The Path of Least Resistance – The Disaster of ‘Child Centred Parenting’

Full disclosure – this is my default position. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. After years of practice I’ve become an expert. It happens every time our kids kick off. One of them in particular has the ability to press my buttons. He (that’s whittled it down to two) never chooses an appropriate moment in which to dig his heels in (there’s a clue). It’s often in public. And that’s embarrassing. Or if it’s not, we’re usually supposed to be somewhere else. And that’s inconvenient. And so what do I do? I take the path of least resistance. I give in to his demands. He wins. I hate it.  And it’s disastrous. But it works. At least in the short term. And that’s all I’m really interested in at the time.

‘Child centred parenting’ is the phrase I’ve come to use to describe running family life around the the needs, desires and tantrums of our kids. I’m not even sure if this is a phrase that get’s used anywhere else. It may not be accurate. But I’m not that fussed. I’m not an avid reader of parenting magazines and books. I read ‘Shepherding a Child’s Heart’ by Ted Tripp and knew that I didn’t need to read much else because it was brilliant. My issue isn’t so much with what we choose to call it but the phenomenon of making the child the centre of their own little universe. When we do that, we make everyone else planets in their solar system and we encourage the child to think that others exist simply to revolve around them. That’s a profoundly distasteful world-view to give any kid.

But child centred parenting is the modus operandi of most of the families I know. It’s what most of us do most of the time, isn’t it? We want a quiet life. And if little Jonny is going to be pacified then we need to surrender to his demands. And so we run up the parenting white flag, he puts down his weapons of mass destruction and we’re all better off, aren’t we? Not in the long run. Can you think of a better way to raise a self obsessed, selfish brat than to reinforce his impression that other people are there to satisfy his needs and that he can get his own way simply by being obnoxious and making a scene?!

I’ve been doing a bit of work in Ephesians 6 this week. That’s a passage that puts the biblical cat amongst the parenting pigeons. Look at what it says in verses 1 and 2,

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth”.

Paul’s words (and therefore God’s words) require kids to be obedient. Christian children should obey their parents. Paul includes four reasons to motivate obedience. And we’ll cover those in a later post. But for now, let’s think about obedience. It’s just not a very child centred approach, is it Paul?

But the requirement is straightforward; obey. That’s it. Obedience. It’s not ‘submission’ like it is for a wife. Submission has to do with willingly placing yourself under the authority of someone else. Obedience is doing what you’re told to do without challenge, without excuse and without delay. God has invested authority in parents so that they might take responsibility for the raising and nurturing of their kids. And so those of us who are parents need to take this on board. This isn’t a negotiable. It’s a requirement. We need to declare war on our kids’ refusal to obey the authority God has given to us. Our kids may want us to obey their desires. But it’s not what they want that ultimately matters. It’s what we want that matters more. And what God wants that matters most. So we’ll need to be sensible about what we make ‘an obedience issue’. But the bottom line is that kids need to obey their parents when it’s clear that this is what’s required.

Strikingly, the command is actually addressed to children. And so, as part of our parenting responsibilities, we need to train our kids to appreciate and apply this biblical exhortation. Think about this. Every time we give in to our kids demands we undermine the view that God’s authority in parents should be obeyed. But every time we refuse to surrender to their demands we reinforce the view that God’s authority in parents should be observed. As with all things parenting, it’s a process not an event!

3 thoughts on “The Path of Least Resistance – The Disaster of ‘Child Centred Parenting’

  1. Ingrid Watts August 10, 2012 / 5:02 pm

    This is very good, Richard! I am eagerly awaiting the four motivations you will expand on later. Thanks for posting.

    • theurbanpastor August 12, 2012 / 5:59 am

      Hi Ingrid
      Great to hear from you. Big love to Phil and the family. Thanks for the encouragements. One day we’ll hook up with you guys again. We can compare notes on how rubbish we’ve been as parents, what a mess we made of our kids’ lives and how God is wonderfully gracious to work despite those things!

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