Child-Centered Parenting, Peer Pressure, & Family Identity

child-centered parentingWhat is child-centered parenting?

Child-centered parenting occurs when the majority of activities within the house revolve around the children. It is a common phenomenon with marital consequences. Instead of children being welcome members to the family, they are the center of the family. Those beautiful children with dimples and cute smiles come between the two most important members of the family unit, the husband and wife. A solid husband and wife relationship creates security in the hearts of the children. The opposite is also true, fighting and friction between parents creates insecurity and fear of divorce in children.

Where does child-centered parenting come from?

Well-meaning parents swallow the cultural lie that children need to be “well-rounded”. To achieve the goal of “well-roundedness” parents sign their children up for every available activity: T-ball, dance, little league, swimming lessons, karate, writing lessons, riding lessons, taekwondo, music lessons, soccer, golf, etc.

It exhausts parents physically and financially. The possible children’s events today are endless (until you run out of money). So the big question—are activities BAD? Absolutely not. It is good for children to learn to swim, swing a bat, play an instrument and play cooperatively with others. So what is the problem then?

The Major Problems

Child-centered parenting breaks down the family unit. The parents become nothing more than taxis running their children from event to event often splitting up to attend separate events. Two more problems flow from this:

The Loss of the Marriage Relationship

Experts tell us that “empty-nest” is the time of the highest divorce rate in America. Why? I believe one cause is child-centered parenting. Parents become enamored with their children’s success in a variety of arenas and take little to no time for themselves or each other. Finding themselves alone after the last child has gone to college; spouses don’t even know what to say to each other. When the nights stretch endlessly without a child’s game to attend or a play to applaud, husbands and wives watch TV during dinner and wonder who it is they are sitting in the room with.

If you are married and reading this article, when is the last time you took your spouse on a planned date? If it’s more than two weeks ago, you might be curious about why. As a marriage therapist, I often hear a variety of reasons for spouses not dating such as lack of money, time, and similar interests? Just wondering if those reasons stopped you BEFORE marriage? Ouch!

The Loss of Family Identity

What is family identity? It is the proud feeling that “we” are a unit. We love and support one another. We have fun together. We play games. We work hard. We as parents train and pass on our values to our children. It is during all of these “we” times that family identity is built. A wise person once said, “Peer pressure is only as strong as family identity is weak.” Family identity is essential to protecting your children from the pressure to be involved in activities outside of your family’s value system.

Family identity cannot be built without TIME. School-age children are away from their home 40+ hours per week. During this time, another person(s) is placing their values in your children. Then if you add 2 – 3 nights of sports, music or dance, one might wonder where you will find the time to train your children in your values or honestly just have fun with them. Home school parents are NOT exempt just because having your kids are in your home all day makes it even easier to be child-centered and not prioritize your spouse or marriage! (Just ask me, I lived it!)

Signs of child-centered parenting:
  • Infrequent or no dating by parents
  • Exhausted parents and anxious children
  • Little conversation about anything except the children’s events
  • Parents’ conversations are often and usually interrupted by children
  • Husband or wife would rather spend time with the children than their spouse
  • Needs of spouse are less important than the needs of the child
  • One or both spouses receive their emotional support from the kids instead of the spouse
  • Difficulty getting normal chores finished around the house

IF CHILD-CENTERED PARENTING sounds AWFUL–What is the answer?

The answer is SIMPLE but NOT easy.  Adjust your beliefs; adjust your actions.

Adjust your beliefs:

Although the marriage relationship is more work, your relationship with your spouse is more rewarding than your relationship with your children. OK…I can hear some of you laughing out loud right now and saying, “You certainly don’t know my spouse!”

Well…if it is not more rewarding right now maybe it is because your spouse is last on your list. [PAUSE AND BE CURIOUS] Could it be that there is never money left after the children’s events for dates, special gifts, cards, and other items that show that you care? Or you are just too exhausted at the end of the kid’s events for a great sexual encounter?

Adjust your actions:

  • Call your spouse right now and ask them out on a date. [PAUSE] Seriously, do NOT read any further before making that call.
  • Spend the first 15 minutes after work with your spouse asking about their day. Train the children not to interrupt. Find special activities for the children during this important time.
  • Scale the children’s activities back for the next season to one extra-curricular activity per child.
  • Tell your children that your spouse is more important than them because you are planning to be married WAY after the children have moved out!
  • At all times, honor your spouse in speech and action but especially IN FRONT of your children.

My desire is that your family love and honor one another. If you have any trouble adjusting your beliefs or actions, come for a season of family or marriage counseling. I would be honored to help your family have amazing relationships!

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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A Parent’s Response: Voicing a Gay Identity

Contemplating Parents

Teen: “I’m gay”

Parent: “What?”

