I have a theory about parenting. It’s a reality that only came to me when my boys were nearly grown. I had observed it for years—we practiced it—but I only formulated my thoughts around the concept in the teenage years of our parenting.
Here’s the observation.
Many parents try to control less when children are younger and more when they are older.
Successful parenting should be the opposite. Control early. Less control later.
I’ll admit. It’s my most “controversial” theory. How dare I suggest we ever control a child! Barbaric. Dictatorial. Borderline child abuse. Let children be who they are designed to be.
I’ve heard all that and more when I submit this theory. And I’m all for letting children explore, be unique, be themselves. I’d even encourage it.
But here’s my contention. When our children are toddlers we tend to dismiss the control issue. Sadly this appears to be epidemic in today’s generation of parenting. I hear parents often saying things like, “I can’t get them to take a nap,” or, “They won’t obey me.” I see it at church when parents won’t leave their toddlers in the preschool area because “they just didn’t want to go today.”
The fact is, you can make a toddler comply if you really want them to. You can. You are stronger, bigger, scarier and smarter than them. You may not feel you are—the little ones can be intimidating—but you are. And I’m not trying to be funny. I certainly am not advocating abuse. Of course not. I advocate love above all.
But I do think it’s important—even biblical—to train a child in the way they should go. And the time to control your children the way they need to go is when they are young. It may be the only time. You can make decisions for them they don’t have enough life experience yet to make for themselves. You can teach them it’s not OK to throw a temper tantrum. You can. And you can decide where they go and don’t go based on what’s best for them. You can help steer their actions—ultimately their heart—toward things you know, because of your life experience, are best for them.