Protecting… or Controlling?
"Beware that you don't look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father." Matthew 18:10 NLT
Thoughts for Today
This week we are looking at five types of dysfunctional families (described in The Thin Disguise by Pam Vredevelt) that tend to foster the development of eating disorders. Perhaps you or someone you know has a loved one struggling with an eating disorder. Or perhaps you will identify some area of family relationships that you need to address in your family.
A healthy level of protection is necessary for the nurturing and survival of any family. In a dysfunctional "Controlling Family," the control is carried to extremes and children are sometimes overprotected. They have different rules from those of their friends. They are smothered in an effort to control every possible danger or problem.
Parents in a controlling family often try to live their lives through their children. These parents have "unfinished business"—a major goal, need or expectation that was not fulfilled in their own pasts—and are trying to accomplish through their children what they had failed to do themselves.
Parents in controlling families often exert influence through guilt and shame. "You are so fortunate your mother and I are willing to _____."
Hostile control comes most often from the mother and may be in the form of overt or covert control. It can include yelling, screaming or hysteria over something as minor as leaving a wet towel on the floor. Yet there is little consistency in that the same infraction may cause no reaction whatsoever the next day.
These types of excessive control teach the child, "My feelings and thoughts and opinions don't count. It is wrong to have them."
(Note: We are grateful to Pam Vredevelt for her keen insights.)
In today's scripture, Jesus cautions us "not to look down on these little ones." Excessive control shows little respect for our children and is a form of looking down on them. Although God wants us to teach them and discipline them in love, to train them in the way that they should go, he also wants us to recognize them as his special creation placed in our care. As parents, we need to teach them that their feelings and thoughts are important to God—and to us.
Father, help me to provide a healthy level of protection for my children, but not to demonstrate any kind of excessive or hostile control. Help me to teach them how special they are in your eyes—and to always demonstrate how important they are to me. Help me guide them in developing the special gifts and talents you have given them and encourage them to become the individuals you have designed them to be. In Jesus' name …
These thoughts were drawn from…
Seeing Yourself in God's Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia by Martha Homme, MA, LPC. Written by a counselor with experience helping those with eating disorders, this study is born from her own struggles in adolescence. The group challenges members to find their identity in Christ as they overcome this difficult struggle. This guide offers understanding of distorted body image, denial, and the family systems influence. It also explains how to break free of social pressures and how to restore the temple and tie the recovery process together. A companion booklet Seeing Your Loved One in God's Image, can be used as a quick reference guide dealing with issues associated with eating disorders. Note: This curriculum was written especially for small groups, and we encourage people to use it that way. However, it can also be used effectively as a personal study for individuals or couples.
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