Relinquishing Control, Part i. Bringing up Kids God's Way, Part 9 What About Control? Part B


"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (Prov 22:6 NIV)

Over the last three weeks, we've been looking at the importance of establishing boundaries; of helping young children learn that it is important for them to learn to relinquish control; of taking control of situations with our children so that they don't take control of us; of giving our children the guidance they so desperately need when they are young. But is there a time when we, as the adults in the lives of our kids, need to relinquish that control?

The answer is "yes"!

Although being in control of the major decisions in a child's life is very important when they are young and don't have the world knowledge or maturity to make their own, children do eventually need to learn this skill. Children need to learn how to be mature adults, and in order to do so, God has given them a transition period: Adolescence!

Wait a minute! Adolescence?

With the mere word striking terror in our minds as we envision the problems that come to families during this time of life, we must also remember that God created adolescence as a time when our children make the transition from childhood to adulthood! As a time when they grow up!

During adolescence, there are numerous chemical and hormonal changes that take places in the brain as it grows and as children expand their capacity to use it. This can be a new and scary experience. Your child doesn't know what to do with these changes, and this tends to spark emotional and behavioral changes.

But even more importantly, we, as adults, don't know what to do with those changes in our kids, either! I mean, it's pretty hard for us, as the adults in the lives of adolescents to adjust to the fact, for example, that the child who has spent the last 12 years learning to live with less and less sleep, now suddenly needs a lot more! All we see is that our bright, helpful children seem to suddenly turn into lazy slothes!

During adolescence, teens begin to develop their reasoning skills. In fact, God has given them this period so they can learn to question their world.

Why?

Because teens have to develop into mature adults!

And that change, unfortunately, doesn't happen overnight. Instead, it spans a 5-8 year time period! During this time, your obedient child who would have never thought to question your authority suddenly begins to question, and if this delicate period isn't handled correctly by the figures of authority in that child's life, what often results in a sullen, insolent teen.

We often label this behavior "defiance", but when you stop to think about it, isn't it just part of the process of change?

I would like to propose that there is a way to help your kids through this delicate transition period and to possibly avoid some of the defiance, some of the insolence, some of the anger that so often ensues. The answer lies in RELINQUISHING control!

Easier said then done, however. After spending so many years teaching our kids boundaries, showing them that they need to relinquish control, establishing that healthy control that young children need, suddenly we are being asked to relinquish that control to an immature teen who is probably going to make the wrong choices!

But we have to. First and foremost, we must do so because our kids NEED to learn how to make their own decision. They NEED to learn when and where to seek advice, and they will only do so by working through it on their own.

Now, I'm not saying that as soon as a child passes his or her 12th birthday that suddenly all the rules are lifted and that child is suddenly allowed to do what he or she wants! Far from this. What I am suggesting is that as a child approaches adolescence, it is vital that we begin to let go of that control little by little; that we give council, but at the same time, that we give our kids tiny bits of freedom to make their own choices. And when they do, we need to be there to praise them for their good decisions and give them guidance when they make mistakes!

In the last devotional, I introduced an idea presented to me by a patient: "Is it illegal, immoral, or likely to hurt something? If not, why not consider giving in?" In the case of relinquishing control, this is also excellent advice. We need to constantly be asking ourselves these questions: Will letting them make their own decisions in this instance result in illegal activity? What about an immoral decision? Can it possibly hurt something? If the answer to these three questions is 'no', then maybe we need to consider relinquishing control!

Because of my own convictions that vegetarianism is a healthier, more environmentally-friendly way of life, my son has been raised vegetarian. In my heart, I harbor the hope that he will choose to remain that way, and when he came home the other day saying that they would be serving pizza at school, and that he had decided he wanted to eat the pepperoni instead of picking it off, my heart lurched.

Before I said anything however, God whispered to me: "Is it illegal?"

Well, not exactly.

"Is it immoral?"

Again, no, I can't say that it is!

"Is it going to hurt anything?"

Well he might get a stomach ache because his stomach isn't used to digesting meat, but nothing irreparable...

"Okay," I said. "You will someday have to decide if you will be vegetarian or not. I just want to mention a couple of things before you have your pizza. You have never had meat before, and your body isn't used to digesting it. It may make you sick the first time you eat it."

He raised an eyebrow, but he didn't say anything.

"Also," I continued, "because your taste buds aren't used to it, it may not have a lot of taste."

I was dying to know how the pepperoni experiment had gone, but when I picked him up from school the next day, I didn't even have to ask.

"I don't know why people eat pepperoni, mom!" He said, climbing into the car. "It tastes like cardboard! Disgusting!"

And the next day I would overhear him telling his brother he'd been up all night with an upset stomach. "I could just imagine those undigested pieces of pepperoni floating around in my stomach!" He said. "I don't think I'm going to try THAT again!"

Experiment over, no permanent harm done, and more than likely, any further pepperoni experiments were discouraged. Why? Because I allowed my son to experiment, and as a result, he made his own decision.

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with pepperoni, or with eating meat in general for that matter. So this was a safe experiment. But is there a time when we, as parents, have to discourage such experiments?

The answer is "Yes".

Lyn Chaffart

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