Dear Gramps,My question relates to compulsion, as in using force to get kids to do what they should. I have found as my kids have grown up, that my wife and I so much want them to do the right thing, and to participate in the right activities, that we have sometimes gone overboard in forcing them. To be sure, some of the time our behavior has not been very Christ-like. I am very aware that God will force no one into heaven, but should we, for example, force our young teenage sons to go to Church and other Church sponsored activities? It seems to me, that when we don’t we are looked down on by others when our kids don’t go. But now, as the youngest nears 16, we are beginning to see that the forcing has done nothing more than alienate our son from the Church, and he assures us that when he is on his own he will have nothing to do with the Church. Where is the proper balance? Thanks,
Ajh, from Austin, Texas
If I had the wisdom to determine the proper balance of control in raising children, I would also be rich. I’m sure that much depends on the personality of each child and each parent, and on the history to date of the parent-child relationship. There are, however, perhaps, some matters of principle that could be considered. One of them you have already discovered. To try to force a teenager into accepting your way of thinking almost inevitably produces the opposite result. Guidance by example and suggestion, while respecting the rights of the individual to his own opinion seem in the long run to produce much more favorable results. Teenagers have a tremendous drive to be independent. Often, in order to demonstrate that independence, they will make decisions in opposition to anything that they feel is imposed on them.
Withal, neither is permissiveness the answer. I believe it was President Kimball that said on one occasion, “Permissiveness is worse than neglect.” The parents have the right and responsibility to establish and enforce certain rules and norms of conduct and behavior in their own home and with respect to those over whom they have legal responsibility. If one of your small children, for instance, were to take a bottle of poison from the cupboard, I think that all would agree that this is not the time for a lecture on chemistry and nutrition, but a time for quick action on the part of the parent to remove the child from danger. I believe that certain norms of conduct must be enforced within the home, even over the objections of some family members. But to dictate belief is another thing.
In general, I see parenting divided into three major roles- that of a teacher, a coach and a consultant. During the pre-school years the parent is the principal teacher of the children. It is at this time that the children learn the basic principles of honestly, honor, love and respect. When children start to school the principal teachers become their peers and school teachers. Parents now assume the rule of coaches. They motivate, inspire, develop confidence and cheer from the sidelines. After children finish school and begin to live on their own the parent’s role changes to that of a consultant. A consultant offers advice when called upon. If the parent tries to advise or counsel the adult children without being invited it is called meddling.