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MY WIFE, LISA, was approaching the security checkpoint at a tiny northwestern airport when her cell phone rang. It was a call from home. She was waiting to depart for Dallas after a weeklong trip she and I had taken together. Our oldest daughter, LeeBeth, was on the other end of the line, and not having seen us for several days, she was eager to share the latest events of her week.
As the conversation came to an end, she asked her mom's permission to attend an upcoming birthday dinner with a friend. They had discussed the details of her friend's birthday several weeks earlier, so this wasn't anything new. When she reminded my wife of the date, Lisa quickly realized why they had previously tabled this discussion. Our daughter had made a prior commitment we felt she should honor. Lisa gave LeeBeth the bad news that she couldn't go to the party that night. Her response was something less than agreeable.
She quickly began to counter with all the reasons why she just had to go to this dinner on this particular night. She explained to her mom this was the only night her friend could have the dinner, and it would ruin everything if she couldn't go. This was the same song, second verse, she had sung the last time they had this conversation. But after hearing her out for several minutes, Lisa stood her ground and told her that the prior commitment stood. LeeBeth was told that if it was that important for her to be at the dinner, she would have to see if her friend could rearrange her plans.
Once again, our daughter did not take her cue to accept defeat graciously and respond appropriately. Instead, her exact words in response to my wife's final decision on the matter were: "Mom, you've got to be kidding me!" Somewhat taken aback by her challenge, my wife responded, "LeeBeth, when it comes to parenting, I don't joke around!" That was the end of the conversation.
"When it comes to parenting, I don't joke around!" I wrote in the introduction that parenting has become a joke, but make no mistake: parenting is serious business. And we are going to get down to some serious business in the pages to come. A power struggle is brewing in the home that is no laughing matter-a family power struggle that we, as parents, need to identify and win.
A Nationwide Power Struggle
Just like the tension my wife experienced on that phone call from our teenage daughter, some major tension is being expressed in families everywhere as a result of an ongoing power struggle in the home. Lisa and I won the power struggle with our daughter, but many other parents are losing ground.
Homes that look great on the outside, with beautiful architecture, white picket fences, and immaculate lawns, on the inside are packed with confusion, conflict, and chaos. Parents, let's face it: there is a crisis buried deep within the family. Families are out of control. This crisis has been brewing right under our noses, and sadly, the majority of us have yet to smell the coffee.
What is happening in these homes is a crisis of leadership. The truth of the matter is that leaders aren't leading. Parents in many families today aren't stepping up and paving a path of purpose. In fact, what is happening is a role reversal. In other words, kids are running the asylum. They are leading, and the parents are following. As a result, the home has become a lopsided landslide of mayhem-it has become kid driven rather than parent driven.
The wild thing about this misguided ideology is that popular culture actually applauds and supports this lopsided household. Hollywood actors parade themselves on talk shows and talk about how their kids are little kings and queens in their homes. But don't be fooled, because this is not an applause-worthy state of affairs. In homes of the famous and not so famous alike, parents and their kids are engaged in a pivotal power struggle for control of the family.
This tug of war begins the moment the ob-gyn slaps a baby on the rear end and says, "It's a boy" or "It's a girl." Immediately, an organizational shift occurs. With the entrance of a child into the family system, a dual resignation takes place. The wife resigns from her primary role, that of being the wife, and she becomes a mother. She immerses herself in the lives of her children, their every need, want, and desire. In essence, she marries them. If she is one of the three out of five mothers who also work outside the home, the additional demands of her career pull her even farther away from the marriage.
Likewise, the husband resigns from his primary role, that of being a husband, and becomes a father. With the additional responsibility of children, he also begins to step up his role, usually as a career chaser. Oftentimes, the desire to succeed and become the financial provider for the family becomes the driving force of his life. He buries himself in his work, putting the demands of the job before everything else. In essence, he marries his career.
Meanwhile, the marriage relationship gets pushed farther down the line of priorities. Marital drift takes place, and eventually a giant chasm forms between the husband and the wife, leaving the marriage open and vulnerable. Given the right (or wrong) set of circumstances-an attractive coworker, the NASCAR pace of family life-and ... you get the picture!
Who Reports to Whom?
