Tag Archives: parenting 101

Love Is Not Control

Throughout this series I want to keep bringing us to the definition of love, because we have come to think that love is yes. Now here’s the rub if God is love, and God is yes (which He is) than why isn’t love yes? Because God is not broken and we are. And while God is yes, He doesn’t always say “Yes.” And neither should we, as I wrote in the last two blogs. Love is not letting your child do whatever he/she wants, but neither is it total control.

In a broken world where we all start out self-centered, love is at least half “No” if not more. Why? Because it gives us security. Somebody loves me enough to give me boundaries, and boundaries make me feel safe. Somebody cares enough to do the hard thing and make sure I stay safe within those boundaries. Cares enough to stand up to me when I’m wrong. Cares enough to take the time and effort to correct me so I don’t crash and burn–(become addicted to food, drugs, alcohol, or porn by the time I’m an adult).

Remember how we are born; we have to learn everything. True, we have parental conditioning through those things that sit on top of our DNA and tell it how to express itself (epigenetics), but we still have developing brains that have to learn about everything. God knows everything.

And to a baby, parents know everything. We’ve had experience. Hopefully we’ve had good modeling. And hopefully, enough wisdom to know what we don’t know and get help. Also hopefully, we have enough confidence to use the education.

For a baby control is needed because they have none. So self-control in a parent is crucial to give their child what’s best in care–time, attention, and good responses to needs. Self-control as a parental necessity never stops, because the control in parental love is always changing with the need to be constantly giving more freedom until they are an adult, when the parent relinquishes control. Believe me that takes self-control too.

We could say that while love is not control, it is all about self-control: giving the amount of control that is needed at the appropriate time. A beautiful example of this was my daughter with her seven-year-old. The boys were tracked out while I was there and returned to school the day before I left. The day I left he didn’t want to go to school, and cried but went. The following day he had a stomach ache and stayed home, and the next didn’t want to go, but after listening to him, his mother said “You need to go. We all need to do hard things at times. Jeremy didn’t feel like going to work today either. I’m tired and don’t feel like taking care of the baby and Jack. I’ll bake you a cake and tonight we will have a special dinner to celebrate that we can do hard things.” So they did and it was a great success. And from time to time it gets reinforced.

It takes a lot of wisdom to know how much control to give, and when to let them try and fail. Too many choices too early are overwhelming to a child.

In the beginning there are no choices, and gradually they can choose what to play with or what to wear. Choices in food should be limited to between two healthy choices if any. Most tastes are developed and you are giving a gift of health if you help your children establish tastes and habits that are good for them. (That takes a lot of self-control on your part too.)

I’ve said many times that parental modeling is the strongest influence there is, and your self-control or lack of it will be imprinted on them. It is one of the most important things they learn from you, and most of it is caught rather than taught.

Some of you have been reading this with a nagging thought in the background, How can she say God is not controlling? because you read the Bible and think about all those laws.

I used to think that. But after writing the book about all those laws, I saw that the people He was leading were developmentally babies from 100 years of slavery when they had no choices and lost God’s ideas of what was good for them. So God spelled out His ways–which were so much better than any laws around them. They still spell out His good will (the way things work), and they never were the means to ultimate salvation, they simply made it possible for God to do whatever They (Abba, Adonai, Ruach) needed to do to protect and provide for their covenant people according to the rules of engagement in this war. Adonai was their king. You must give allegiance to a king and his laws to get protection and favors.

If you still have questions about God and law read Love’s Playbook: Cosmic Chess–the story of God’s law from Exodus through Deuteronomy. But you might like to start with book 5 which ends with the positive form of the Ten Commandments. (They were positive in Hebrew.)

We are developmental beings, a perfect place for the reality of love and freedom to be exhibited. Control is not love–never when you are adult to adult. But for parents control is built in and very important to use and not abuse, and grow out of.

Till next time…

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Is Love Enough?

