Parenting - Ideas and Insights - Control your Child
Control your child!
Ideas for Parents, Insights for others
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August 1997
    "Control your child!" Hissed with ill-controlled anger and heavy with vague threat, the words are calculated to fill a parent's heart with panic. Fight or flight are the instinctive reactions, but a parent is wise to do neither. The wrong understanding betrayed by those words is best allowed to wither away in silence.   

    The ideal of controlling devolves from an era when children were seen as the property of their parents, to be constrained to their parents will and used for their parents' profit. As Christians, our role is not the control, but the education of children:   

    • Control wins social approval for the parent, but education gives resources to the child.
    • Control gratifies with instant results, but education is gradual and demanding of patience.
    • Control entrenches parental dominance because it must be constantly maintained; but education gives children self-control so that they can mature beyond the need for our teaching.
    • Control aims to limit our childrens' behaviour; Education aims to broaden their understanding.
    In short, control benefits adults; education benefits children.  

    Does this mean that children will be rowdy and uncontrolled? Of course not! As children grow in independence and physical ability, their understanding also grows. Parents can capture every opportunity to teach the underlying principals of Christian deportment, at a level appropriate to a child's understanding. For example, even very young children can understand:  

    • You must love God; you may not annoy other people; you must take care of yourself (the Great Commandment)
    • If you don't like it when someone does it to you, probably they don't like it when you do it to them (the golden rule)
    • Stronger people take care of weaker people, big people take care of little people (the rule of Chivalry)
    Gradually parents teach their children to discern behaviours that reflect underlying principals. A thoughtful heart driving thoughtful behaviour is more reliable than stern control overriding a rebellious heart! From time to time children push the limits of acceptable behaviour, signalling that it is time for the parents to refine further on the child's understanding. Sometimes the child's response to such limitsetting is loud, sometimes gracious; but the parent's role in limit-setting need not be obtrusive. If others don't notice a parent setting limits, it may be their awareness, not the parent's discipline, that's falling short. All that matters is that the child notices!  

    There is one other overriding reason that we cannot treat our children as possessions under our control. With infant baptism, our children become children of God: the precise status that we enjoy ourselves! God has no grandchildren. In baptism our children become our brothers and sisters in Christ. It would be grossly inappropriate to domineer or usurp authority over them. Rather, as Ananias taught Paul, as Prisca and Acquilla instructed Appollos, as adults encourage one-another to grow to Christian maturity, such are our duties to these little brethren.   
    Why though, must we inflict our children on the rest of the community during the slow, challenging period of their education? Precisely because it is a community. None of us are yet perfected before God. But even imperfect, we are accepted by the One Who matters most. The nature of community is to accept: to nurture, to encourage, and to upbuild one another.

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