With the marriage no longer the focal point of the home, the child becomes the center of their universe as the parents orbit their marriage, their interests, and their schedule around the life of their little one. Over time, they relinquish more and more control to the child. The child gets a taste of power and likes it. He begins to get comfortable in the family study, sitting in the high-back leather chair and propping his feet up on the mahogany desk. And make no mistake, this seemingly innocent child will do anything to protect his position of power.
In this backward model, the parents report to the child, and the marriage connection takes second place to what has become the family's primary focus: the kid. Extracurricular activities and professional responsibilities rob the marriage of quality time, regular intimacy, meaningful conversation, and emotional connection. With both spouses chasing the kids and one or both chasing a career, the calendar chaos sabotages the marriage. These distractions create a seemingly insurmountable distance that can't be bridged unless something drastic takes place to fix the family system.
Similarly, in a single-parent household, the demands of career and kids pull simultaneously to keep the parent from having meaningful adult relationships, from scheduling social activities, and from generally having any pursuits other than those the kids dictate. Given the limited resources, time, and energy of a single parent, the children's ability to gain power in the home intensifies. And unfortunately, this overwhelmed and overworked parent is often too tired to fight for the authority that is rightly his or hers to claim.
Basically, these scenarios typify what I will refer to throughout this book as the kid-CEO household. Sadly, this particular power structure has come to represent the norm in the American family today. Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, once observed this about American families: "The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children" (emphasis mine). Within that veiled humor is a startling truth. We are witnessing in many homes today the devastating effects of a family system gone terribly wrong. From moral confusion to failing marriages, from the decay of discipline to organization frustration, out-of-order homes are producing out-of-order children.
The kid-CEO household didn't just show up overnight. A decades-long history has led up to where we are today. After World War II and the onset of the baby-boom generation, many well-meaning parents turned their backs on conventional wisdom and started following permissive parenting persuaders, Dr. Spock among them.
In order to be completely clear on this point, let me define what I mean by the word permissive. I defer to the definition offered by noted psychologist and author Dr. James Dobson: permissiveness is "the absence of effective parental authority, resulting in the lack of boundaries for the child. This word represents childish disrespect, defiance, and the general confusion that occurs in the absence of adult leadership."
Permissive parenting sounded good at first. It was a fresh, new approach to parenting that promised a more liberated family environment. In essence, this parenting style encouraged parents to crawl into the crib with the child and reason with their rebellious toddler. Permissive parenting touted a democratic and egalitarian household, but in reality it was all about giving the child undivided attention and constant nurturing. Rather than bringing equality, it robbed the parents of authority and elevated the child above everyone and everything in the household.
Permissive parenting is not just a thing of the past. It is still alive and well today-perhaps even in your own household. And while it may not sound so bad on the surface, there is a major problem with it. The problem is that permissive parenting doesn't work. Children are not designed to lead the family. They are not hardwired to call the shots or to handle that level of responsibility, because they do not have the maturity or the skill set to do so. Yet parent after parent resigns his or her leadership position, hands in the keys to the family study, and turns over the decision-making power to the child: "Where do you want to eat?" "What do you want to do tonight?" "When do you want to go to bed?" "Where do you want to go on vacation?" "How may I serve you?" In short, they create a kid-CEO home. The kid-CEO household, however, is the opposite of God's dynamic design for the family.
God's Dynamic Design for the Family
While standing on the banks of the Buffalo River in Moran, Wyoming, I was awestruck by the order and organization evident in creation. From the waterways flowing from the heart of the Grand Tetons to the fish and wildlife that get their food and water from their life-giving supply, I realized with greater clarity at that moment that everything has a certain order, flow, or system to it. Successful companies are well organized. Winning teams work together in perfect harmony. And dynamic families must also function according to their design in order to go and flow as a unit.
The great thing about the design for the family is that there is no need to wonder what that is or where to find it. Because God is a God of order, he has already established an organizational pattern for all of creation, including the family. This may be a foreign concept to you. You may never have seen a statement like that before and wonder where I got such an idea. In the introduction of this book, I wrote that I believe there is a Source for the answers we seek in parenting and in life. That Source is God himself. He has written the book on life and in that book, the Bible, we can find the answers for what is unarguably life's most challenging role, that of parenting.
