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Do you know what it means to be a “my way or the highway” mom? If so, are you one? By nature, I will admit that I am one.
A “my way or the highway mom” is one who controls rather than one who trains when it comes to her children. As a perfectionist, type-A, organized, driven, fearless person, I tend to be controlling. Who am I kidding…I am a controller! This is who I am if I am not exercising some self control. That’s kind of a crazy thought…I need to exercise self control in order to not control my children, however, this is exactly what I have to do.
I love the phrase that talks about giving kids both roots and wings. There is such timeless advice there. Our job as moms is both to control and to train while instilling inspiration, perseverance, and a drive to succeed in our children while offering them encouragement at the same time.
When our kids are little, we are the ones who control nearly every aspect of their lives. As parents we decide their schedules, their meals, their clothes, their activities, and even their playmates to a great extent. However, as they get older, ideally we are gradually surrendering that control over to our children. Our control shifts to being a training exercise.
So, how can we determine if we are being over controlling in a “my way or the highway spirit,” and, what do we do about it if we are?
Let’s examine the first part.
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Chances are, if you define yourself by the behavior of your children, you are a controlling, “my way or the highway” sort of mom. Do you find it hard to function in a disorderly or unorganized (at least in your mind) environment? Are you overly concerned about the way others perceive you? If your answer is “yes,” then you are most likely an overly controlling parent. Don’t worry if you are, like I said, you are in good company. Mine!
If you find yourself in the over controlling camp, no worries, you don’t have to stay there. I can say, however, that getting out of the controlling mentality and away from the controlling tendencies is an ongoing process, at least if you are anything like me.
As mothers we are called to nurture, to guide, and to train. In fact, Proverbs 22:6 even uses the word “train” when it calls parents to train up a child in the way they should go. I have never read anything in the Bible that calls parents to control their children, and I am quite certain this is because we should not be controlling our children, except when they are dependent on us for that as we have spoken of earlier in this post.
Interestingly, the way to be less controlling as a mother is an overall shift in being a less controlling person in general. Controlling tendencies are rooted in selfish tendencies, and this is the “cure” for becoming a mother who trains rather than one who controls. Giving up control is a surrendering of ourselves, and in our role as a mom, this is no different.
Training our children, not controlling them, means these three basic things:
Allowing our children to do things differently than we would do them
Different does not mean wrong, and this can be hard for controlling parents like me to do. How does that saying go…there are a thousand ways to skin a cat? This is true in so many things. Oftentimes our kids will accomplish much more than we think they are capable of and do a pretty good job at what they’re doing, even if it’s different than how we would do it.
Giving our children the freedom to decide what to do and what not to do
This is playing out in our lives right now with our older children in regards to sports and activities. Our older ones are to the point where they are old enough to make choices in these things. It is no longer healthy for us as parents to force them into doing things they don’t want to do as we often have to do when they are younger.
This would also include giving your children the freedom to procrastinate on things if need be. Procrastination generally doesn’t do us well as adults, and it generally won’t do our kids much good, either, but allowing them to find this out on their own is training them to make choices as adults rather than requiring them to make the responsible choice. They need to learn to be responsible…or not.
Watching our children fail
It is always hard to watch our kids venture into something that will not turn out well, but if we are to be a training parent rather than a controlling one, this is something we must do. Being a “my way or the highway” type of mom means shielding our kids from the realities of the world we live in. Obviously there are still times that we need to step in, but as a general rule, allowing kids to fail now, when they are under our protection, is more beneficial than protecting them would be.
You can read more about this idea in Why Letting Your Kids Fail is a Very Good Thing
Wouldn’t our lives as parents be easier if children came with a rulebook? Of course we are given the Bible, which is so full of wisdom, but there are times where I long for a playbook that tells me exactly what we are to do when.
When we cover our children in prayer, ask for wisdom to guide them as parents, and then train them to make their own decisions, to take responsibility for themselves, and to discover and then fulfill their potential using their gifts and talents, we are doing everything we can to train them rather than to control them.
Even God gives His children numerous paths to choose in life, and then He gives them the freedom to decide what they, or we, think is best. How much more effective would we be as parents if this is the model we chose rather than being a one way only, my way or the highway type of parent?