One thing that I’ve learned recently is that the older our kids get, the more we have to exert influence more than control.  Influence involves heart to heart conversations in the context of a mutually respectful relationship.  Control is focused on managing behaviors.

Controlling behaviors is needed when the kids are young, but there comes a point when we are wise to relinquish control and instead, appeal to them as capable adults.

I learned this firsthand one winter with one of our daughters.  She’d been leaving cosmetics all over the bathroom sink that we all share and I was starting to get very annoyed by it.  So I implemented “cosmetic jail”, which I thought was clever.  I’d simply confiscate the misplaced cosmetics each day and then she’d have to pay a fine out of her allowance to redeem them.  “Toy Jail” had worked great when the kids were small so this made a lot of sense.

What I didn’t consider was that I was using a child’s tactic on an adult.  The result was that I made her feel insulted.  I learned the hard way that I should have just sat down with her in a good moment and expressed my frustration about the mess and asked her what she could do to solve this problem.  That would have gone over much better and the sink would have cleaned itself up without my mandating new policies.

As our kids age, the more we need to give them the opportunity to solve the problems they create.  If they can’t solve it or refuse to do so, then we can sure intervene.  But let’s give our older kids the chance to fix things on their own first.