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Articles by Mark Merrill


Mark Merrill

Mark Merrill is the founder and president of Family First, a widely respected national non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the family. read bio

4 Reasons Moms Need to be “Controlling” Parents

I’m a former private pilot and have been in Tampa International Airport’s control tower with my son, Marky. It’s a busy place…no time for a nap. But a number of air traffic controllers have been caught sleeping on the job, according to news reports.

The job of an air traffic controller is to keep a watchful eye on take offs, landings, and to vector or direct the planes through often congested airspace surrounding the airport. But in recent years, fatigue has become a major issue for the nation’s air traffic system and for your safety.

Parental fatigue has become a big issue too, and it’s affecting our kids’ physical and emotional safety. But we can’t fall asleep in the control tower of our children’s lives.  Too much is at stake. During those years when our kids are at home, we must say “no” to anything and everything we can that takes time away from our most important job. We may even need a few cups of coffee to ensure we’re wide awake in the tower.

Every time our children leave the house, we need to be alert and ready in the control tower. There are 4 things that you, as a parent, must control.

Flight Plan

Just like a pilot has to file a flight plan before he takes off, our kids need to file a flight plan with you anytime they leave the house. Before they’re cleared for takeoff, they need to tell us where they’re going, who they’re going with, what they’ll being doing, and when they’ll be home.

[How to be a Hands On Parent]

Take Off

As they’re taking off, be sure to give them any final instructions…like “Bring your lunch money,” “Call me when you get there,” or “No texting while driving.” And, of course, always give them a hug and tell them “I love you” because you never know…


Once they’ve taken off, your kids will sometimes call the control tower and want to change their vector or direction 180 degrees. When they do, you’ll need to ask them to give you a new flight plan. You might quickly approve a minor change. But if it’s a major change, you’ll want to know exactly why they want to change the plan.  If you don’t know the kids they’re going to be with or if there is a potential danger of serious turbulence—drinking, inappropriate movie, bad company—you may decide it’s too risky to approve the plan. If they’re already experiencing turbulence where they are, they may need your wisdom on how to vector them out of the situation.


When your children touch down at home, make sure you’re awake.  Greet them and ask them about their evening.  Don’t lecture, just listen.  Ask open-ended questions like, “What was the best part of your day?” Or, “Tell me about the event.” It may be a 30 second discussion, or your child may open up to you and want to talk longer.  Either way, just be available.

What have you experienced while in the control tower of your child’s life?


21 Creative Consequences

3 Ways to Get Your Kids to Mind You

Pillow Talk: End your day talking with your child

If your kids disobey, what kind of consequence will you give them?

© 2011 Mark Merrill. All rights reserved. Originally published at



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