My job as a parent is not to control my child. It is to teach my child to control herself. It is to teach her how to navigate and use her God-given freedom to its fullest potential.
And really, even if I thought it was my job to control my child, it’s not possible. Trying to would only end in fighting and hurting and disconnection. God designed every single one of us to be completely free. Not even the Creator himself has an ounce of control over what we choose to do or not to do. (which to me is amazing, because He absolutely holds the power to, He just chooses not to) Freedom is necessary for true love to exist. Love itself is a choice and can never be forced. So in order for it to exist, we must have the ability to not love.
Learning that you cannot control you child (or anyone for that matter) saves an enormous amount of energy and heart ache. Who I can control, is ME. And that is where my focus as a parent, as a wife, as a friend, should be. No matter the emotions or actions of someone else, I still choose to be loving, to be happy, to be peaceful, to be honoring and respectful.
Freedom means having choices, and choices are something I must give my children. (I think attempting to withhold choices from children ends in rebellion, as this is the only choice they feel they have left to walk out their God given desire for freedom) I think choices look different at different stages, but truly almost any situation you can imagine yourself in as a parent has at least 2 wonderful choices for your child. At age 2, I’m probably going to limit choices to 2 different things as to not overwhelm her. An example would be showing her 2 different snack options or 2 different shirts to wear for the day. I expect her options to grow as she grows 🙂 Even my sweet 4 month old is getting to practice her freedom. Now that she is playing with toys, I enjoy holding 2 out in front of her and seeing which one she she picks.
A few months ago, we told my precious girl it was time to pick up toys for the evening. Normally, this was a fun game and done quickly, but that night, she seemed to realize she had the option to not pick up toys. And she was absolutely right. It had the potential to turn into a war of arguing, anger, yelling, punishments, etc. But instead we calmly let her know we were okay with her not picking up toys. That was one choice she had and it would include not getting to watch a show before bed. Her other choice was to clean and then watch her favorite show before bed. Let me tell you, this girl is a genius. She, on her own, decided cleaning was a good decision. Kids are really really smart. You just have to patiently give them the opportunity.
Lastly, valuing freedom in our home also means that we encourage, we don’t force. I encourage my child to try new food, come unload the dishwasher with me, or dance during worship at church. In the years to come I’ll encourage her to learn new things, try different sports, etc. But I will never force her.
My encouragement to you this week is to look for areas where you can provide your child with choices. Get creative! And begin to settle in your heart that you control no one else but yourself (and as Danny Silk would say, that’s on a good day!).