Is Your Child In Charge of Your Home?

Is Your Child IN CHARGE of Your Home? //

Pandora is something I use almost every day. I’ve got a variety of playlists there, for when we’re feeling silly, worshipful, mellow, dancy, quiet, or happy. I love the control it gives me, to set the tone and go on with the day.

I’ve got a question for you: If your life was a Pandora playlist, who’s the one choosing the songs? You, or your child?

Many moms of young children are wearing themselves out giving their children endless choices, stressing over quirks, continually fretting about possible diagnoses and labels, and begging them to take bites, when maybe what’s needed is some plain old authority.

Let me ask you straight, Mama: Is your child actually bossing you around?

Think carefully before you answer. Because I think many of us… (including me) would automatically say, “no way… I’m definitely in charge.” 

But consider– is your child:

  • the one demanding to do things?
  • guaranteed for a melt-down unless you let her wear the same princess dress everywhere she goes?
  • the one who sets the emotional tone for the home?
  • more likely to balk than to obey?
  • insistent that she can keep doing what she’s doing, even when you ask her to come to the table?
  • irritating your husband because the child doesn’t listen to him the first time he says something?
  • only willing to obey you if you ask in the “right” way?
  • given endless “choices” in order to cajole him into going along with your plans?

Mama, are you hopping to the beat of his/her drum, rather than the other way round?

A few specific diagnostic questions, to help you out:

  • If you ask out of the blue, will your child immediately go and get dressed or brush his/her hair or teeth, or will there be some pushback?
  • If you remind your child to get started on a chore, will they hop up and get started, no matter what they’re doing?
  • When you say it’s time to put away toys, or leave a friend’s house, do you get grumping and questions, or a disappointed-but-willing response? (Remember, we don’t need them to “fake it”… but they should listen to us and obey.)
  • Does your child generally go along with what you say, or regularly ask for exceptions? (“Could I not eat the _____?” “Do I have to ______?” “Couldn’t we just _______?” “Is there any way we could ______ instead?” “What if I _________?”)
  • If your child is jumping on the trampoline and you ask them to get down and come inside to help (cook dinner/put away dishes/something unpleasant but needful), do they come, or do they protest and delay?
  • When you tell your child to change their shirt, or wear a particular outfit, do they pleasantly go along with your instruction?

Recently, I had a child that I noticed had started answering almost every question I asked with a negative response.

  • “No, I was just…”
  • “I’m just going to _____ first…”
  • “But we want to keep doing this!”
  • “I wasn’t the ones who did that; that was _______…”

We have had to retrain ourselves to stay on his responses like white on rice, watching for issues of authority and responsiveness. And we’re seeing heartening results, very quickly, now that we’re all renewed in our focus on this potential habit of the heart. Though his responses had gotten surprisingly contrary, he’s visibly happier and more content when we expect him to go along with what we say without protesting.

The ironic truth is this:


Did you know that?

By that I mean, even if they fight and scream and kick and holler against it, your child’s sense of safety, confidence, and contentment will go through the roof when they know that there’s no getting around mom and dad, and that they are fully under authority. 

  • Your son would be happier, and mealtimes would be more pleasant in the long-run, if you’d just decide what’s for dinner each night and teach him to eat it with gratitude.
  • Your daughter will ironically be more cheerful if she’s not given endless choices and instead is told what the plan for the day is.
  • Your child will be more satisfied with life when they’re not the one always in charge of it, and when they learn to have a willing attitude that rolls with the expected, and unexpected, twists and turns of life.

Really, deep down, your child doesn’t want to be the one in charge. And your child doesn’t need to be the one making all the choices. Your child needs to learn how to cheerfully submit to a loving, faithful authority. And now is the time to do it.

Mama, don’t put the burden on your child of inadvertently making him the one in charge.


  • Have you noticed this tendency for children to grab control but then be monumentally dissatisfied and perpetually grumpy once they have control?


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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast ( I write and wrangle kids.

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11 Responses

  1. Melissa says:

    Thank you for this post! Right now, I see almost every one of those negative behaviors in my just-turned-2 year old. She has hit the point where she wants to challenge EVERYTHING to see which boundaries will move and what she can get away with. I’ve been so discouraged when it feels like every moment of our day is filled with nothing but sternness, scolding, spanking, etc. This was a good reminder that I need to keep with the discipline NOW, rather than letting things slide and letting her take control as she gets older.

  2. Diana says:

    Ack, convicting! Working on this right now with our 4yo. I loved how you said,

    “We have had to retrain ourselves to stay on his responses like white on rice, watching for issues of authority and responsiveness.”

    I’ve been repeating “like white on rice” ever since I read this post a few days back. I think I’ll be printing this one off for my parenting notebook!!

    Thanks a bunch,

  3. Amanda says:

    This is such a timely post for me. I have three littles, ages 5, almost 3, and newly 1. I was raised in a Christian, albeit moralistic home. My upbringing was very “Do what I said, because I told you to, or else . . . ” with very little theology or “heart training” behind the discipline.

    Also, my husband will always back me up, but very often will ignore, or is oblivious to misbehavior in our kids unless it is something that directly affects/irritates him. When he does initiate the discipline, it is usually a knee jerk reaction.

    I guess that leaves me with two questions for you:

    1) How often do you sit with your husband and discuss how you handle disciplining the kids as a team? And what does that look like during the day when he is working and you are home? Are there instances when you bring things up in the evenings for him to work through with your kids (i.e. the kids give you a hard time while shopping, would Daddy discipline after he gets home)?

