Once I heard someone talking about a mother who "ran a tight ship". This may have described someone who was well organized and very structured in the way they parented and ran their household. Having a "tight ship" is almost a necessity especially for larger families like us. There has to be a healthy measure of organization and control in order that the family ship runs as smoothly as possible. Does this mean our home is spotless and everything is in place? No way!! However, we do have a system which allows us to flow harmoniously through each day. At the same time the schedule is loose enough to allow for divine interruptions. A ship that is too tight will eventually cause everyone to want to jump off and swim in a different direction. We want our sails to be loose enough that we may be free to flow with the unexpected changes and interruptions.
I remember when our oldest children were younger. I was very into having charts and schedules all over the house. These worked well for a season and the children enjoyed them most of the time. However someone would eventually wake up sick or a neighbor would be in need. There were many occasions when my structured plans would be cancelled. This seems to be even more so now as our family has grown. I also remember having to forget about the neatly made "chore and homework schedules" because of discipline problems. Sitting down with the children and having discussions about the importance of respecting and loving each other and honoring their parents were of more importance compared to sticking to structured schedules.
Do not misunderstand and think I am proposing that control is unimportant or wrong. When our oldest children were younger, much more control was needed to protect them from harm and to teach them responsibility. Even now with our younger ones, we do have a tighter reign on them compared to the teenagers. However, as they grow and mature, we release a little at a time and give them space to grow and become who God created them to be.
In our 17 years of parenting, we have always had to tighten the ship somewhat as our family has grown. The more people who live in one house, the more order is needed so that all members are healthy, safe, clothed, fed, nurtured, and disciplined. A tight ship is a good thing. However, the question we need to re-examine is this- IS YOUR TIGHT SHIP TOO TIGHT?
You ask, "What do you mean by having a ship that is too tight?" Let me ask you, "Have you ever been in some one's home that you feel like you are walking on pins and needles? Have you ever felt like if you breathed too hard, something would break? Have you ever been so uncomfortable around a particular individual that you were afraid if you said one word, your head would be "bitten off" ? Or have you ever felt if you said something you would be criticized for what you expressed? "
We all have probably experienced this type of tension at some point in our lives. The last thing we want to find out years from now is that our own children felt that way growing up in their own home. Rigid rules and harsh discipline along with the other items I mentioned above can breed fear in our children. Sometimes we can be so reliant on our authority to control our children that they can become terrified of us. Therefore, their obedience stems from fear instead of sincere honor. This detriment works against winning their hearts. In addition, too much control intimidates them into subjection and gains only outward compliance.
Finally, as we examine our hearts as parents, let us recall the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. After squandering away all of his inheritance, the son returned home to his father who had been waiting and hoping for his son's homecoming. I wonder how this father "ran his ship"? Was it too tight? It seems to me that if this father was overly controlling, the son probably would have been too fearful to go back, too terrified that his father would snap his head off and say, "I told you so." On the other hand, he may have been too bitter to return home because he learned to obey outwardly to his father's harsh demands, while his rebellious heart remained hidden. The home his father provided for him must have been a comfortable and safe place to be. This son was probably taught and trained well, but at the same time, was allowed the space to grow and to find his own way as he matured. This loving father was not dependent on control to mold his son. If this were the case, he would have refused to give his son his inheritance in the first place. This wayward son remembered home as a place of warmth,void of rigid rules and demanding schedules. That is one of the main reason he came home.
Let us be challenged to guard against over dependence on control. We want to relate to our children as precious people who have feelings and the ability to make choices. They eventually will decide if they will continue to respond as trained. No matter how much we try to restrict or control them, they will make their own choices and our hold on them will not guarantee they will turn our exactly as we hope or imagine. We must keep in mind and heart that our children are individuals with a free will who are processing their own lives and upbringing. There will be a point of transfer where they will be accountable to God. Let us focus on how we can touch their hearts with the love of the Lord rather than trusting in control factors.
(The next article will be on Elevation of Methods and Formulas. This will be the last article on the Horses and Chariots of Parenting. We will then be sharing the "Call to Trust" in our Parenting.)