Dear Christian Parent: Please Don’t Try To Break Their Will

mother scolds her child

Christian parent, please don’t try to break your child’s will. If you do, you might actually succeed, and the long-term outcome of that could be a disaster– the very thing you’re trying to avoid.

I get it– you want a well-behaved child who makes good choices. We all do! But this dangerous idea that achieving the best for our children involves “breaking their will?”

Yeah, that’s a dangerous idea. In fact, it’s one of those ideas where if you’re successful, you’ll actually get the opposite of what you wanted.

Why this idea is so prevalent, I’m not quite sure. As a teenager I remember being taught this in my fundamentalist circle to the point where I believed it and regurgitated it myself. I remember looking around at all the children I thought were unruly and thinking, “their parents sure do need to break their will.”

While I left behind that way of thinking prior to becoming a parent, in my adult life I’ve seen many other Christian parents continue in lock-step with that toxic paradigm.

For too many Christians, children are seen as insurgents or resistance fighters who need to be soundly defeated in order to become happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adults. For some reason we don’t believe it’s enough to teach our children how to make good choices and to hold them accountable when they make poor choices. Instead, we think the key is defeating the unseen fight inside of them.

But defeating the unseen fight, the spark, the umph, the drive, their je ne sais quoi, or whatever one wants to call it, is the last thing we need to defeat.

In fact, their will– the unseen fight inside of them– will be critically important for their success and safety as adults.

For parents who attempt to break their child’s will, the worst thing that can happen is success. I’ve seen it– children who are so totally defeated and so demoralized, they lose that spark inside of them. Yes, they might be kind, polite, and compliant, but inside they have become programmed robots, group-thinkers, and line-walkers, instead of unique creations of God.

You see, success in defeating your child’s will creates an easy child to parent– but it will also create an adult who is easy to manipulate, abuse, and control.

Creating a child who has no will to question authority, creates an adult who will be abused and oppressed by those in authority.

Creating a child who has no will to self-direct, is to create an adult who might be easily directed by others.

Creating a child who has no will to challenge, and never objects to real or perceived injustice against them, is to create an adult who won’t do that, either.

Breaking your child’s will is the absolute worst thing you could do to them, because they are going to need it.

Once our children leave our fold they’re going to discover a lot of things about the world they live in. While I hope they discover mostly beauty, there will be plenty of other things they’ll discover as well– things that will test what they are made of. They’ll be dealt some bad cards, have some bad breaks, and even encounter some really, really, bad people.

Mixed within experiences of beauty, their lives will have unavoidable of moments of hurt and injustice– and some of those experiences will be so painful that it will have the potential to completely defeat them.

And you know what they’ll need during those most difficult moments?

There going to need that will you’re trying to break, that’s what. 

In fact, having an unseen fight inside of them might be the very thing that saves them.

Instead of breaking their will, celebrate it as a gift that will be valuable to them in life. Help them harness it and use the fight for good. Help them learn how to fight not just the right battles, but to fight the right battles in the right way. Help them see that their will can be good and beautiful when it is set in opposition to the things that goodness and justice demands we must oppose.

But whatever you do, Christian parent– please don’t try to break their will.

Because you *might* actually succeed at it, and that would be a tragedy.

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About Benjamin L. Corey

Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is an author, speaker, and blogger. He holds master degrees in theology and mission (Gordon Conwell) and is a Doctor of Intercultural Studies (Fuller Seminary) with extensive field research in Human Trafficking. His first book, Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, is available wherever books are sold. Benjamin is also the co-host of That God Show with Matthew Paul Turner and a syndicated author with MennoNerds, a collective of Anabaptist/Mennonite voices.

He is currently signed to HarperOne and is represented by the Daniel Literary Agency in Nashville, Tennessee.

You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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