May 9, 2011

Parent-Centered Homes

Category: Family :: Permalink

Recently, I’ve been reading Lou Priolo’s The Heart of Anger: Practical Help for the Prevention and Cure of Anger in Children.  Before I go any further, let me say that I haven’t finished the book yet, so whatever I write here is preliminary, and that I’ve gleaned quite a bit of wisdom from the book and especially from the chapter about how parents provoke their children to anger.

What struck me, though, in the first chapter was this: Priolo presents two family models, inviting you to determine which one best matches your family.

The first one is the “Child-Centered Home.”  In this home, children are allowed to interrupt adults, use manipulation to get their way, dictate the family schedule, demand excessive time and attention, escape consequences of their sins, be coddled (rather than disciplined) out of a bad mood, and so forth.   Priolo writes: “A child-centered home is one in which a child believes and is allowed to behave as though the entire household, parents, siblings, and even pets exist for one purpose — to please him” (24).

The second one is the “God-Centered Home.”  In this home, “everyone is committed to pleasing and serving God.  God’s desires are exalted over everyone else’s” (27).  This home, as Priolo presents it, doesn’t permit the sort of behavior the child-centered home allows.  Instead, the children are taught to joyfully serve others, obey parents the first time and do so cheerfully, adapt to the parents’ schedule, and so on.

Here’s what jumped out at me.  You might expect that the opposite of a child-centered home would be a parent-centered home, but Priolo spends no time at all on that possible family model.  Given that the section on the God-centered home starts with a discussion of how the husband-wife relationship is the primary and permanent relationship in the home and the parent-child relationship is secondary and temporary, it might be that Priolo means to identify parent-centered with God-centered.  Or perhaps he hadn’t thought about that as a possibility or, for some reason, didn’t want to discuss it.

Be that as it may, it does seem to me that it’s easy for parents to mistake a parent-centered home for a God-centered home.  Take, for instance, what Priolo says about schedules.  In a child-centered home, he says, the child determines the schedule, whereas in a God-centered home the child fits his schedule into his parents’ schedule.  Now there’s a certain sense in which that’s correct.  On Sunday morning, the God-centered family is going to go to church and the children need to fit their schedule into the family’s plans.

But I can also imagine a home that is parent-centered and not God-centered.  In this home, the parents get to do whatever they want whenever they want and the children must adapt to the parents’ schedule.  If Dad is reading his book, his daughter must never ever ask him a question or request that he read to her or make a sound in his presence.  If Mom and Dad have put the children to bed, the children must never ask for a glass of water.  Mom and Dad want time to themselves and the children’s requests are seen as sinful attempts to dominate the family schedule.

In this home, Mom and Dad want the children to learn to be self-sacrificing and to regard others as more important than themselves, and the way they’re attempting to instill these traits is by making the children go without and by making sure they know that Mom and Dad are the more important than they are and act accordingly.  Or, to put it another way, Mom and Dad act like tyrants in the name of teaching biblical virtues to their children.  Their home is centered on themselves and their needs and their desires, not on their children and not on God.

Priolo may be right that a child-centered home can lead to anger on the part of children.  But surely a parent-centered home can too.  Priolo knows this.  His second chapter focuses on ways parents provoke their children, including not making time to listen to them.  But it would have been good if he had indicated that the home should neither be child-dominated nor parent-dominated but rather be submissive to God, who wants parents to regard their children as more important than themselves.  Parents who follow that model may, in fact, look “child-centered” a lot of the time.  But they’re laying the foundation for their children to follow their example.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:59 pm | Discuss (2)

2 Responses to “Parent-Centered Homes”

  1. A God-Centred Home | Bully’s Blog Says:

    […] Read more… […]

  2. Julie Says:

    Well said!!!!!!

Leave a Reply