Throughout the coming pages, I am going to quote various passages from the Bible that relate to parenting. If you have a Bible handy and want to look these up yourself, that's great, but I will always include the actual wording from each passage as well as where you can find it in the Bible. Even if these biblical concepts are a bit new for you, I ask you to keep reading as we take a closer look at God's dynamic design for the family.
The Family Flow Chart
First of all, picture in your mind a flow chart. Do you know the kind I'm talking about? Businesses use these to determine the chain of command in a company. The head of the company is at the top-the CEO, the president, the executive director, or whatever title has been designated for that office. We are going to use a similar flow chart to map out the chain of command in the family. In the top box of the family flow chart, we are going to write a single three-letter word: God.
God is at the top of the organizational chart for everything, including the family.
The Bible, life's instruction book, tells us, "Follow God's example in everything you do, because you are his dear children" (Eph. 5:1). We're God's children. Isn't that an incredible thought? If we have established a relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, we are children of God. And as his children, we are to imitate him in word, thought, and action. That means that we should obey him. It's that simple. His standards should set the standards for how we behave as parents and how we teach our children to behave.
You could say that God is the first order of order in the home. For Christ-followers, that should be a given. The first two of the Ten Commandments-"Do not worship any other gods besides me" and "Do not make idols of any kind" (Exod. 20:3-4)-place God at the center of our existence. So naturally it follows that he should be at the center of our homes as well. Service in the community, love for our neighbors, good manners, a strong work ethic, effective discipline, a thriving marriage-all of these flow from this first order of order in the home.
The next tier of the family flow chart relates to the marriage relationship. Again in Ephesians 5, we see God's design is for man and woman to unite together in the spiritual and physical union of marriage (5:21). The significance of this relationship is made clear by its comparison to Christ's relationship with the Church (5:25). It is a picture of Christ's sacrificial love for us. And it is built on mutual love and respect flowing from that supernatural love. God is first. And then the love relationship between husband and wife comes second.
After our love for God, there is no greater love than that of a man for his wife or a woman for her husband. What that will look like on our flow chart is this: in the same box we will write Husband and Wife and draw a horizontal line connecting the two words. It looks something like this:
The two are side by side and in the same box to signify that they are one flesh and coequal in the eyes of God. The Bible teaches that marriage, the one-flesh connection between man and woman, is the most important human relationship in the family. This special union between husband and wife was originated by God in the very beginning (Gen. 2:24) and continues to be the foundation of both family and society.
A successful family begins by putting God first and then working to make sure the marriage relationship takes a place of prominence in the family. The best thing you can do as a parent is to have an amazing marriage. It is the greatest gift you could ever give your children.
Excerpted from Kid CEO by Ed Young Copyright © 2004 by Edwin B. Young. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|Part 1||The Family Power Struggle: Who's in Charge Here?|
|1||The Kid-CEO Household||3|
|2||The Parent-CEO Household||26|
|Part 2||Knowledge: Building the Family Foundation|
|3||Strengthening Foundations for Fragile Times||47|
|4||Under the Influence||62|
|Part 3||Intimacy: Keeping the Love Alive During the Parenting Years|
|5||A Current Affair||95|
|6||Sex Busters and Builders||121|
|Part 4||Discipline: Maintaining a Training Ground of Loving Correction|
|7||The 411 on Discipline||151|
|Part 5||Structure: Raising Well-Rounded Kids|
|8||The Parent Zap||191|
|Part 6||Conclusion: Embracing the Ultimate Goal of Parenting|
|9||Working Yourself Out of a Job||213|
|About the Author||235|
Posted August 3, 2013
I really enjoyed this book. I am not a parent, however, I am a teacher and I think I will be able to use some of the techniques I've learned in this book. Also, this book helped me to really see the importance of my marriage and how it relates to children.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 10, 2004
I'm almost ashamed to admit how much this book help me. Kid-centric was definitely the word to discribe our house. Kid CEO hit the nail on the head! And the 'corporate' lingo helped keep my husband's attention too.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 10, 2004
The principles outlined in this book are key to raising kids today. It's about time someone emphasized marriage as a primary step to parenting. Ed is right on the mark with this parenting book. You will refer back to it daily - a must have!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 10, 2004
Ed really hit the nail on the head. Why don't we hear more of this from the 'experts'? This book has changed the way I look at the job of parenting, and helped strengthen my relationship with my wife!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.