Monday, July 15, 2013

Effective Parenting: Losing Control?

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Parenting is a daunting task when we consider the consequences of major decisions for our child, like how she approaches school work, what kind of friends she spends time with, what she eats, how much, and when. It’s no wonder we parents would like to control these decisions until the last possible second. 

Who has the final say on most of these life choices? Ultimately, it’s our children - as he or she reaches complete independence as an adult. We’re desperate for our kids to turn out “right,” and convinced that the key is controlling them. It’s not. 

Control issues can be very tough on us parents, resulting in different kinds of struggles and conflicts. The goal is to help us understand and accept what we CAN control as well as what we CAN’T. As parents, we want certainty that we can keep our children safe, raise them so they’ll turn out well, following scriptural guidance. BUT, there is no guarantee.

What about the verse,”Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it”? Proverbs 22:6 communicates a very wise principle. It’s not a guarantee that magically or spiritually overrides your chid’s free will - which by the way was given to him by God himself. This principle does not obligate God to you or force Him to make your child turn out the way he should.  

We parents want control so badly because we think that if we do the right things, our kids will turn out the way we want them to. We want to be able to sleep at night, knowing we did it “right”. 

The only absolute assurance for those who have a relationship with God though Christ, is that eventually, our kids will enjoy life forever with the One who made and redeemed them. THAT is guaranteed.

Does this mean we have no control? Why try to guide our children at all? We should keep in mind that there are degrees of control, and kinds of control: the kind that is yours to exercise and the kind that isn’t. 
a. you need to keep and use the control you’re entitled to; or 
b. take hold of it if you’ve lost it; 
c. you want to lose the control you really don’t have in the first place, and 
d. give up illusions you may have about it.

A reality check on control leads us to the book of Genesis, in the perfect place, a perfect “home”, the Garden of Eden, with two perfect people, God’s children, Adam and Eve. There was a perfect God - a perfect parent. There was also that famous rule: “You must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) You’ve probably heard the rest of the story. Adam and Eve chose foolishly, defying what God had told them. This is a stark reminder of that wrong choice, made by perfect people in a perfect environment with a perfect parent.

Enter free will, a God-given freedom to choose, part of being created in His image. Adam and Eve exercised it, and our children exercise it today. God has given our children the option to be foolish, even to sin. God doesn’t want them to be foolish or to sin, but they are free to choose wisdom or folly, to pick right or wrong, truth or lies, righteousness or evil. 

When we became parents, we signed a contract that includes the possibility of having our hearts broken. You signed up to raise that little person, one for whom you’re responsible, but are not able to control. 

What then should we do? One thing is to give up control. It is not our department. 

Let me share with you the powerful words of “The Serenity Prayer.”
God, grant me the serenity, To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world; As it is, not as I would have it
Trusting that He will make all things right If I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life 

And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

Remember, CONTROL IS NOT OUR DEPARTMENT. Losing control is the best thing we can do for our children.

Keep Walking!

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