hope to admire it and to even show it off occasionally to our friends, all credit should go to the child for how they have built it, not us.

So to our child who may, or may not, be reading this – please own what was said about you. You have made you who you are, not us. I’m just delighted that your ‘house’ is already somewhere I love to be and where I know many others love to spend time, too.



10 thoughts on “Parenting, toolboxes, credit and houses

  1. I like the way you give credit to the children for doing their own building. I agree with you. But ( and isn’t there always one) You’ve had to show the children the tools and explain their use, shown them how to hammer nails in and explain it’s not always a good idea to place a wall in front of a door. There always has to be a building control from the Local Authority to pass the quality of the work so I think the building is a joint venture pretty much. After all, in their design stage you wouldn’t want them to build the house with just three walls and open to the elements it needs all four for stability and protection. You’re there to remind them the best way even if you leave most of the design to them.
    Well done on getting the compliment onparenting though, it’s a minefield.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx


    • And this is why I love the readers of my blog…the insight and wisdom you all bring in the comments section. Yes, showing them and explaining the use of the tools is an important part too. But (I always have a but of my own lol) at the very end of the day, if they haven’t listened to your explanations, or they disagree with them, or they disregard your advice about putting a wall in front of a door, that’s their decision, as it is equally their decision to follow your advice and example. Far too many children don’t own the results, and far too many parents let them not own the results, good or bad.


  2. Nicely said!

    But…(and where there’s one, there’s two…)

    One thing I’ve learned is that the stuff I did alone – I didn’t really do alone. My hand was guided by mentors, both living and in print.

    Taking ownership isn’t realistic, I think. I am grateful to be able to have been part of a process. Perhaps a leading part, at times…but still, only a part.

    Learning to be happy with that has been hard. But it has brought a measure of peace to my life.


    • I like your slant (as usual!) that we are both, parents and children, partners in (and part of) the process. And, surely, that’s the ideal, although it isn’t always a straight 50/50 split, which can lead to the blame or credit taking game.


  3. I don’t think I’ve ever read a better description of the job of parenting that what you have written, with the addition of David’s comments! I will definitely send links to this to both of my children. One has a son just entering adulthood, the other is newly pregnant with her first. Your timing could not have been better.
    My favorite line until now has always been from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet: “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” Sending those arrows straight and true has always been the challenge.
    Thanks for the post!


    • Glad it struck a chord with you Esther ๐Ÿ™‚ Letting go of our pride over what we think we did right, and our guilt over what we think we did wrong is very freeing! I wish I’d known to do it a lot sooner in the parenting game.


  4. Yep, it’s exactly like that. You hand them the tools – what they do with those tools is out of your hands. You do the best you can. Me, I did the best I could, but I’m doing better with grandchildren. Because I learned what I did wrong. And we all do wrong things. It’s the nature of the beast.


  5. “You see, to me, parenting is really about providing our children with the tools for living. Which tools they pick up and use, and which ones they deem unnecessary is entirely up to them.”

    This sentence should be required reading (out loud), at least once a week, by every mother and father. They need to start reading it the week the pregnancy is detected. They need to continue reading it once a week till their child is married. That’s the best advice I’ve ever heard regarding what parents are really suppose to do when it comes to raising kids.


    • I’m glad it connected with you ๐Ÿ™‚ I am one of those people who think out loud (or write) to know what I think. Writing this post has brought clarity for me too. And I do agree – as parents we need the constant reminder!


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