The Problem With The Child-Centered Home

I held up a finger when she opened my bedroom door, reminding her I was on an important call and didn’t want to be interrupted.

But she ignored my attempt to quiet her and asked the question loudly as if MY ONE FINGER in the air meant nothing.

I pointed again, more forcefully. My 7 year old kept right on talking.

Even my most threatening face didn’t stop her.

This must be really important, I thought.

I said excuse me to the professional on the receiver, covered the mouthpiece and whispered through gritted teeth, “WHAT IS IT?”

She took a tiny step backward and said, “I don’t know what to do. I’m bored.”


It was nearly a poltergeist moment for me.

“Go play. Give me 5 more minutes,” I said seething.

“But mom, I need you to tell me what to do.”

The rest of the phone call occurred with me sitting on the closed toilet behind a locked door.

When I hung up a few minutes later, I kept thinking about my daughter’s words. I need  you to tell me what to do.

I’m not a stranger to a child-centered home. For years, we let our kids determine restaurants we ate at, we gave them ample choices, we backed down from consequences, we centered our lives around their extracurricular activities, we added fun kid stuff to every weekend so they wouldn’t be bored, and when they asked us what they were supposed to do for fun, we told them. Some days, we still reap the effects of it.

And then, a few years ago, we started to shift to a Jesus-centered home. Instead of child worship, where we bowed to every whim and demand from our kids, we refocused and prioritized our lives. My children didn’t stop being important. We didn’t stop loving them unconditionally or stop meeting their needs. We just stopped trying to fix every problem and giving in to every desire.

Last week, I told you how serving turned our home right-side up. It’s never too early to start or too late to try. We started by picking a few things off this list:  100 Ways to Make a Difference As a Family.

Listen, humans are naturally self-centered. We want what we want. Our kids are no different.

If we build our home around their every want, they will let us.

And it may seem easier because kids who always get what they want seem “happy.”

Until they don’t get what they want.

And then watch out.

My greatest calling is being a mom. I love my children and I’m grateful for them. But that doesn’t mean they are the sun and I should orbit around them in submission.

Children having picnic

When we center our homes around the wants and demands of our kids, we are actually hurting them, not helping.

Here are five risks of a child-centered home:

  1. It gives kids the false security that the world is about them- We can build our world around our kids, but the world won’t return the favor. Sooner or later-in school or at a first job, they will discover life isn’t always fair and they can’t always get out of sticky situations.
  2. It puts a strain on our marriage-it’s easy to put children in front of spouses and when we put kids at the center of the home, things get out of balance, including our marriages.
  3. It reinforces selfishness-kids don’t need to be taught selfishness. “Mine” is usually one of their first words. But constantly letting the world revolve around their demand and wishes, only reinforces selfishness.
  4. It puts a responsibility and pressure on children they weren’t meant to carry. Kids weren’t designed to carry the burden of getting their way all the time. Not only is it unhealthy, I believe kids want restrictions and guidelines. It’s another way we show them how much we love them.
  5. It makes them a challenge outside of home (school, church, etc). Enough said.

Refocusing our homes, centering them around Christ instead of our children isn’t easy. It takes consistent, hard work. And when our kids are begging for us to tell them what to do, we should hide in the bathroom. Or give them time to answer their own question.

Oh, and I found the perfect thing for my daughter to do. Her room has never looked better.


  1. 1


    Thank you! We really tried to raise our daughters with this way of thinking… In general we did ok… I mean they are both well adjusted members of society and even more importantly they both know and love the Lord. We had our moments… Christmas was has always been a weakness and I lived with the monsters I usually created around that time of year. The other sticky time was around sports… They tend to take over your whole family if you let them and you feel like the “bad” parent if you are not at every game, etc… That being said, I agree with you wholeheartedly and both my girls have fend memories of times we served when they would normally be the ones being served. It’s funny, at the time they would whine from time to time “why is it ALWAYS our family doing the work?” or “Why do we always have to be “part” of things instead of regular families who just get to go to them?” But now they look back at those times with fondness. They still joke about the consequences for saying “I’m bored” and the creative chores I came up with for them! You are doing a great thing for your kids!

