Benevolent Dictators or Trusted Advisors?
Posted by Melanie in Family Life, Raising Boys, Teens

A mom came up after our session on raising boys, “My son is so frustrated and angry. He can’t understand why we won’t let him get his driver’s license, but he’s so immature still!”

“How old is he?” I asked


My eyebrows went up, “What is he planning to do next year?”

“Oh, he’ll be going to a university,” mentioning one many hours away.

I was concerned she didn’t believe he was mature enough to drive but was prepared to stand up for his beliefs in the college environment. We continued to talk and after a while she mentioned that she hadn’t spoken to her parents in over 20 years.

“Oh no! What happened?” Breaking contact permanently is the capital punishment of relationships.

“My parents just wouldn’t let me grow up! They kept treating me like a child, not letting me do adult things, so when I was 19 I ran away and never looked back.”

I paused, stunned. “Perhaps you should reconsider and allow your son to get his driver’s license.” She suddenly turned white as a sheet as she realized for the first time that she was doing the same thing to her son.

So, what kind of parent should you be? Benevolent dictator or trusted advisor?

Well, it depends on the season of your child’s life. A toddler is in desperate need of a benevolent dictator to teach him the law of God and the rules of civilization, but if we haven’t transitioned to the role of trusted advisors by the time our children are on their own, we’ve made a grave error.

As we travel around the country, we meet many Christian families. Unfortunately, quite a few great families seem to falter during the transition from childhood to adulthood. We’ve noticed that the adult children of parents who retain control too long tend to either rebel or become passive, lacking drive and motivation. This is especially true of boys. God made them to be men. He made them to lead.

Of course, it’s right and proper to train them to obey! “Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” (Luke 22:26)

As they get older, though, we’ve got to prepare them to stand alone and to be adults. We won’t always be there and even if we could be, they need to learn to rely on God themselves. So how do you do that? How do you move from a benevolent dictator to a trusted advisor?

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much.” Luke 16:10

We give them as much responsibility as they can handle, as soon as they can handle it – and a little sooner than they think they can. That way, instead of pushing us away so that they can stand on their own two feet, they are reaching back to us for advice!

The process starts the first time you give them a job on their own, “Put all the toys away,” and it doesn’t end until you’ve got a young man who’s taken his place in the world, serving the Lord on his own. It’s not easy to figure all this out, but it is worth it to see those arrows fly out straight and true!

You can learn more about making the transition in our workshop, Homeschooling is Not Enough, which isn’t really about homeschooling at all. 🙂

Hal & Melanie

Hal & Melanie Young are the authors of Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys, the 2011 Christian Small Publishers Book of the Year. Learn more about raising boys to godly manhood at Raising Real Men. Follow them at Facebook and on Twitter.  And keep an eye out for their upcoming book on marriage!