Losing Control & Liking It

When we choose to take control of our children’s education by homeschooling them, our choice says a lot about us. Many people complain about things but never act; we homeschooling parents actually do something when it comes to making sure our children are educated the way we want them to be.

Of course, I think that’s a good thing. But I have to be honest and admit that (speaking only for myself, of course) being the kind of person who takes the bull by the horns means that I tend to think that I’m in control.

Psychologically, I know I’m not in control of everything, but sometimes my behavior suggests otherwise. Growing up as the oldest of four girls who was often held responsible for the behavior of her sisters probably didn’t help.

To make matters worse, after many years of being a homeschooling parent, I got used to being in charge of so many things: what my family ate, what they wore, what books and curriculum my kids used…..every single day. Then, as my kids left home, I had to learn to let them go, and it wasn’t (and still isn’t) always easy.

Perhaps that’s why the title of this book by Tim Sanford got my attention: Losing Control and Liking It: How to Set Your Teen (and Yourself) Free
The subtitle caught my eye more for the reference to setting myself free than setting my teens free, and that’s what made me buy the book.

It was worth the money. Not only did it encourage me in the process of letting my kids go, but it helped me see that wanting to be in control of anything beyond myself can be a great burden, one I was not created to bear.

This is true not only in my relationships with my teens and adult children, but also with relatives, friends and others. This book speaks to the need for taking responsibility for your own behavior without taking responsibility (or letting someone force it on you) for someone else’s.

The method Sanford, a Christian counselor, recommends to make such distinctions helps with problems such as coworkers who expect you to bail them out on their deadlines as well as teens who blame you because you didn’t wake them up in time to get to an appointment.

Sanford also devotes a section to worry and anxiety, the root causes of many parents’ desire to control their teens and even their adult children. Christian homeschooling parents are especially susceptible to this. We’ve often been told by others in the Christian homeschooling community that if we do our job just the right way, we’ll raise fantastic Christian children. Sanford explains why that’s a) not possible, and b) not our job as parents.

He also touches on the concept of God’s rules: Biblical commands, specific Biblical principles and general Biblical principles. I think a misunderstanding of the distinctions between those three groups is probably at the root of most disagreements between homeschooling families, and has caused some of the discord I’ve seen in homeschool support groups.

It’s interesting that this book was published by Focus on the Family. My husband and I are big fans of Dr. James Dobson’s books on raising children; he’s an advocate for purposeful discipline of young children. But I don’t think he spent a lot of time explaining how to transition from diligent discipline of young children to letting go of teens. Maybe I just missed the book where he did so. But this book is really helpful for that, and I wish I could have read it 15 years ago, before my older kids entered their teens. Sanford’s explanation of parental control vs. parental influence would have been particularly helpful to me back then.

I liked this book so much I read it twice. I didn’t agree with everything in it, but I found a lot of food for thought, and some reassurance, too. It’s an especially helpful book for homeschooling parents.

You can read the first chapter of this book here. But don’t do it just because I suggested it. After all, I’m not responsible for what you choose to do  😉