    • 1.1

      Carolyn Elkins says

      Changing to a ‘Christ-Centered Home’ would not involve an adult (the care-giver and role model’ hiding in the bathroom, or finding ‘chores’ for her to do (punishment in her eyes, maybe–next time she’ll find something more pleasing, perhaps? Not more Christ-centered just more ‘feel-good’?

      I was thinking you were going to start talking about how you are modeling Christ-centered by doing kind deeds as Jesus did; modeling forgiveness; getting your daughter engaged in (age-appropriate) volunteer work like handing out food to homeless as either part of a church program already established, or establishing one yourself and getting the entire family involved.

      The Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5-7 does a great job–as do other ‘RED LETTER portions of the Bible–in conveying what ‘Christ-centered’ means.

      And you’re right, it’s hard, darn hard, in a world that doesn’t recognize that just not catering to children and hiding… or giving out chores is not the kind of redirect, or just plain Christian direction Christ wants us to give our children.

      I hope you keep working on what Christ-centered would mean for you as an adult Christian so you can model it for your children. Peace to you in Christ-Jesus, Carolyn

      • 1.1.1

        Alison says

        You must not read this blog regularly , for if you did you would realize the service oriented activities this family does together. I appreciate honest vulnerable people who are broken and grateful for second chances of grace. You may have it all together and, always have . Wonderful. It’s unfortunate you didn’t use your wisdom to encourage instead of condemn. I offer you the same grace I want. I don’t know your story and mabey you made a uninformed snap whole judgement based on a partial glimpse of someone’s journey..

      • 1.1.2


        I truly, TRULY hope that you followed the links provided within this post to the OTHER posts where the topic of discussion was the ways this family IS learning to serve others before leaving such a comment…

  2. 2


    I am very thankful God led me to your blog while I’m in the early stages of parenting. Such good God-centered advice. It’s great to see someone give practical tips and experiences for those of us who are trying to teach our kids something different.

  3. 5

    Kristy says

    I am a new reader to your blog!! Thank you for being so transparent and showing where you are. I desire and my husband does as well to have a home like this…where do you suggest beginning or where do you suggest I start reading on your blog? I am just seeing as my kids are becoming more involved in things I don’t want to loose sight of seeing Christ in our everyday. Thanks for your help.

  4. 7


    Well said. I think it’s hard to have anything BUT a child-centered home in the years when they are little. Our lives naturally orbit around them when they derive every ounce of care from us (as babies and toddlers do). But I too am seeing some alarming evidence of it as my kids get older and am determined to keep working on shifting the tides around here. Thanks for this, Kristen.

  5. 8

    Lindsey Swinborne says

    I wholeheartedly agree with your post! Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of adult women ignore or interrupt one another in conversation to listen to their toddler’s demands. It’s shocking and rude to me, but it’s just becoming the norm. I know, having 4 young children of my own, that kids demand time and attention constantly, especially when they are babies and toddlers, but I think women are going overboard on “being the perfect mom” to the point that they are not being attentive to their own friendships and etiquette. If a kid asks them to take them to the swings at the playground, they will get up in the middle of a conversation with an adult and go do it immediately.

    • 8.1

      Heather says

      Amen. I just spent a summer with family and friends where this was the norm. Every time a child spoke or had a demand (none were emergencies or something the child couldn’t have done her/himself) the adults were jumping up and running. We all looked like hummingbirds darting around.

  6. 9


    I once looked after a little one who was raised in a child-centered home. She loved being in our home as long as my kids and I are were focused on her. As soon as we said no, though, wow. She finished her days here loathing every minute. I’m not a perfect mom and I admit that I give in too often to our own kiddos, but I agree with you. Setting boundaries, saying no as well as yes, and letting them learn to be bored is a good thing. And now I am off to check out that list of ways to serve as a family!

  7. 10


    This is a wake up call for me, Kristen. We aren’t totally child centered in our home, but there are some areas where I just look at my kids and think “who ARE you?!”. And when they interrupt phone calls? Hell hath no fury. Thanks for the wonderful article and encouragement.

