This reality about parenting came to me recently. I’ve observed it for years, but I am just now formulating my thoughts around the concept. The reality for most of us is that we tend to try to control less when our children are younger and more when they are older. It should be the opposite.
When our children are toddlers we tend to dismiss the control issue. Sadly this appears to be epidemic in today’s generation of parenting. I hear parents often saying things like, “I can’t get them to take a nap” or “They won’t obey me”. I see this at church when parents won’t leave their toddlers in the preschool area because “they just don’t like it.” The fact is that you can make a toddler comply if you really want them to. You are stronger, bigger, scarier, and smarter than they are. You may not feel that you are, but you are. The time to control your children the way they need to go is when they are young.
Something happens when a child enters their late elementary and middle school years. Our children naturally begin to resist authority and so what do we do? We attempt to control them even more. The problem is they have more freedom in their schedules. They are stronger, bigger, scarier and smarter than they were as toddlers. They can even pretend to comply and yet do their own thing when parents are nowhere around.
The biggest problem with trying to control our children into their teenage years is that if we don’t protect our relationship with them, when they can they will completely rebel against our authority. Have you ever known that to be true of a high school or college student?
Almost as a side note, but equally important: If you don’t do anything else in your time with your children, help them to know you love them unconditionally. You don’t accomplish this by giving into their every wish when they are young, but by lovingly guiding them in the right direction through discipline and correction when they are very young. When your children are older, when they need your wisdom perhaps even more, they will continue to seek your input into their life if that love relationship has been developed. The time to have ultimate control of their behavior is when they are young.
My encouragement, especially to the parents of younger children, is to instill the values you have for your children when they are very young, while you still have control, then move to less control and more protection of their hearts through their teenage years. If you have trained them well and they know you love them, then they will continue to honor your influence over them later in life.
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