Size matters. In a family SIZE is all-important. I’ve seen many families where the children are “bigger” than the parents and their needs and wants determine almost everything. In such families the parents’ needs are continually ignored while every desire the children have is met.
Of course, in most families, parents willingly sacrifice for their children, but this ought not be the norm as it is in families with “super-sized” children.
I have seen children pitch a fit, stamp and storm – when a parent makes a legitimate request of the child, or has to alter a minor plan, or must pursue a detour, which the child perceives as hindering his or her freedom, creativity, rights, or friendships. Such toxic parent/child binds can be most tiresome and drain all the enjoyment out of family life.
When a mother or a father sees the light (acknowledges his or her indulgence of the child, can see the child is unpleasant to be around) and tries to bring the child down to an appropriate size, the child will understandably resist. Resistance can become ugly. “Un-spoiling” a child is no easy task. It is better not to worship children in the first place.
Bringing children “down to size” sounds harsh, even cruel. On the contrary, allowing or grooming children to be too big (dominant, controlling, demanding) is where the harshness and cruelty really begins. If you have discerned from yesterday’s column that your son or daughter is too big, it is probably not a good idea to suddenly impose all manner of restrictions and changes in an attempt to “bring him down to size.”
I would suggest that ALL the adults (biological, step parents, grandparents who foster the super-sizing of the child or cooperate with it) have an extended face-to-face conversation about your mutual issue. Depending on the size of the problem this might take several hours in which case I’d suggest you spread your meetings out over several weeks so people have a chance to think things through. (Talking about it is HALF the battle).
Implementing the strong, caring principles and their potential success that result from your conversations will hinge on the age of the child, upon how “late” the parents “catch” it, and on the adults’ ability to stay the course. As I said, it is not easy to un-spoil a child; the fact that children get too big in the first place is riddled with meaning.
It is not only children who can be too big in families. Dads and moms can be super-sized too, but it usually only one per family unit as there normally isn’t quite enough room in any household for two overtly self-centered people.
A super-sized (demanding, dominant, controlling) dad requires a wife to be super-small (submissive, voiceless, fearful). The really deceptive nature of this kind of family is that a small mother and a big father are often praised as “Biblical” order for the family – something I have even heard preached as if it is something for which to strive!
You can recognize a parent who is super-sized quite easily as you often can when faced with things or people that are really large: they get their own way no matter what, they sulk, stamp, and steam if they are resisted, they play the hurt puppy when they are not worshipped (honored, getting the attention they deserve), and they pull out the “big guns” on a regular basis (threatening, withholding, colluding, and “The Bible says”) if their desires are threatened.
The only way out of this hurtful and debilitating trap is for everyone to work on getting a voice (this is a way to increase in size) and to resist feeding pathology that has super-sized the controlling and demanding parent. Occasionally, in a remarkable display of humility, I’ve seen a super-sized dad get it and humble himself. But if it is tough to un-spoil a child, you must know how difficult it is to get a parent who thinks God wants him or her to be “in control” to be so unspiritual as to find authentic humility.