Parenting | by Randy Cale, Ph.D


Everything Matters… But Let’s Pretend, Not!

Some things matter more than others, of course, but quite honestly…everything matters. Yet, we somehow have learned to ignore the impact of some of our choices. So for a moment, let’s pretend…
Let’s Pretend These Moments Don’t Matter:
• Yelling at our kids or our spouse.
It isn’t that bad, since others certainly yell louder, or use more profanity. As the kids get older and begin to yell back at you more often, let’s pretend you didn’t teach them how to do that.
• Allowing kids to eat simple carbs, sugary foods, and junk.
It’s simply easier. Perhaps they are 30 pounds overweight and their pediatrician has gently urged a change, but you insist it’s hard to control their eating or complain that they have always been a picky eater. Let’s pretend you couldn’t clear out the pantry or lead by example, putting yourself on a healthy path to ensure the whole family would eat better.
• Letting your son play hours upon hours of video games.
Everyone else is doing it and, of course, he would be furious if this were not permitted or you set some serious limits on this. What would he do? Let’s pretend that this is the “new, modern way” for kids to bond and have healthy relationships, despite the negative attitude, addictive behavior, and the absence of real, genuine social behavior.
• Your phone is always in your hand.
With every “ting” you pick it up to respond and quickly justify it if someone comments. “Oh, it’s the sitter. Oh, I must see if they made it in the door. Oh, my sister isn’t feeling well.” And of course, you look around, notice someone else on their phone, and your judging thoughts insolate you from clearly seeing your habit. Let’s keep pretending that what you model will not matter…that where you invest your time will not affect the relationship with your spouse or your children.
• Reacting with emotion, anger, and frustration.
You justify your reactions by blaming the child for their poor behavior. Of course, your parents were like that, and hey, “You turned out okay…right?” Even though the mornings are stressful, the homework is a battle, and their rooms are a wreck, that’s just because they haven’t learned to listen yet. So, let’s pretend you can just keep yelling, and everything will eventually be okay and underneath all this reactivity, “Hey, they will still know you love them.”
• Your son or daughter spends all their time doing what they want to do.
Yet, they are still miserable, even when getting exactly what they want, when they want it. Sure, you try to negotiate a bit, but hey…they are relentless. You give in. They have their phone, computer, unlimited internet access, and all the clothes they could possibly want, plus they attend every social event within a 50-mile radius. On the other hand, they do nothing to support the family, the community, or the home. You fight and battle, yet no chores get done. Let’s pretend they will learn to be responsible, happy, and successful, because doing what we want right now is the formula for success and happiness…right?
• Your kids listen to profane, negative messages in their music and on the screen.
You see how hard it is to manage this. It’s just so difficult. It would take time to come up with a solution, and you don’t have that kind of time. And again, isn’t every kid listening to this now? Let’s take a BIG pretend, and smile while we think that these messages will not shape their attitude towards others, and their outlook on life.
• The best pretend: These are all about your neighbor or your spouse…Not you.
Now, doesn’t that feel better!
No. More. Pretending. Everything Matters!
The research base for this conclusion is ever-expanding, as it appears that every choice we make matters.  And not just the obvious ones I mentioned above, but also the more nuanced influences that shape our children and us.  Everything we read, watch, or absorb is molding us, and the food we consume is shaping our bodies and minds. Every video game is building an emotional and cognitive habit, every time we react we are nurturing the habit of reactivity, every indulged emotion will want to be indulged even more next week. Even the questions we ask ourselves and our children are shaping thought patterns.
The art we see. The music to which we listen. The blogs we read. The shows we watch. The violence we accept in language and behavior…These all matter.
Many people reject the idea that “everything matters.” (It is simply so much easier to pretend that almost nothing does.) A simple rejection of this reality frees us from taking full responsibility for our lives, both as individuals and as parents. It allows to continue to do what we want to do – how we want to do it – regardless of where it might be pointing our or our children’s destiny.
But the choice is right in front of you. It is not easy to shift the direction of your family or your life. But you can do it!
First, you must open your eyes to where these choices are taking you and your family. Then get ready for some tough choices…and some drama. The family herd may resist, but that’s okay. Making it easy now will make it harder for them later.
So do the right thing. Consider every choice and see where you can shift the destiny of your family’s future.
Stay with us over the next few months as we explore how you can become the rebel…how you can learn to parent radically, reclaim your choices, and your families values.
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit

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