I’m becoming a gentler mom.
I was spanked as a kid. I grew up in an authoritarian home.
I feared everything.
When I became a parent, I surely went overboard with strictness, trying to counter the Disneyland father visitation syndrome with my preschool daughter. Power struggles ensued.
I briefly attended a church that lived by the principles in the Pearl child-training book. That was disastrous.
When my eldest child just turned fourteen, I realized I was losing her. Despite everything. Too little relationship, too late. Too much coercion into compliance and obedience when she was younger was leaving her confused and broken when she was gaining independence and making bigger decisions.
Children who are coerced into obedience develop a victim mentality.
Coerced kids often become rebellious teens. I’ve seen it with some of our aquaintance’s families.
I’m raising servant leaders and I won’t succeed with opposition-based leadership methods. I was losing the battle.
I need to become a gentler mom.
I witnessed power struggles between my husband and daughter. I see power struggles between my four kids. I power-struggle with my kids occasionally.
Are discipline and obedience the same thing?
Many Christian and secular parenting articles and books and leaders would say yes.
Obedience is all about gaining control.
Discipline is all about cultivating a relationship.
Discipline and Disciple are from the Latin discipulus, meaning “student.”
As a homeschool mom, I certainly don’t expect my children to know everything. That’s the whole point of homeschooling them. Why do I expect their behavior to be perfect? Why do I expect them to know how to act in social situations, or to have self-control when they’re tired or hungry?
These are issues that even many adults can’t handle, much less children.
I must end my own selfishness and unrealistic expectations to disciple them, guide them, lead them.
I know many parents who are exhausted from the power struggles of getting their kids to clean up their stuff. They threaten, shame, punish, yell, spank, and follow through with the threats by getting rid of the stuff, as if that’s the culprit.
I’m not perfect. I used to be like that, but I’m changing as I realize these methods don’t work.
Using the Bible as a weapon.
Forcing kids to clean the plate.
Making decisions for them that they can and should make themselves.
What lesson do we teach our kids?
Timeout sends the message that our love is conditional since isolation breeds fear and dissension.
Throwing the Bible around as a lesson to kids doesn’t make them understand or want to know Jesus. They learn to see Him as an extension of abusive authority.
Food issues become about control instead of loving hospitality and fellowship.
Kids who never make their own decisions grow up into adults who don’t know how to make wise decisions. They fall into addiction or promiscuity. They become victims.
Really, as parents, we need to separate our emotions and our past issues from our parenting.
I fear all these parents who don’t respect their children as people and command and demand and have little relationship with their kids. All in the name of Jesus.
And they wonder why they lose them to the world.
We parent from fear.
Fear that we’ll be like our parents or the kids will make the same mistakes we did, fear that our kids will harm themselves or others, fear that we’ll look bad.
It’s time to trust in God to put down fear and to parent from the heart.
That may make us unpopular. We may look bad on the outside. We’ll learn who our real friends are. And we’ll gain our children in the process.
What can we do?
Pray. Jesus is the gentlest parent.
Apologize. Tell children we haven’t loved well and we’re going to do better.
Deal with our past. Know our triggers and problems. Forgive ourselves. Relinquish control.
Parent with respect. Realize that children are thinking people who can make decisions for themselves, with our guidance instead of coercion and control.
How to End the Power Struggle
What does this look like in our home?
We threw out all the printables. Kids can learn on their own. It’s amazing to stand back and watch them explore their interests. I’m a guide, helping them in their research and finding materials for them. See how we learn.
It’s our goal to be debt-free. We constantly minimize to maintain our goals. It’s important to encourage our kids to see value in experiences instead of stuff. We don’t like clutter in our lives or hearts. See our frugal journey.
I have to plan and be proactive for our family to stay healthy and happy. We don’t punish or reward or praise. Behavior issues are not to be punished, but are cries for connection. My favorite parenting book list.
We’re not perfect. It’s been a struggle sometimes. No one has all the answers. We certainly know what doesn’t work.
This article originally appeared at JenniferALambert.com.