Tugging the Heart Strings
Imagine a picture of a happy child. Smiles, cute poses for the camera, and a light in their eyes that makes the heart sing! And this confirms what we always knew, that children are a gift from the Lord.
But what about the child with the pouty face, the one who sniffs, whines, makes sad, puppy dog frowns, and otherwise makes you feel inadequate, like something you’ve done has fouled up the relationship with your darling offspring?
This child wants to play life’s guitar with happy notes one minute and sour notes the next. Some days, they may even want to tear the strings off! How can this be fixed?
Start with a Biblical Basis.
Hebrews 12:5-11 is a great section of scripture to learn as a parent. It shows us that discipline is a necessary part of life, even as an adult. If our Father in heaven does not spare us, His children, from discipline, then we should not withhold it from our own children. Keep in mind while enforcing discipline that each child’s needs for discipline are unique. What works for one child may need modification to work for their brother or sister.
A focal point in this passage that I embrace is Hebrews 12:11. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Like any successful coach, keep your eye on the end goal.
Let’s look at the application of discipline to a child with poor attitudes. We’ll approximate the age of the child at around seven years of age; but these techniques can be used at any time. Teaching principles while the child is young will produce the best results. (Proverbs 22:6)
The Attitude Adjustment – Techniques for Optimal Results
Dr. James Dobson, in his book Solid Answers,* produced a system for handling elementary level children who have poor attitudes. Create an attitude chart the child can see and understand. Include consequences to their behavior at the bottom of the sheet.
Remember: Consequence Management – connecting someone’s behavior to the consequences they receive.
On the chart, create specific lines of attitudes you’re concerned about (i.e. – Attitude toward Mom, Attitude toward Dad, etc.). Perhaps you will have 6 lines.
Beside each line produce a measurement scale with a number: Great – 1, Good – 2, Okay – 3, Bad – 4 Terrible – 5.
At the bottom of the chart, list consequences for a range of points depending on the total possible points (i.e. – 6 – 9, a family fun activity; 9 – 18, Nothing happens; 19-20, Time-out in Room; 21-22, one swat with paddle; 23 and above, two swats with paddle.
In situations where there is definitely a battle of the wills in the emotional arena, the parents must both be on board the same discipline scheme together. A united front allows the child to understand they will find no wiggle room through one parent or the other.
As Dobson says, “When you are defiantly challenged, win decisively.”**
You Can Do It!
Dealing with a strong-willed child who uses emotional behavior to try to control you can be draining to either parent, but especially to the full-time care-giver.
Support one another every chance you get, and in your “Couple Time” where you reunite after a day’s work, appreciate one another’s efforts to raise children to become healthy, responsible adults.
My Attitude Chart (Based on James Dobson, Solid Answers, pg119), Go to zookbooks.org/resources
Next month we tackle the third challenge—verbal control. Most arguments between children and parents can be stopped simply and without fuss. I’ll explain next month.
* James Dobson, Solid Answers, pgs 118-121
** James Dobson, Solid Answers, pg 135