I have recently watched a clip The Red Table Talk and the parenting style of the Smith family. The piece was praising them for their, what I am calling, “hands off” approach. They allowed their son to discover who he was on his own and just supported his decisions along the way.
Our current culture seems to be moving towards this hands off approach towards family leadership. The problem is that it doesn’t work.
Now the immediate counter to that is to swing all the way to the other extreme and compare it to micro-management and control, which doesn’t work either. I’m not really working through the controlling type of leadership because that is not me at all.
As I watched the piece on the Smith family, all I could thing was, “that poor kid is having to struggle through life without any help from his father.” Life is hard, for everyone. Could you imagine trying to make it through puberty with nothing more than, “we support whatever you decide?” That would be awful. I got lost in life a lot. I got intimidated and froze up. I got overwhelmed and wanted to hide. If I had not had older and wiser men in my life to guide me through those periods, I would have suffered much more.
I think the fear of today’s culture is that we do not want to push our definitions onto other people. So, instead of offering wisdom from life experience, we let young people make mistakes that could have been easily avoidable by having difficult conversation. Offering wisdom does not necessitate forcing someone into a box they do not wish to be in. The reality is, if we allow others to define us, we do it on our own accord. No one can force anything into our mind (don’t come at with rare extreme examples).
The Smith’s seemed to be trying to dissolve their authority as parents and become more like peers. Authority if viewed as a negative thing because it has been abused by some people. We never take the time to recognize those who used it to better everyone around them. In reading “Shepherding A Child’s Heart,” the author talks about how children respond to discipline. You would think that after they get their butt spanked, they would be mad at you for ever. The reality is that they love you more for it and are actually happier afterwards. It is very counter-intuitive, but that is because a child is not the same as an adult. The bottom was falling out for them and they didn’t know how to fix it. As an authority, we can step in and button that up for them so they have solid ground again.
My thought is that a leader must set the vision and then empower others to think of ways to meet the vision. Without vision though, people cannot make proper decisions. I think this is true for the family just like everything else. I do believe in a more linear authority structure than the Smith’s do, for sure. As the leader of my family, it is my responsibility to set the vision for our house. One small example is that I do not allow screaming in the house (though you probably wouldn’t know it by visiting…we are a work in progress). My children are small, so this rule is very on the nose. The vision I have for my family is one of self-control. We do not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed and then act out. We ask for help and work together to keep balance. A scream is the best indicator that we are not in balance and we are no long in control of ourselves. When we discipline for screaming we reinforce that we use our words to communicate and ask for help if they are not being listened to (as 99% of sibling fights are because they won’t listen to the other). I have also seen in life that cool heads prevail. So, if they are to be successful in life, they will need to remain calm, cool, and collected.
I am not forcing my kids into a box. There will come a time when they have grown into their own and are equal to me in status. No matter what though, they will not be equal to me in wisdom, because no matter how hard they try, I still will have lived longer than them. I do not ever plan to take my hands off the wheel of my family. I will always be steering us towards Heaven as I have been commissioned to do.