    2) I am amazed by how I am noticing *already* eye rolling, sighing, attitude in general from my 5 and 3 year olds. We have zero tolerance at our house for disrespectful attitudes, and we also require obedience (“you obey Mommy the first time, with no sass.”). I am starting to notice especially with my oldest an attitude of entitlement (“Why didn’t you give me the pink plate? You know I like pink!”) or even thinking it’s okay to boss Mommy and Daddy around. Again, it’s not something we’ve ever tolerated, so I have no idea where it’s coming from. I don’t know what else to do to squash the yucky attitudes I’m noticing. Is this an authority issue? Or is it just something that requires more heart training and consistency on my part?

    Thank you so much for your insight! It is such a blessing to me, and my family. :)

    • Jess Connell says:

      1) I would say we discuss these things seasonally… and when there’s a need. So in general, at any given time, we’re both on the same page about the general needs/focus for each child.

      For example it might look something like this:
      child x- needs to learn to work with diligence.
      child y- has a tendency to be rude to younger siblings.
      child z- needs emotional control (whines and complains and easily moves toward tantrums)

      So then we both know to deal with normal parenting issues normally, but that if that particular area comes up with that child, to be ON it with more vigilance and watchfulness than we might otherwise be if it was just an occasional issue. Does that make sense?

      But then when something new comes up (i.e., child p is being sneaky in a variety of settings– sneaking crayons and coloring on cabinets, sneaking candy from other people’s stashes, sneaking out of the room on purpose to do things they know not to do), then I’ll raise it with him– usually after the kids go to bed… or if it’s really bad and has affected our day, right when he gets home from work while I’m making dinner.

      So, yes, it takes extra effort and purposeful communication but we do work to stay on the same page and make sure we’re united in discipline/oversight of the kiddos.

      (2) OK, on that… yes, at these ages, you are still in the thick of reinforcing their understanding of your authority.

      So in our home this is how that exchange would look:

      Child: “Why didn’t you give me the pink plate? You know I like pink!”
      Me: “You don’t talk to mama that way. Put your hands on the green one and say, ‘thank you mom for getting me a plate and making me lunch.'”
      Child: “whine/whine/whine/fuss/fuss/maybe mumble something with a grumpy attitude.”
      Me: “Nope. You were speaking perfectly loud before. Speak at a normal volume and say, “‘thank you mom for getting me a plate and making me lunch.'”
      Child: may/may not say it the full way I want it said…
      … so I keep at it until they do. Even coaching their face and general demeanor.

      After they say it the right way — (i.e., “thank you mom for getting me a plate and making me lunch.” with a pleasant look on their face– not faking cheeriness but being polite and agreeable), I’ll say, “that’s great. Thanks for changing your attitude. Ready for lunch now?”

      And we move on with the day with no grumping from me or them. Normal, pleasant interactions after that.

      It’s an ongoing process. They won’t get it right the first time, or maybe even completely get it right the fourth time, but over time, you will notice that they are growing to be pleasant, agreeable, winsome children (even when things don’t go their way) who ARE receiving your training and benefitting from it.

    • Jess Connell says:

      OH! And I don’t generally “save up” discipline for Doug to deal with when he gets home. But there are 2 exceptions to that:

      1- When I feel exasperated/wounded to the point of feeling like I could lash out in sinful anger. In those instances, I will save up a matter for him to handle and choose not to discipline in anger.
      2- With the older boys. Around age 11-12, we noticed a shift where occasionally, the person they respond to best is HIM rather than me. They need his strength, and influence and voice in their lives. Perhaps it sounds like nagging coming from me? Perhaps it’s a personality conflict? Perhaps it’s the age-old young man starting to become his own man in his mother’s house. But in those instances, we opt for Dad to be the one to deal with things if need be. Sometimes that means over the phone; sometimes that means waiting until he gets home.

      In our home, those are the only times I “save up” discipline. Otherwise, especially when they are little, discipline/consequences need to be as closely connected (time-wise) to the offense as is possible, so they connect the behavior with the loss of privilege/painful consequence/etc.

      • Amanda says:

        This is wonderful, helpful, nitty gritty practical advice! THANK YOU! Sometimes it is really a pleasant blessing to have an objective point of view. Right now I get a lot of encouraging “your kids are great, you’re doing a great job” from the people who see us in certain settings (i.e. church, or homeschool functions), and on the other end, I sometimes get a raised eyebrow and a “you would have never been brave enough to talk to *me* that way” from my Mom. ha! So, it is truly an encouragement to me that you took so much time to be specific. I wish I were better at articulating my thoughts, but I am grateful that you are gifted in that area! :) Thanks again!

  4. Kn says:

    When I read articles like this, I learn a lot and agree, but I get a sick stomach thinking I’m too late with some of my kids? (9, 5, 3, 2 mo — obviously ok on the 2 mo so far!) I’ve read so many books (Biblical child training)that say by age 5 if you don’t have full obedience, it’s too late. I don’t know if I agree with that though! I notice several of the problems you mention with my older kids. Am I too late to fully establish authority?

    • Jess Connell says:

      Well, I would say this– the 9 year old will take a TON of consistency (months?), and take longer to get into a good groove, if things are out of whack.

      A 5 year old, less time (a month/6 weeks)
      The 3 year old… not much time at all– a few weeks.

      And you’re totally good on the 2 month old. :)

      But the key is consistency and not falling back into old habits. Which falls on us as moms. :) No matter how hard we work to build good habits, when they are young, they will fall out of good habits if we let them. So we have to be fierce, & fiercely loving.

      But the answer is no… you’re not too late to fully establish authority. The most important part, I think, is being fully convinced of it yourself and then you protect/teach it with firmness AND love.

  1. March 19, 2016

    […] Is Your Child In Charge of Your Home? […]

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