Having command is not a bad, dominant, or militant thing. Feeling calm command is a sign of a healthy parenting relationship. It’s likely unpopular to suggest that a parent should have command at home. However, over two decades of case studies have shown me that children and parents thrive when the parent has a commanding presence with their children. Some words that people use to describe this presence are structure, consistency, and parental authority. Without command, parents are often controlled by either their children or their own emotional responses.

In a recent parenting conversation with a father from New Zealand, the father explained to me that he was raised by parents who used physical force on him. When using physical force on his children didn’t create the type of parenting interactions that he wanted, then he started looking for other parenting ideas. Next, he and his wife started using a form of parenting that seemed more friendly and gentle, but the family still didn’t feel fully functional and the children were sometimes even more out of control than before. Finally, he started teaching the principles and skills of self-government that I taught to his family, and started using them himself.

The family drastically changed. The family unity that he had always hoped for was finally realized and he felt like a different father. He simultaneously felt more family connection, calmness, and respect. When I asked him to describe how he felt about his parenting now, he said, “I don’t know how to really say it, except that I finally have command. Yeah, that’s it. I feel like I have confidence in what I’m doing at last and finally have a presence of command in my home.”

This father’s new found confidence and positive influence on his family was deeply contrasted just a few days later when I spoke to a mother of young children about her parenting concerns. She had reached out to me for help because, as she said, “My children are walking all over me. They take total control. When this happens, there is nothing that I can do.” She wanted to know, “Is there really any hope? Or, is this just how parenting young children is, and I have to deal with it?”

I assured her that while parenting is difficult, it doesn’t need to feel like a battle or like the children are controlling her. “I need tools,” she said, “What should I do?”

Child Abandonment Is Different Than You Think

I gave her the tools. But, first, as gently as I could, I explained to this dear young mother that perhaps the children had learned to control her because instead of having a confident, commanding presence, she was likely spending her days passively chasing after each new catastrophe and trying to please the children’s senses and desires instead of daring to be disliked sometimes by reaching out to the children with teaching and correction. She bravely agreed.

When we don’t correct and instruct our children, then we are abandoning them when they need us. It’s a popular modern belief that parents should give children their space and let everyone in the family live their own lives. This is socially portrayed as being respectful and kind to the child. But, is it respectful to dishonor their role and leave them in ignorance when they need guidance, developmental support, and teaching?

The Bible gives us insight into God’s good parenting when Isaiah says, “…His hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 9:12) Isaiah explained that even when God is angry, he still reaches out to people. He always wants us to come to Him.

Additionally, 2 Peter 3:9 shows that when God invites us to repent, it is because He loves us and is watching out for us. He said, “…but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

If God stopped teaching us and reaching to us then He would be abandoning us. But God, instead of abandoning us at our darkest times, “employs every possible measure to bring [us] back” to Him. (Elder Patrick Kearon “God’s Intent Is to Bring You Home”)

Increasing Parent Confidence & Command

Years ago, I read a poem written by Louisa May Alcott called, “A Little Kingdom I Possess.” In the poem Alcott explains that we all have a kingdom within ourselves and that we need to “dare to take command.”

To have a commanding presence does take faith, trust, and daring, but it also requires truth, effective tools, a proven plan, deliberate focus on the destination and direction of interactions, instead of on all the details, and a tone of heart consisting of patience, calmness, assurance, and direction.

The most basic truth that helps a parent dare to take command of themselves and their youngsters is the answer to the question, “Who are you?” The identities of parents and children have been confused and roles have been blurred. When parents recognize and embrace their God-given roles as parents and decide that correcting and teaching children is a good thing and should be embraced as a good part of life, then their whole demeanor and tone changes. This simple mindset shift helps the parent stop running from their parent role and embrace it instead. The attitude adjustment that can occur from this simple mindset shift cannot be understated.

Children are learners, parents are teachers. If either learners aren’t allowed to learn, or parents push back on doing the teaching required for their children, then the family relationships fall into dysfunction. Parents ultimately control relationship function. When children are very young effective parents establish themselves as teachers and correctors. They teach their children to follow their instructions and accept their “no” answers and corrections. Learning these simple skills instill confidence in the leadership of the parent and create a pattern for learning with an open mind and heart throughout childhood and adolescence.

And, when parents have skills to help them stay calm and know what to say to correct their children as well as know what skills to teach the children for communication success, then they learn to trust themselves and believe that they are enough to handle the problems they face during daily parenting interactions. Confidence is born out of having a plan and deliberately following through.

So many parents tell me that they struggle most with consistency. This feeling is an indicator that the parent is unsure in their parenting or lacking the confidence and energy to do the corrections the child needs. Many parents worry that their child will stop liking them or disapprove of their parenting if they start correcting problems. But, what they don’t see is that the child is waiting for them to take command.

If the parent doesn’t take command of the teaching and parenting interactions, then the child will look for structure elsewhere. All around us we see signs of the negative consequences of parents not taking command. Children and youth are subscribing to militant groups and ideologies and becoming more and more angry and wild. Why? Control. They want to feel in control. They want the structure. They want someone to control them, so they allow people that they don’t even know, online, to have control of their thoughts and actions.

When parents are confident in their skills, and act with assurance for their children, then children take steps in the directions the parents lead them. It may not be popular to talk about having command at home, but if we don’t take it, as the parents, who will take command of our children?

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