If I had to identify the mistake I made more often than any in my parenting it would be that of making mountains out of molehills. Everything was an issue with me. Why? Partly because I believed everything really was an issue. Everything could lead to something terrible happening to our girls or be the cause of them to fall away from God. Everything was a big deal to me and, if it wasn’t, I made it one.
I remember making an issue out of Katie not tucking in her top. Yes, really. One day as Katie was getting off the bus a reporter for the local paper was there and, with my permission, took her picture. He was doing a story on the new “arms” on the front of the school buses that kept kids from crossing the street until the bus driver waved them across. Her picture appeared on the front page. Of course, I had a know-it-all comment, “You see we must always look our best because we never know when people are watching”—or some such crazy control-freak comment—I can’t remember exactly. I cringe when I recall it.
You may be laughing at me and with good cause, but what tempts you to get a little crazy?
- Your kid’s messy room?
- Your little girl insists on wearing pink—every day?
- Your teen’s new hair style-the one that takes a handful of pomade to reach its full height?
- Your kids’ passion for art and total indifference to math (my Katie*)?
Maybe you get a little crazy trying to keep up with the expectations of other parents. Their kids take tumbling at age two. If yours doesn’t she will miss out on the Olympics. Their children are on a traveling soccer team at age eight. Yours spends Saturday morning drawing in his room. He’s going to miss out on a college soccer scholarship.
Or maybe you have a fear something bad will happen to your child so you are overprotective.
Anything can cause us to fear the future, to fear God won’t be there for us and our kids, and something terrible is going to happen so we must take control of our family’s life.
Actually the opposite is true. Studies show that kids and adults alike are happier and do better in life when they have a certain amount of control. Who cares if your son wears the same Cubs t-shirt to school? Is it clean? Are there any holes in it? If yes and no, then what’s the problem? It’s a phase and he’ll outgrow it. In the meantime he’s learning it’s okay to be who he is. This will help him have the confidence he’ll need later to resist doing something he doesn’t want to do, but will be pressured to do.
Yes, we want our kids to make the right choices because they love God. But knowing God is a process. We can’t expect them to make all good choices based on their relationship with God right now. Do you? Do you make all good choices because you love God? I’m sure other factors play into your decisions—how it will affect your family, health, employment, etc.
We are all in process. We need to give our kids room to be who God made them to be so they can love Him fully, know Him better, and trust Him always. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is lived out in the trial-and-error experiences of their lives. Becoming who God made them to be is part of God’s plan for them to know Him and live for Him. It’s part of their spiritual DNA.
No, I’m not saying we should be hands-off parents. But many of us need to widen our boundaries and trust God more with our kids. What are we teaching our kids about God when we’re control-freak parents or parents who live in fear? Would our kids perhaps be more cooperative if they felt they had control in other areas of their lives?
Can we give our kids the space and permission to be who God has made them to be?
*Katie is now a graduate student working towards her Master in Fine Arts. I guess she did need art more than math.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.