The Bad Rap of “Controlling” Behaviors

I was reading through the Bible for my study, and it referenced the Wife of Noble Character (a/k/a the Proverbs Woman, from Proverbs 31:10-31). In this, the wife of noble character is hard working, manages her household staff efficiently, toils through the night when necessary, provides good food and a clean home for her family, is experienced with trade and brings in wealth for her household, serves the poor, takes good care of her appearance, and brings her husband respect.

I freely confess I am a *long* way from being a Proverbs woman, but by the same token, I absolutely hold her up as an ideal, and an attainable ideal, at that. I think in 30-40 years I might have mastered these things if I continue to seek God in the daily choices that I make.

Unfortunately, though, I’m often considered as “controlling,” which I admit, raises my hackles a bit. There’s just such a negative connotation with being a “controlling woman” (in particular, it’s negative when associated with women, as men are encouraged to be controlling since it’s ‘manly’ and all that other sexist gendered stuff).

When I’ve been told I am “controlling” it’s often in the context of my interactions with my children (such as not letting my daughters wear make-up until they’re 14), or with my husband (although I have no specifics on that, but he’s mentioned his family perceives me as such). I’m trying to work through my feelings on this. On the one hand, I want people to think well of me – not in the people pleasing or codependent way, but just have an overall good regard. I don’t lose sleep when people don’t like me, and I don’t go out of my way to curry their favor (it is what it is). Still, when I hear I’ve been considered “controlling” I get defensive, because I think that the choices I make about what I control or do not control are sensible ones.

Here’s my position of defense:

I think not letting kids drink sugary drinks is good – we are one of the fattest countries in the world, and soda/sweet tea/slushies contribute to that. I think that managing our food could be considered controlling by many in our culture, but I have to juggle the costs of providing healthy options with how they’re taken in. If the kids each eat 4 peaches a day and I won’t be able to afford to get more for another 2 weeks, how practical is that? Plus, diarrhea is seldom a good thing. I think teaching kids about healthy options to eat, instead of junk, encourages healthy eating habits when they are adults. Why is this something that warrants justification? Why would I want them, at 40, to be working to lose an extra 100 lbs to be fit (ahem, ahem)?

I think not letting young girls wear make-up or dress provocatively before they have the maturity to handle that is good – we are a hypersexualized culture, and I don’t want them to be immersed in it.

I think that cleaning my house every week (or my beloved ‘deep clean’) is good – who wants to eat in an environment, such as on a farm, where there could be unseen poop somewhere? Or have a toddler crawl around on a filthy floor? Or can tomatoes with flies all over the place?

I think that removing myself from a situation where I’m in verbal conflict with someone *before* I speak rashly (emotional or verbal control) is good – I don’t want to regret my words, and I learned from an early age that unchecked emotional responses can be hurtful. I work hard at maintaining emotional control (without stuffing, of course, because stuffing is not ideal). But, I like to be a happy girl, and processing through my emotions before speaking has had positive results for me.

I think that working 50-60 hours a week might be considered a workaholic in society’s eyes, but at this stage in my life, it’s necessary to contribute to building up our farm (which my husband dreams of running full-time someday, someday soon, so he can be at home with us). Keeping a thumb on my work load might be controlling, but again, if it’s for the greater good, why is there harm? Why is ambition or a desire for professional success in a woman a bad thing?

I think that keeping a texting option off my kids’ phones until they’re older teens is a good thing (or for that matter, we don’t let them have cell phones until they’re ready to drive, and then just for security’s sake if there’s a breakdown). I read a lot about how texting and messaging is changing the culture of communication – I want children who can relate, personally, to others. I don’t want them staring down at their phones during dinner. I don’t want them playing games for 4 hours a day (and yes, I think gaming can be addictive).

Ironically, I think “the family” (or our closest social networks in propinquity) assumes that because I want to manage my household efficiently, of course I am controlling of my man. I use the word “ironically” because I know of no wife who is less controlling of her husband – my husband has full charge over his life, our children, and most elements of our marriage. I give my input, of course, but firmly state that I’m not the boss of him, nor do I desire to be his mother. 🙂 Throw in that his previous wife really was controlling, and I’m sure that influences perception.

Yes, I like to have my towels lined up in the bathroom, but I don’t punish anyone who doesn’t – I just straighten them for my own aesthetic sense of order. Likewise the canned goods in the kitchen pantry. I like to spreadsheet to-do lists. I’ve planned my own funeral. I keep six separate calendars of activities. OCD? Maybe. But not hurtful to anyone.

I would also add that there are so many things I vehemently *don’t* seek control of.

I don’t have a curfew for my older children.

I’m fine with the youngers playing in mud or sitting in the middle of the chicken pen in diapers.

I encourage cross-country travel (flying, or driving, so the older teens can build experiences).

I don’t freak out about bad grades (in that I don’t punish for them, although a short lecture on the consequences of bad grades in college may arise).

I don’t control how the kids spend their money they’ve worked for (except to take it from them for phone bills and car insurance).

I don’t regulate their clothing choices (unless it looks sleazy, but it seldom does) and I’ve even been known to purchase jeans with holes in them. I’ve accepted that mismatched socks are a fashion trend.

I don’t homeschool because I have a stringent need to regulate my children’s education or ideological positions –I do so because I want to encourage creative, free thinking, dislike structured tests as the medium of assessment, and resist the boundaries of the current public policies towards education.

I don’t call my husband repeatedly throughout the day to see where he’s at – I figure he’ll straggle in at supper time if he’s hungry. I don’t snoop through his things, read his texts or email, or open his mail. If I sincerely need him to do something to help me, I make sure to request it, and not command it.

I don’t micromanage the expenses (except when we’re broke, and that’s just to say, “we’re broke – we can’t afford it”).

I don’t interfere with others’ life choices – this is a big one, I think, because I see it a lot. How others choose to live their life is their business, so I don’t put my opinions out there on how they should be making this choice or that choice.

All I want to “control” is my little haven, and to conclude, I think that’s a good thing if it yields healthy, happy children, a fruitful marriage, and an efficient household.

The defense rests.

2 thoughts on “The Bad Rap of “Controlling” Behaviors

  1. Thank you, Lisa, for this post. I am happy to see someone think through what it means to responsibly manage (co-manage, rather) a household. Prov. 31 basically teaches us that a woman who fears the Lord is a godly woman. And women like that are to be praised! Outer beauty and charm are secondary. A woman who fears the Lord is one who manages her household according to God’s Word. The way I see managing my household is more like stewardship. God doesn’t ask us to be lord of our own household, picking and choosing what we personally like/dislike. Rather, we are to steward what we have been given by dedicating everything to God, for God’s glory. We are to learn from God’s Word—with great wisdom, counsel, discernment, and prayer—what God has to say about the things we should say, not say, wear, do, don’t do, think, love, even hate, etc.. Each household should be taught these instructions that are good for us. Each parent will give an account to God—not on if they were organized, energetic, or even caring—but if they taught/managed their household in a godly way like we are instructed… “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise,” (Deut. 6:5-7). This was a very helpful post for me to get these thoughts going! Lisa, do you think stewardship in this respect is accurate?

    • Absolutely, Payte. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 is actually one of the hallmarks of homeschooling advocates, because it’s highlighting the constant emphasis on modeling for our children. We even have it on a shirt for my homeschooling cooperative.

      If I can teach my children to love others (all others, as Jesus did), I’ll consider my work on Earth complete. Stewardship is a lovely way to look at it! Everything we have is, in essence, on loan from the Lord (our home, our bodies, our children even).


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