I’m starting a series of blogs on parenting. It happens that lately I’ve been asked questions and made observations that are begging inside to be shared about parental love and effectiveness. Please note that this is not shared in judgment. I’ve made huge mistakes myself.

I now have had the advantage of  corrective education. But more importantly I’ve had time–being able to go to my adult daughter (a full-time mom of five) and ask what it was like for her–which I recently had opportunity to do. Difficult to hear. But it is my hope that this will help you in raising children, or you can share it with your children, friends and relatives who are struggling with children. They may not even realize they are struggling!

I’ve decided to title this “Is Love Enough?” but considered calling it Love 101, if that weren’t so trite. It has become my conviction that we do not understand love. We feel it for our children, but most of us have a deficit ourselves that we are trying to parent from. We are doing the best we can, but we can get very tired and angry and confused when our children don’t respond the way we want them to and think they should. And believe it or not, our love can become toxic for our children!

So I am going to take apart the concept of love bit by bit, and hopefully illustrate it well enough to bring understanding. Please feel free to respond either publicly, to benefit everyone reading, or privately. I will answer all questions or clarify my presentation if it wasn’t clear.

I’m excited about this because I feel it is SO important, and I have learned so much just from writing the Bible–go figure. It makes sense, and I am sure I will learn much more. I’m excited about that too–it’s had a profound effect on me and my security. I grew up extremely insecure. And we all want to raise secure, well-loved, well-adjusted children.

So let me begin with one of my biggest mistakes. (I do have my daughter’s permission to share this.) Can we love too much? With our understanding of love, and our brokenness, YES!

When my biological daughter was six months old, I discovered her father was having an affair. My heart was broken, my world turned upside down–not a good state for a baby to be developing in. (Although better then than during pregnancy.) But even though I was totally in love with her, I’m sure I felt very preoccupied. Perhaps, it is why she was such an easy baby. She didn’t seem at all repressed though, she was very alert and ahead developmentally. I wasn’t one to give into depression. I’ve always been a fighter.

She was born in Minnesota, and on her second birthday, she and I flew to California. I had to get away, but knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have done that. At that time it seemed like salvation that some friends paid for my ticket. But she still remembers the feelings she had that day of leaving daddy.

Long story short, he followed us to California, and we tried several times to start over, but he finally left the last time when she was four. So the most important years of her life for personality and character development were unstable at best. But I am grateful he was in her life that long. Divorce or trauma before four is extremely hard on children (personality-disorder hard).

Once he was gone, she was my focus. I didn’t know it then, but that is a terrible thing to do to a child. They absorb your anxiety.

I felt so guilty that she didn’t have her beloved daddy, so horrible that I had done this to the most important person in my life, that I became indulgent. Thank God we didn’t have any money so I couldn’t indulge her that way. And thank God I was into health already, so I didn’t ask her what she wanted to eat–we were fortunate to have food, and I had to choose it very carefully. But for everything else, it was “What do you want?”

That is way too much responsibility for a child who, ideally, should  live care-free. That is why we have parents–someones to make good choices for us so we don’t have to. We can relax, secure that we are taken care of by someone who loves us and has learned a thing or two about life–hopefully has wisdom. We don’t have the ability to respond appropriately yet.

Children haven’t had enough experience or the chance to learn. These poor little ones only know what feels good, what tastes good; and in a broken world, that is not a safe method to choose what is good. They would live on candy and ice cream and doughnuts and never go to bed. They would be hyperactive, adrenaline junkies, with gray skin and dark circles around their eyes, who terrorize others with the burden of their power, and end up with diabetes before they reach puberty. I know you have seen it, just as I have.

I want to keep these under a thousand words, so I will finish the story of my mistakes next time. Fortunately, I had a friend who was gritty and bold and not afraid to speak truth to his friend. That is what I want to be for you: the friend who is bold enough to be the wall that everything that isn’t really you runs into and shatters or bounces off of.

Till next time…


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