Control has always been an issue for me. I feel more at peace and less anxious when I feel I am in control of my home, my job, my family. However, the Christian life is supposed to be relinquishing our control to God and walking in faith the path He has called us to (Proverbs 16:9). Many Christian parents pride themselves in having children who dress the way they want them to, talk the way they want them to, act the way they want them to only to find when the children leave the home, their hearts are far from where they thought they were. How does this happen?
One of my dad’s favorite sayings is “God is sovereign.” He loves it because it pretty much applies to any circumstance in life, good or bad. He used to drive us crazy with it when we questioned why something didn’t go our way. Now that I am a parent, I have come to adopt this phrase and seek to live my life submitting to God’s will. A couple weeks ago, I was convicted that I had once again tried holding onto my life too tightly instead of leaving everything in my hands with my palms open for Him to do what He wills. It took several difficult circumstances all in a week’s time for me to realize that I had tried to take the reign from God.
Why does this keep happening? It happens because we (and I say we intentionally because I am one of the most guilty when it comes to this) focus our time and energy on getting our kids to do what we want them to do instead of getting to the heart of why they are doing what they are doing. I see parents controlling their children in very different but potentially very negative ways.
Control: Keeping your child from pain and hardship
One way parents seek to control their kids lives is by eliminating heartache, pain and trials. As the movie Inside Out reminded us, a lot of our happy moments come out of our saddest, most difficult moments. As a result, children do not develop coping skills.
Control: By behavior and ignoring the heart
Another way parents seek to control behavior is through fear or rewards to get the desired behavior from their kids. As a result, children quickly abandon rules once they’ve left the home because we have not addressed the heart behind the rules.
Tripp states this well when he says our parenting can’t be shaped by:
- The values of the surrounding culture
- Your reaction to how you were parented
- Your dream of what your children could become
- The ups and downs of your emotions
Instead of trying to control every moment of our children’s days, weeks, months and years, why don’t we teach them the principles Tripp outlines in the book they so desperately need (based on Psalm 51)?
- They need to see their sin so they will cry out for God’s mercy.
- They need to understand the nature of sin so they don’t minimize its danger.
- They need to understand their problem is not with their parents but with God.
- They need to understand sin is a nature problem that leads to behavior problems.
- They need to understand that since sin is a heart problem the only solution is a new heart.
- They need to be taught to run to the only place of hope: the forgiving race of God.
Control is a hard thing for any of us to give up. However, when we think about it, isn’t it better to trust in a God who is in control of the days and seasons of life? Wouldn’t our children be better in the hands of a loving Father who gave up His only Son to save our children from themselves? As you reflect on this chapter, take time to ask yourself, where are you trying to control your children and how can you turn to God for that instead?
Hilton Head Christian Academy‘s Life+ blog was created to equip today’s Christian parents with practical tools, thought provoking content, and honest conversation.
This fall, we look forward to parenting alongside all of you through a new series based on a life-giving book by Pastor Paul Tripp: Parenting: 14 Gospel principles that can radically change your family.
Each week we will unpack them chapter by chapter right here on the Life+ blog. We hope you’ll grab a copy and dive in with us, taking time to discuss each principle with your own family and the people God has placed in your life.