The Art of Tension and Slack


For a minute, imagine yourself holding a rope. At the end of the rope is your child. Is the rope tight or full of slack? Most parents have a default parenting style; of tension or slack. Which is it for you? Do you typically keep your child on a tight rope or is it more natural for you to provide your child lots of freedom and slack?

I’d suggest that both are needed; tension and slack. A parenting style that is dominated by one or the other creates a myriad of unintentional consequences.

Tension: Rules, regulations, control, boundaries, consequences, limitations.

Slack: A whole lot less of everything mentioned above.

Healthy parenting happens when we become artists; when we learn the dance of tension and slack. It’s not a science. There’s no formula that works every time for every child. As parents, we need to become artists; we need to learn to dance.

When do you let the rope out and when do you tighten it up? I think there are lots of factors. Here are a few:

  • The age and phase of your child. Typically, the younger the child the tighter the rope in a larger number of areas. As your child gets older, more slack is typically given.
  • The level of trust your child has earned. Slack is given as trust is earned. When trust is broken, the rope is tensed up for a season.
  • How your child responds to each. This is where the dance comes into play! You may have a child who you think has earned more slack, but actually “performs” (terrible word, but I couldn’t come up with a better one) better when the rope is tighter. Or you may have a child with behavior issues who actually responds better when grace and slack is given…even if it hasn’t been earned.
  • When tightening the rope in one area, look for ways to loosen it in others. When something happens and your feel the need to drastically tighten the rope, remind yourself that a mistake or loss of trust in one area, doesn’t necessarily require that the rope has to be tightened in every The art of tension and slack allows you the freedom to loosen and tighten at the same time!

Tension and slack. Become an artist; learn to dance.

We are in this together