Teach self-control first

This is the continuation of my posts on child-centered parenting. In my first post on the topic, I mentioned how self-reliance precedes self-control in the child-centered home. In that post, I said:

“Child-centered parenting creates within the child a false sense of self-reliance. The child becomes wise in his own eyes. He believes he is ready for freedoms before he has developed self-control or a level of responsibility that indicates he is ready for those freedoms.”

Early empowerment
A child in a child-centered home is given far too much power far too early. Think of examples you might have seen in your friends or even your own home. Child-centered parents tend to ask their children what they want. Do you want to go to the park? Do you want to invite your friend over or go to his house? Do you want waffles or pancakes? The ultimate example the Ezzos give is, Do you want the red cup or the blue cup?

Now, offering a child choices is not necessarily a bad thing. It only becomes harmful when the child sees those choices as his right. It becomes harmful when it puts your child in a position of power over you and others in the family. Think about how your child would react in these examples.

  • He usually chooses a book for reading time, but you decide on the book this time.
  • You ask him to try on the blue shirt but he wants the striped one.
  • You decide that it’s time to play with puzzles when he wants to play with cars.
  • He prefers bananas, but you give him an apple.

Certainly, it won’t harm anybody if he plays with cars or gets the striped shirt. But it’s his reaction that you are looking for. His attitude is everything. If your child throws a fit in any circumstance like this, then it’s likely he has too many freedoms. And when a child has too many freedoms, even verbal freedoms, he has too much power. And when he has too much power, he becomes wise in his own eyes.

Protecting the self-esteem at all costs
You might ask, What’s so horrible about a child feeling strong and having opinions? Plenty. In our culture, parents are often concerned about nurturing a child’s self-esteem. Yes, it is important for a child to feel confident in his own skin. But when he feels so confident that his feelings come before those of others, it becomes a moral issue. In the Mom’s Notes, Carla Link mentions that nowhere in the Bible does it say to think of yourself first. It says to think of others, implying that it is innate in everyone to naturally protect ourselves and our beliefs. We do not need to be told to do so. In the same way, our parents do not need to boost our self-esteem. It is there when we are born. As long as our parents don’t do anything to harm our self-esteem, we are fine. We will preserve it on our own.

When child-centered parents give their children power in the name of protecting their self-esteem, they are allowing their children to become wise in their own eyes. A parent focused on a child’s self esteem might:

  • Always say “yes” out of fear that the word “no” will cause the child to feel bad.
  • Avoid discipline at all costs for fear of emotionally scarring the child.
  • Allow the child to make all the choices for the family to show him that his opinions are important.
  • Encourage other adults to appease the child.
  • Smile and nod even when the child’s behaviors grate against the parent’s belief system.

Wise in his own eyes
In addition to driving any parent batty, giving the child all the power will create a child who is wise in his own eyes. A child who is wise in his own eyes might:

  • Choose to play in the backyard and go outside without asking.
  • Tell you that his sibling needs a timeout.
  • Roam the house at will.
  • Attempt to gather information (about where you are going or who you talked to on the phone) just to prove he knows more than others.
  • Make himself too comfortable at friends’ houses, going upstairs before he is asked, helping himself to food, etc.
  • Convince himself and his parents that he doesn’t need to respect his teacher because of her faulty beliefs.

More important than any particular behavior, being wise in your own eyes is an issue of attitude. This child puts himself before others and believes he is right to do so. Why would you expect otherwise? This is what he has been taught his entire life.

A lack of self-control
When a child is allowed to become wise in his own eyes, he is being taught to be self-reliant before he has learned self-control. Imagine those same behaviors in a child who has learned self-control before self-reliance. The child with self-control would:

  • Ask for permission to play in the backyard.
  • Protect his dominion by speaking nicely to his sibling but allow his parents to administer timeouts.
  • Respect and obey boundaries.
  • Keep his nose in his own business.
  • Use his manners at friends’ houses, waiting to be invited to the playroom, waiting to be offered food, etc.
  • Respect his teacher because she is in a position of authority (and knows better than the child what is best for him).

When you juxtapose these behaviors, the difference is striking. Which child would you prefer? The one who supposedly has a higher self-esteem but who only thinks of himself? Or the child who respects authority and considers others? You may not think that the simple act of allowing a child to make all his own choices could lead to a child who only thinks of himself, but don’t be deceived. There is a direct link between the two.

Teach your child self-control and protect your home from becoming child-centered. Understand that teaching self-control and imposing boundaries will not harm his self-esteem. In fact, it will boost his self-esteem because he will be more readily accepted by the world around him. Do this for the sake of your child.

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Filed under moral training, parenting philosophy

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