Strong Wills, Strong Parents – Relational Control
Sometime in your child’s life, they will make the decision. For some it is cataclysmic, nerve-wracking, and life changing—a significant emotional event. For others, it is a gradual process. But it happens to all children as they grow. What am I talking about? The decision a child makes to strike out on his/her own.
Flying the Coop
When children depart the home, there is a struggle between the relationships your son or daughter are cultivating and the ones that you as a parent think are optimal. But when the youngster passes into their early teens, they realize they will be on their own soon.
“I think I’m going to walk home.” I told my brother.
We were living in San Antonio and I was going to Sul Ross Junior High School. It may have been about ten miles from my house, but didn’t seem far by bus.
“Mom and Dad will kill us when we get home,” my brother said.
“We’ll walk the fields, so it will be shorter.” I left the security of the school’s bus pick-up area and began the trek.
Needless to say, I didn’t make it home on time and my shortcut turned into a long-cut. Instead of getting home at 5:00 o’clock PM, I finally made it around 7:30 or 8:00 o’clock.
My parents were very upset. I got the expected discipline, which included a spanking, grounding, and reduction of freedom. But in the end I had made a statement to my parents and myself. I was going to be on my own one day.
From that moment onward, my parents and I prepared for my future plans. My freedoms were gradually restored and I began making choices about what I wanted to do.
Dr. Dobson’s Answers
In his book, Solid Answers, Dr. Dobson has a chapter about “The Delicate Art of Letting Go.” He shares that it isn’t easy. He said, “…when it came time to open my hand and let the birds, fly, I struggled mightily!”1 Though the situation on letting go isn’t easy for the parent or the child, recognize what is happening and encourage your children in the right direction.
Techniques for Optimal Results.
Teach and Encourage. Encourage your children when they are young to learn the basic rules of life. As they get older, discuss with them how these rules are applied and what happens to people that ignore them. For instance, “Poor eating and lack of exercise results in all types of health problems.” Or, “Good friends influence you for the better, bad friends will drag you down to their level. Be careful whom you choose as friends.”
Guide and Direct. Guide and direct your children into groups that foster the right principles, attitudes, and life perspectives. I was part of the Boy Scouts, church Youth Group, and church choir. That was a terrific influence for my later life.
Discipline. If your children are in your house, then you are in charge of them. You create and enforce the rules. Ensure they are age appropriate and (did I already say this?) enforce them.
Tough Love. Make sure your child knows that you have a deep and abiding love for them and a desire for their best possible future. Even when they mess up royally, always let them know you disliked the behavior, but you love them and have hope that they will grow into mature and responsible adults. Do not accept bad behavior.
Leading vs. Raising
Pray for your child (and for yourself). You will both need strength and resilience, the ability to rise from a failure to a new level of success, as you lead them to their new future. Talk with your children and cut the strings little by little. Keep an age of departure in mind. We told our boys they would leave our home at eighteen and be fully employed or in college by the fall after they graduated from high school. And they both fulfilled this hope and desire.
You Can Do It!
As you successfully work through the challenges of this last struggle between a child and their parent, I believe the Lord will sustain you, through His Word, His Church, and the Holy Spirit. Pray often. Talk with spiritually strong friends for support and answers. The Lord hears your prayers and will walk you through any tough circumstances that occur. Place your trust in Him and He will care for you and you children.
Next month we wrap up this series with a quick summary of the seven steps and tips for Strong Parents to deal with Strong-Willed Children.
1. Dr. James Dobson, Solid Answers, pg. 322