When I was a young mom, I often had the ability to make my children fear me. That’s not something to brag about but it’s true. I have one young man who is especially affected with the fear that I might take his iPad away. Whether it be for an hour, a day or a week, a threat of taking an iPad away is all it takes to tow him back into line.
So, it was that I thought pretty well of myself as a parent. I had it all under control. God though, knowing exactly what I needed right when I actually needed it, gave me a child who doesn’t fear me. No matter what I “take away” from her for “bad” behavior, she never seems to let it bother her. It doesn’t matter if I take her kindle, her television, her dessert or drinks other than water. She’s okay with it and brags to others that she doesn’t care. Her brave face and lack of reform make me realize how helpless that I truly am.
She, more than any of my children, have made me realize the truth of what I have been reading in Paul David Tripp’s book, Parenting. I have no power whatsoever to change my child. Even the “punishments” that seem to work so well for my oldest child can never change his heart. Instead, I appeal to him to “be good” by appealing to his self-interest and his desire to play video games.
It has been a struggle of all my parenting years to find the right threat to hold over my children as a way of gaining their compliance and having their behavior to align with my desires. I often fall into the delusion that Tripp describes this way:
We think that if we speak just a little bit louder, or stand a little bit closer, or make the threat a little bit scarier, or the punishment a little more severe, then our children will change. And because the change doesn’t happen, we tend to bring it on even stronger.
So, because I feel like I should have some power over my children that I don’t, I am often looking for some ground, any ground to use against the children in hopes that I will change their hearts. It doesn’t work. It only ruins my relationship with them.
I’m willing to let go of these habits, but I don’t know what to do in the place of them. I don’t know how to take a relationship where I feel the need to control and let go of the control. How do I exercise authority once I stop making threats? That’s what I don’t have the answer to.