What happens next?

Your adolescent son or daughter arrives home from worship practice and says, “I need to talk to you . . . (LONG pause). . . I am gay.

Immediately questions flood your mind and rush like a stream out of your mouth, “What do you mean? Are you sure? How long have you known? What does this mean for your future?” Overwhelming emotions intertwine with the questions: shock, fear, disappointment, disapproval, fear, and maybe even resignation for a parent who suspected the same sex attraction.

For many parents, especially evangelical Christians, this announcement comes as a total shock. As your adolescent shares and watches closely for your reaction, you sit stunned trying to reorient yourself to your surroundings and control the panic rising in your throat. Most parents react with a deep sense of loss, feelings of shame, panic, and aloneness (Saltzburg, 2004).

One Christian mom describes her reaction to her son’s disclosure as “being kicked in the gut”.

With this new information about your child, How should you react?


For most parents, there is a flood of emotion ranging from sadness to anger. If possible, put aside your own emotions and listen to your child’s heart. Your child has been struggling with same sex attraction and this conversation for months, possibly years. This is a critical moment to listen. Your child has taken a great risk of rejection to share their feelings with you.


  1. You will always be my son or daughter.
  2. Tell me how you came to this conclusion.
  3. We will work through this journey together.
  4. What do you need from me as your parent?


Your child has spent many months processing these feelings. You will need time to find safe people to share with, read and educate yourself, pray, and grieve.

Most parents ask “What could I have done differently? Is this my fault? What caused my child to be homosexual?” While the causes of homosexuality have been widely researched and debated, at this point there are no definitive causes of homosexuality (Yarhouse, 2010).

While processing and finding resources, continue to do the things that you enjoy (i.e. gardening, reading, motorcycles). This will keep your whole life from being absorbed by this relationship change with your child.

Taking time to process and accept what you are feeling as a parent is essential to understanding for your child as well as to continue developing a healthy relationship with them.


Most parents find this to be an unexpected and difficult journey. Dreams are shattered. Previously held thoughts of traditional marriage and family are set aside. It is essential to find a few safe people to walk alongside for strength and encouragement. Safe people care and uphold your confidence in them.

It is important not to compromise your child’s disclosure by sharing with those who are not confidential. Often times, this is where a pastor or counselor can be of great assistance. A counselor with specific training in dealing with same sex attractions is a bonus.


Educating yourself about homosexuality helps you to gain respect for your teen and possibly gives common ground for a discussion regarding sexual identity. Conversely, judgment closes the doors of communication and potentially alienates your son or daughter.

One prolific writer and researcher around the combined topics of Christianity and homosexuality is Mark Yarhouse. He has specific resources for parents and youth pastors to help them address the topic of homosexuality with teens.

Dr. Yarhouse developed a three tier distinction to help those struggling with unwanted same sex feelings.

 Distinction PyramidThe First Level

I experience same-sex attractions” is used to describe feelings men (6%) and women (4.5%) have toward the same sex (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, and Michaels, 1994).

This does not necessarily describe their behavior but is a way to understand that for whatever reason some people have attractions toward the same sex.

The Second Level

I have a homosexual orientation” describes men (2%) and women (1%) whose feelings have been strong and persistent for a significant length of time.

This would then lead that person to describe their attractions as ‘homosexual’.

The Third Level

I am gay” is a socio-cultural label that people use to describe themselves. Because most researchers do not ask about “gay identity” there are not figures to report how many adhere to a gay identity.

Essentially, this tier shows that a larger group of people have same sex attractions than choose to have a homosexual orientation. This can be helpful with adolescents who are only hearing the media message “if you have same sex attractions then you are gay”.

It is important for your son or daughter to realize his or her identity is built around many factors—one of them is sexuality.


Pray, read the Word, fast, ask God for scriptures to uphold and comfort you during this new journey. Realize that God is on your side and he wants to walk beside you as you process your feelings and your loss of previously held dreams for your child.

While the disclosure of same sex attraction destroys some families, it is not necessary. There can be common ground reached for both parents and teens. As a licensed counselor and licensed minister, I am available to come along side you and your child during this journey and help you find healing. If you or your teen needs a safe place, I would love to be there for your family.


Laumann, E.O., Gagnon, J.H., Michael, R.T, and Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Saltzburg, S. (2004). Learning that an adolescent child is gay or lesbian: The parent experience. National Association of Social Workers, 48 (1), 109-118.

Yarhouse, M. (2010). Homosexuality and the Christian: A guide for parents, pastors, and friends. Bethany House Publishers. Bloomington: Minnesota.

For a printer friendly version of this article, please click here: A Parent’s Response: Voicing a Gay Identity


christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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