Welcome to the Control Girl Q & A series!
In the months since my Bible study Control Girl was released, thousands of women have embraced the message of laying down their burden of control, and surrendering to God. While that may sound easy, it’s truly an arduous process, which requires deep faith and extra doses of wisdom. If you–like me–are on the Control Girl to Jesus Girl journey, I’m sure you agree!
In this series, I’m sharing some of the most common questions I’ve been asked–either while speaking at retreats, responding to blog comments, or by individuals in the small groups I’ve visited. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I’d love to share what God continues to teach me about control. If you have a question you’d like answered, feel free to submit it in the comment form below!
Also, you can sign up to receive this Control Girl Q & A series by email here.
Question: “But isn’t controlling your kids a good thing?”Click To Tweet
This is the number one question I am asked when engaging the topic of my book, Control Girl.
Rachel asked it on the Revive Our Hearts blog this way:
“I am a mother of a three-year-old and I face many challenges. You mentioned not to “control”. But what about when the three-year-old lays on the grocery store floor and won’t listen?
I’ve experienced this and a good, wise friend of mine suggested that as a parent, I am given God-ordained authority and I should never “lose control” of my child… or let him control me.
When I am in control as a parent, what I say goes. My little one should expect some serious consequences if he doesn’t get up off the floor and obey. I totally see what you are saying, but based on the wisdom I have received there is another side of “having control” in our authority that is good… and God ordained.
I’ve seen many, many moms who don’t have control of their little ones, and the little one controls them! I definitely don’t claim to know all the answers because I’ve only been doing this for three years… and I’m always reaching out for more help.”
What an important question from this young mom. And I agree with her! Moms should have control of their young children. They should–as Rachel says–not lose control of a three-year-old or be controlled by him. Mothering involves laying clear boundaries and enforcing them. Even when you’re exhausted or overwhelmed.
But while moms should control their three-year-olds, what about their thirty-year-olds? Eventually Rachel will have to face that question. And if you’re a mom, so will you.
Tim Sanford’s parenting book, Losing Control and Liking It, helped me sort out some of these questions, especially as I’ve entered the stage of parenting teens and young adults. Tim says that all of life can be segmented into two categories: 1) Things I Can Control and 2) Things I Can’t Control.
So what goes in category one? Myself. Ultimately, the only thing in life that I can control is myself. My behaviors, responses, and attitudes. That’s it. Certainly I can influence other people and situations, but I can only control myself.
Everything else belongs in that second category: Things I Can’t Control.
So in response to these two categories, Tim suggests that God wants us to HOLD and FOLD. HOLD responsibility for what we can control, and FOLD our hands with everything else.
Here’s how I apply this to the question of controlling your children as a parent. Is controlling my child–the one who is throwing himself down in the grocery store–a good thing? Yes! As moms, we should take responsibility for the children God has given us. God wants us to train and raise our children, not shrug our shoulders as they throw tantrums.
We should HOLD responsibility for our children. We should buckle them into their carseats, give consequences for running out in the street, and train them to say please and thank you. We should also have self control, and refrain from parenting emotionally. We should give consistent instructions and consequences, rather than caving in. There are so very many ways that we will influence our children positively, as we hold responsibility for ourselves as parents.
But here’s the hard part. As parents, we must also FOLD our hands in surrender to God. Even when we buckle our kids in, lock the doors, and train about stranger danger, we cannot ultimately control whether our children will be safe from danger. And even when we patiently teach, guide, and correct our children, they will still turn to sin. They will hurt us and other people. They will cause us grave concern and deep frustration.
FOLDing our hands in surrender to God involves letting God be their God. Only He can ultimately protect them. Only He can turn their hearts to Him.
When our kids are small it’s good to get into the practice of FOLDing our hands, and giving control to God. Eventually, when our children are grown, we’ll FOLD our hands permanently knowing that our job as their parents is done. We don’t do this in a fatalistic way, but rather a trusting way–knowing that God is their creator and sustainer—not us.
Here’s a good rule of thumb. When our children are small enough to crawl up into our laps, we’re mostly HOLDing. We are responsible at this point to train, care for, and protect them. But when our kids outgrow sitting in our laps, it’s time to get to work on FOLDing. Little by little, with everything from choosing their clothes to paying for their food, we are working ourselves out of a job.
We spend a relatively small part of our parenting with control over our kids. The rest is spent relinquishing control, and surrendering them to God.
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