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Some fathers exasperate their children by being overly strict and controlling. They need to remember that rearing children is like holding a wet bar of soap—too firm a grasp and it shoots from your hand, too loose a grip and it slides away. A gentle but firm hold keeps you in control.


We cannot begin to estimate the ravages of overstrictness on the evangelical Christian community over the years. I have had occasion in my ministry to bury people who lived virtually all of their seventy years in reaction to the harsh legalism of their upbringing—lost bars no one could manage to pick up. Others were not so tragic. They came to renounce legalism Biblically and theologically, but still wrestled with it emotionally for the rest of their lives.

Why are some fathers overly strict?

[1] Many because they are trying to protect their children from an increasingly Philistine culture—and smothering rules seem the best way to accomplish that.

[2] Others are simply controlling personalities who use rules, money, friendship, or clout to rule their children’s lives. The Bible, read through their controlling grid, becomes a license to dominate.

[3] Still others wrongly understand their faith in terms of Law rather than grace.

[4] Some men are overly strict because they are concerned about what others will think. “What will they think if my child goes to this place . . . or wears this clothing . . . or is heard listening to that music?”

Not a few preacher’s kids have been catapulted into rebellion because their fathers squeezed their lives to fit their parishioners’ expectations. What a massive sin against one’s children!

–R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man


One Comment

  1. Why are some fathers (or moms) overly strict? Because it makes our job easier. Its easier to generate a desired outcome by imposing strict’ rules as a condition for receiving money; imposing harsh rules that are “in the best interest of the child”; imposing rules to make sure others don’t think less of mom or dad.
    I am not an experienced enough father to know where to draw the line on rules, but I do know when I have crossed it. Once I start providing conditional love, including all of the subtle forms of conditional love, I start casually meandering back toward the unconditional love side of the line. And it is a moving target, because unconditional love for a toddler or young child is a lot easier than for the scheming diabolical pre-teen/teenager who thinks they know it all, or just lost the game, or just cost me $$$, or just burned up 2 hours of my time.

    Do make rules for your child and your household. Do it by relying on persuasion and education, not coercion or ultimatums. Lead by example. Allow for mistakes. Let it take time – instant results are generally not effective. Be prepared for your children to learn things the hard way. Sometimes learning things the hard way in the real world is better than learning things the easy way in an overly strict household.
    And don’t be surprised if they figure it all out better than you ever did or hoped. It won’t matter anyway, because chances are they will still learn it the hard way. Remember, its like a bar of soap – it still slips out of my hands!

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