As the children grow up you can no longer use real reins but you need to keep hold of the invisible reins on your child’s life.
With a horse reins are used to direct it, indicate when it should speed up or slow down. If you want a horse to stay put, you may tie the reins to a post. Similarly with children these invisible reins guide, encourage and caution. There will be times in the life of your children when you will need to rein them in, steer them in another direction or just slow them down. As your children mature, you also need to give them more slack on the reins. This is called independence. Give it to them and then monitor what they do. For example, your child may ask to play at someone’s home. Before you agree you would most likely check to see if the parents are home, agree to a time frame and make a condition that all homework needed to be done as soon as they got back.
This decision you make is giving some slack to test the waters. When the child comes home or you pick them up depending on arrangements, ask them all about their time. What did they do or watch? Were they on the computer? Ask lots of questions about what they did with it. Then don’t say anything about homework and see if their side of the agreement will be fulfilled without prompting. This may take some reining in on your tongue but remember you are extending some slack. If the homework is not tackled then the next time you will pull the reins back by saying no.
All through a child’s life you will be training them, giving them more and more room to fly. However, never let go!
I remember one of our teenagers asking us to help her say no to things people asked her to do. We knew that compassion and serving were very much a part of who she was. She was gifted and could do many things. But she could be driven by other people’s expectations and desires. We had to help her prioritise her life and gave her (all the children in fact) permission to use us as a scapegoat. We would discuss the situation with her, ask her what she really wanted to do and if necessary list the pros and cons. We would then ask her what she thought. If she didn’t want to do whatever was being asked we would say no. We did this so she could go back to her friends, teachers, or youth group and say my parents said no.
Hold onto the reins of your child’s life all through their teen years. Just because they are 16, doesn’t mean they don’t need you - they do! There will be times when you may have to hold on tightly or steer them in a different direction. Ultimately the time will come for you to cut the reins and give them complete freedom but you will know and be satisfied that your job is done!
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