  8. 11


    Great article! I couldn’t agree more. It’s SO hard to articulate this concept well, but I know it to be SO true. And you’ve done it! I will definitely be sharing this article with my friends and fans. Thanks!

  9. 12

    April says

    This is my first time to your blog and you have me hooked with this one blog posting. I couldn’t agree more. I believe that allowing your children to dictate EVERYTHING (letting our children choose every now and then is perfectly fine) that happens at home only causes problems at home and outside of the home. Bad manners are accepted, whining is a way of life and raising independent children goes out the door. I do believe that raising your children by making them the center of everything is a big part of why our society has declined as much as it has.

  10. 13


    I agree completely with this post. And it even made me think about how I am self focused! My hope is that I show my kids how to be other focused in their lives in a healthy, Christ centered way. An important first step is making sure our family isn’t t so focused on itself that we forget others.

  11. 15

    Sylvia says

    Great post. As a 7th grade public school teacher, I live with child centered parenting every school day. You are correct in saying that sooner or later these kids will find out that they are not all that and a bag of chips. In my amateur psychologist opinion, the child centered parenting is a factor in kids doing more and more outrageous behaviors in an effort to be noticed. Sexting, for example. Oh, and don’t get me started on self esteem. Kids today need to develop self respect not self esteem. Yes, my ideas go over like a lead balloon with most of my colleagues.

  12. 17


    Wow!! This whole scene played out here last Friday as I was on a call in the bedroom and my 4 year old continued to ignore my numerous indications that I was on the phone, and she was to be quiet!!! I laughed at your description and resulting exile to the bathroom! Today, in preparation for another VERY important call, I went through my list of threats should anyone (I’ve got 3 kids) dare bother mommy while conducting business. You truly opened my eyes! Coming across your blog today for the first time is also timely after having a wake up call with my soon to be 13 year old who nearly went to bed hungry last night after grilling me on precisely what I had cooked and when to determine if it was what he wanted to eat, or ask for something else after he came home late from swimming with family friends. After losing it at his audacity and attitude, I realized my husband and I have clearly failed here and he needs a reality check. Your blog post totally enlightened me: we are child-centered and out of sync. Our family/home needs an adjustment back to Jesus-centered!!!! Thank you so much! I am a new fan/reader! Can’t wait to read your other posts!

  13. 19

    Tam says

    Thank you for another thoughtful and “spot-on” post! I think the fact that families are smaller can play into this problem of child-centered homes. I grew up as one of five children; it was nearly impossible for any one of us to have center stage for any length of time, just by the sheer number of us. One household income meant “no” was frequent and pretty easy to enforce; there was no money for frequent restaurant visits or purchases of “stuff”. However, we only have two kids and it is much more of a battle than we ever realized it would be. Grandparents (wonderful people!) wanting to give them things, other (well-meaning!) parents asking us why we haven’t signed up for yet another sport or activity, and kids growing more anxious by the minute because, as in your post, they have a moment where no one is telling them what to do and panic sets in. It’s up to us parents to keep the focus where it needs to be.

  14. 20

    Cuivre says

    Excellent article!!! I see so much of this “child centered home” mentality. Let kids learn disappointment, failure, boredom as well as the good things in life. It is all about balance!

  15. 23

    Dianne says

    Serving does WONDERS for kids!! My two are now 26 & 27 and they “get it”!! When they were in elementary school I volunteered at a local food ministry and I was allowed to have them work along side me. My daughter helped bag the groceries and hand them out, while my son helped carry the bags to vehicles for people using walkers, oxygen or had their hands full of babies. We didn’t have a lot ourselves, but my kids saw that others had less and they, as kids, were able to help. To this day, they are appreciative of what they have and are willing to share / help others whenever they can.

    Boundaries are very important. Just as we have to learn to freely give, we have to also know how to protect. By this I mean that I don’t let people push me for more than what I can realistically give or make me feel guilty / shameful for not giving more. I will freely give rides home from events even if it is a bit out of the way, but I don’t run them all over creation to do errands when they only asked for a ride home, just because I agreed to the first request… and don’t ask me for something in the middle of me helping to which I have already said “no”.

