Steve Smith has a great blog called Liberty For Captives where he writes about his experiences with legalism, spiritual abuse and cult systems.
Among many helpful articles, one called Breaking the Chains of Legalistic Parenting really got my attention. Perhaps you are like me and this checklist will challenge you, hearten you, and remind you of what’s really important.
1) Overreaction to disobedient or defiant behavior, evidencing a deeper well of hurt and insecurity in my own life.
2) Expectation that my children should behave as tiny adults, rather than in developmentally appropriate ways.
3) Ascribing moral significance to accidents or disorder, which results in intolerance for messiness, noise, or chaos.
4) Paranoia which expresses itself in an unreasonable fear that my children will get hurt and results in a visceral need to control my surroundings.
5) Easily scandalized by mistakes, accidents, or spills, with the understanding that someone is always at fault and it is important to ascribe blame to balance the moral ledger.
6) Believing that there is only one right way to do something. This results in me being inflexible and feeling defensive when my wife suggests alternative ways to parent.
7) Focusing on efficiency rather than on quality of time spent together.
8) Task-oriented approach to each day, rather than a joyful focus on relationships.
9) Feeling guilty, incompetent, and ashamed of my abilities as a parent.
10) Expecting my children to obey unwritten rules, then disciplining them when they transgress these unstated expectations.
11) Lecturing young children at a theological and psychological level far beyond their ability to comprehend.
12) Using spiritual terms to justify harsh behavior.
13) Believing that obedience is the most important job of children, rather than learning and growing.
14) Believing that creating moral, obedient children is the most important job of a parent, rather than modeling Christ-like behavior and providing a safe place for children to feel loved, to learn, and to grow.