Nurturing vs. Controlling

I recently came across a book about child rearing which was written by a psychologist. That caused me to be a bit skeptical but I started the book anyway. What I found this evening was quite thought provoking. In the following paragraph, the author shows the difference between controlling and nurturing children.

I’ve seen far too many examples of well-meaning parents—often from Christian homes—who dominate their children verbally and physically. There is some strange confusion in the minds of many parents about what makes a child “good” or well behaved. They seem to prefer the child who is submissive, palatable, and easy to lead—sort of like a puppy.

I, too, want my children to be well behaved, but I’m not so sure I want them to be easily controlled by others. My children will soon be moving into adolescence, and I want them to be ready. I want them to be ready for that turbulent world where they will be buffeted by the changing winds of peer-group pressure. I want them to be able to stand, to be responsible and mature, and to think for themselves. But if all I have done while they are young is to control and dominate them, they will be at a serious disadvantage. I prefer the concepts of Reality Discipline, which give my children many oppportunities to make decisions, and there is no better place to learn how to make decisions than at home. I believe home should be a place where children can learn to fail and then pick themselves up and go forward.

Kevin Leman, Making Children Mind without Losing Yours, (USA: Fleming H. Revell, 1984), 24.


That seemed to make sense, so as I took the kids across the street to ride their bikes in the parking lot, I tried it out. “Hmm… Katie is getting awfully close to that Cadillac. But I guess I’ll let her make her own decision. Wait a minute! I don’t trust her to make that decision! Katie! Get away from that car!” Very quickly I learned that control is necessary especially at age six.

Perhaps “decision making” can be implemented later, but right now there will be situations where the children need to be controlled … and right away! Letting her make that decision might have cost me a thousand dollars for a new paint job. That was not quite an appropriate time to let her make a decision which would hurt the family when it was in my power to stop it from happening. However, I did take the time to explain to her why she was stopped.

My conclusion is that control and this type of nurturing are both necessary. While I am training the children to make good decisions, at this age they need to learn to obey (Eph. 6:1). That will involve learning to submit to our authority (and to others we tell them to obey). With a good amount of instruction (Eph. 6:4), discipline, testing, and prayer, we trust the Lord will bless our efforts and help them to grow into children who know what is right and choose for themselves to do it (Josh. 24:15).

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