  16. 24


    This blog post is a great wakeup call. I was thinking about it, though, and how to apply it in my family, and I started getting a little frustrated. My oldest child is 7, and my youngest child is 2. There are very few service opportunities that we can take part in as a family. I have taken our oldest to Feed the Hunger at our church, and he serves with us once a month in the church nursery, but our lives are marked by a lot of day to day caring for the youngest ones. I’m wondering how possible it is to have a largely others centered family when most of your children are really young. I don’t want to feel guilty about what I can’t do because this season in our life has some very real natural limitations. It’s hard to know how to balance it all, I guess.

  17. 25

    Mandie says

    I’m currently stuck in a child centered home. I know I “did this to myself” but I don’t know how to change things. I know you said make the home Christ-centered but at this stage I need a more concrete action plan. When I try to take my focus off the kids I have horrible guilt, but them being “in charge” is really straining my marriage and my mental state. Thank you for sharing and encouraging that a child centered home is NOT how things should be. It gives me the courage to shake off the guilt, and get started pursuing change.

    • 25.1


      And Mandie, remind yourself that the guilt? It is not from God. Also, your marriage comes before the kids. Loving and respecting your husband trumps making the kids happy.

  18. 26

    Lewis says

    Your post is spot on for the most part. However Im in shock at the one point where you let your child continuously and rudely interrupt your conversation on the phone. After the second warning, I would have asked the person on the phone to politely hang on for a few seconds, then I would have walked over and lit that behind up, hard. A child should come and politely and respectfully stand by when an adult is in the middle of a conversation till the adult finds an appropriate time to turn and ask the child what he/she wants.

      • 26.1.1

        Guest says

        I wouldn’t have spanked my child for that but I absolutely would have ended the conversation to take care of the situation. Hiding in a bathroom isn’t a very compelling leadership stance. If you nip something in the bud, it doesn’t have time to grow. Allowing your child to continually interrupt is simply encouraging the behavior to continue.

  19. 27


    Thank you for this great article! People forget that it is actually hard on the child to be the center of everything and to get their way all the time. It’s hard on them in the moment and it’s hard on them later too.

  20. 28

    Kelli says

    My index finger and mad face seem to have also lost their power. I’ve gone to “talk to the hand” and taken to hiding in my closet.

  21. 29


    I’m 67-years-old and I have been generally appalled by child-centered homes. I cannot believe the number of kids who run the household while contributing nothing. When one of my sons was around six he got mad at me for something and told me I was no longer his friend. It hurt. However, I bent down, looked him in the eye and told him I was happy about that. I was not his friend. I was his mother. He looked me steadily in the eye for a moment and said, “I get it.” He ran off smiling and playing. My kids got a lot of attention but they knew not to interrupt me or expect me to entertain them every minute of every day. They grew up to be respectful adults. I had no problems with them when they were in their teens. You’ve hit on a good way to raise your children and I applaud all who are doing the same.

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  31. 42

    Drew says

    Good article. We are doing our children and our marriages harm with this child-centered marriage phase. It’s a 180 from “Children are to be seen and not heard.” That sounds brutal now, doesn’t it? But not that long ago, it is how it was and it was normal and accepted. They are children, not adults. And children grew up just fine, succeeded, and we became a great nation with that perspective.

    It damaged my long marriage, fatally. We lost our union during the child-centered years. And the loss of intimacy created the feeling of neglect and then frustration. Low level, continuous frustration. And that eventually led to deep resentment. The empty nest was a glaring revelation of what was lost. And counseling could not fix it.

    Two become one not through procreation, but through regular and continuing intimacy and time together — just the two. Just two.

    My suggested marriage priorities, in order: God, marriage, children, family, society.

  32. 43


    I wholeheartedly agree. I don’t want to be too child-centered, but so many people argue that parents these days don’t want to spend time with their children. They don’t want to prioritize their family. Is there some truth in this? My question then is this. How do we be attentive involved parents, without being too child centered? It seems a fine line to walk.

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