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What's Wrong With Controlling Our Children?

Moms tend to have an ideal in their heads of how they are going to mother and how their children are going to respond. What do you do when that idea doesn't match up to reality? Do you get mad, yell, nag, etc? Or do you offer understanding and love? There IS a difference between controlling our children and guiding our children to make good choices.

I knew that things weren't going as I expected when my first born was toddling around not coming when I called him.

As he grew older and his little brother came along I didn't quite know how to react when I asked them to make their beds and they didn't immediately run to their rooms to make them.  Or when I told them to wear one thing and they threw a fit because they wanted to wear something else.

I had this ideal in my head of myself as a mother and how my children would respond to me.  When they didn't do what I told them to with good attitudes and in good time, I didn't know what to do.

At first I was surprised, but then I started tightening my grip.

I responded by getting louder.

I responded by getting frustrated.

I responded by stomping back to their room and repeating my demand:  "Make your bed!"

When all of those didn't work, or I thought they were going too slowly or they had bad attitudes, I made the bed for them.  Maybe I said they were rebellious and they got a consequence.

Finally, when I had three children and my oldest was around 5 I realized I had a need to control.  I even admitted that I had a problem with controlling.

When my children didn't do what I thought they should be doing, my mindset was that I had to make them do it.

I wish I knew then what I know now.

God doesn't control me.   He doesn't make me do what He thinks I should do.  Yes, I have consequences when I go too far in the wrong direction, but God doesn't level those consequences at me with vengeance and disappointment.  He gives me consequences in love, understanding my bent for doing the things that aren't for my best.



Those are characteristics I was lacking in my need to control my children.

I've been reading through a book called She's Gonna Blow: Real Help For Moms Dealing With Anger.  The author talks about this very issue of control and says:

One big control issue for me relates to my children’s lack of enthusiasm for household chores.  I want them to make their beds, fold the towels, and pick up trash in the front yard with a bit more…gumption.  Instead, they sulk through the house and look as though at any time they may need CPR – and pretty soon I can feel my jaw beginning to clench.  But the truth is that I can’t really make my kids enjoy their chores.  I don’t really have any control over how they feel, and my control over how they act is really pretty limited.  But I can control the way I approach the problem of chores.  I can ask God to teach me the best manner in which to deal with grumpy kids and still get the jobs done in the process.

What a clear picture she paints of the difference between controlling our children and guiding them.  Ultimately, I have no control over my children's reactions to my requests or their attitudes. I can force control through yelling and consequences, but in the end they won't be more responsive to me.

The only thing I have control over is how I respond.  My best choice is to respond in patience and respond in prayer.

I am having my fifth baby in January and I wish I could say that now I have it all together, but I'm still learning.  I'm thankful that God has revealed to me my tendency to try to control my children, but I wish I had it completely conquered.

At this point I can pray about each day:  What's most important for my children to take to bed with them?  What hills do I need to die on?

Does it matter if they wear flip flops to school?  Do I need to focus on this child's tendency to call his brothers names?  Do I need to let it go when they make a lot of noise and the baby is sleeping?  What issues are vitally important to their development and well-being?

Some of the issues above need to be worked on immediately, some not at all, and some will take a lot of time to completely work through.

Probably it's most important that they know their mama loves them.  And that they know she's on their side.  And that she is willing to nestle in beside them rather than lord it over them.

Have you noticed a tendency in yourself toward control?  What issues do you see yourself struggling with?

learning with you,  Christy Halsell

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