Should I Lead or Follow My Child?

Leading and Loving Your Child

Parenting is an extraordinary adventure that begins with enthusiastic and enchanted anticipation.  To the first-time parent, it is an endeavor that initially seems to require only endurance as the basic needs of the infant are met.  By six months, the wide-eyed, smiling, cooing baby is rewarding Mom and Dad for simply being present at his every turn.  By nine months, his new-found mobility tempts him to explore his environment without reservation.  After one year, however, unanticipated challenges from the toddler emerge as he resists parent’s directives with nightly waking, protesting tantrums, food throwing at the table, and dangerous behavior.  Mom and Dad are now “thinking on their feet” to resolve and avoid conflict.  The inexperienced child looks to the parents for direction, as they look to the child for answers.  This is often the scenario with sincere but novice parents.

For inquiring parents, confusion abounds as to the best approach to raising a competent child.  Many parents today are paralyzed by the conflicting advice they receive from friends, family, and parenting resources. Their inaction leads them to parent without a plan.  This is a problem since failing to “do it right the first time” in parenting leads to character problems within a child that are painfully difficult to correct later in life.  This dilemma also discourages parents from leading their children in the way they should go.  This lack of leadership and absence of a plan leads to reactive impulsive parenting and pitiful negotiation with the child who is desperate for leadership.  It also causes parents to assume a conflict-avoidance approach to their child resulting in excessive permissiveness and lack of direction.  Parents need a clear plan and must be willing to sacrificially implement their plan.  This Good Parent website offers advice on developing an effective parenting plan.

Secondly, society’s view of the cause of childhood misbehavior has taken a wrong turn and this indirectly influences how parents raise their children.  Decades of research has supported the premise that the young child is very ego-centric.  He is more often than not motivated by intense desires to please self, even at the expense of others.  This is not to say that he has no innate conscience.  Children do have an internal moral compass, called the conscience, which is evident in their empathy for suffering peers and their remorse when corrected.  Their misbehavior, however, primarily stems from their innate self-centeredness, even before experiencing parental influences.

By contrast, much of today’s parenting advice accuses parents of corrupting their “innocent” children by failing to indulge their every desire and thereby damaging their self-esteem.  This advice operates from the premise (not supported by science) that children are born morally pure and it is their environment that pollutes their intentions.  What follows from this approach is advice directing parents to be mere facilitators to their child, not engaging in any correction, but instead providing primarily for their basic nutritional, physical and safety needs.  The words “punishment” and “correction” have been removed from many of today’s parenting texts and replaced with techniques of negotiation and logical consequences for treating all forms of misbehavior.  Education has been esteemed as the highest form of discipline.  Although this “hands off” approach may be quite appealing to eager young parents, it usually yields dismal results. Children reared with abundant indulgence and without discipline or guidelines are often insecure, frustrated, reckless and ambivalent with life, becoming “adult children” with the same problems ─ you may know some.  Children need and actually crave their parents’ guidance, which is accomplished through instruction, encouragement and correction.  This website is about a balanced proactive approach to child rearing.

So, parents need to give their children what they really want: Leadership.  As parents seek to lead their children, wonderful results will follow.

Training the Behavior (of the Young Child)

Lead your child to healthy sleep habits

Lead your child to nutritious eating

Lead your child to safe behavior

Lead your child to proper behavior


Teaching the Heart (of the Older Child)

Lead your child to self-control and respect for others

Lead your child to high character

Lead your child to humble confidence

Lead to your child to industriousness and a productive life


The American College of Pediatricians provides a wonderful summary of ways in which parents can Lead Your Children to Good Health.