You've probably heard that you need to be consistent in your parenting. While consistency in daily schedules and in applying rules helps with young children, parents can take this too far. Some think they must maintain a steady course, even when that course is not working, so they resist change to the detriment of their parenting. But the fact is, parents must adapt as their children mature.
Children are complex-- they change rapidly. Things that worked yesterday may not work today. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to doggedly maintain the control they had when their children were young, even as children hit the teen years. Control sounds like a good idea, but it can backfire in parenting and in governments as well. Consider the surprising story of neighboring kingdoms.
The Parable of the Two Kingdoms
Two kings sat on thrones of neighboring countries. Each was a good king, but the king of the eastern kingdom excelled in most ways above the king of the west. If the western king had 100 chariots, the eastern king had 200. In the matter of castles, the eastern king built a more splendid one. The fame of the eastern king far exceeded that of the good but unremarkable king of the west.
Eventually each king grew old and died. The great eastern king had held tightly to his power until the very end, since no one could govern as well as he had. The western king was not so impressive in his accomplishments, however, and had been forced to share power as he got older, to the extent that he had given his authority to one or the other of his sons, and even to others within the kingdom.
Kings from far away came to the funerals of both kings, as they each had died within a week of the other. Even in death, the eastern king impressed the other emperors with a grand state funeral full of pomp and circumstance. The sadness of the citizens seemed to prove how much the eastern king would be missed, as the citizens of the east were far more downcast than those of the west.
Yet the years that followed showed an odd sort of disparity between the exalted eastern kingdom and its lesser western neighbor. The western kingdom continued its modest prosperity and even began to gain esteem on the international stage, its leaders proving their capabilities with every crisis and opportunity. The eastern kingdom, sorely missing its beloved king, declined sharply as new and untested leaders fought among themselves for control of the country. Decisions made by one governor were reversed or undermined by another, and the hole left by the great eastern king grew more obvious by the month. Citizens fled from east to west when war broke out between the competing factions. The once strong eastern economy collapsed, its citizens in poverty.
How did such a turnabout occur? How could the mighty kingdom of the east slip so far so fast? The answers lie in the nearsighted policies of the greater king, who through an insistence on control failed to prepare his kingdom for his departure.
Tragically, I see many parents who make a similar mistake, overvaluing consistency with respect to control. They fail to make key adjustments that prepare their children for the time when they will make decisions outside of the parents’ control. Remember the warning of the demise of the eastern kingdom: Don't hold onto control as your children mature. Learn to give them an increasing amount of freedom, but stay involved to help them through the rough spots. In my next blog, I'll give you three primary adjustments parents must make to launch their children successfully.