Have You Noticed?
With each Newsletter, the strong-willed child’s age has increased.
Why would I do that?
I’d like you to have an example of increased response complexity for several different ages as a reference.
With that in mind, let’s look at verbal control and the nine or ten-year-old.
Tangling with the Tongue To Muddle Your Mind.
Some children are verbal from the day they are born. They go from cooing, to words, then short sentences (like “No”), to complex reasoning and refusals.
For boys, high verbosity be a little unusual, but some figure out that if they can redefine your discipline, recall a different memory than yours, challenge your memory, or confuse you with what their friends are doing, they can escape or avoid obeying you the way you desire. The child may not be lying, but muddling your mind by planting a seed of doubt. This applies especially to a parent balancing their love and control of their child, especially if their definition of love is less control of their child.
The Tongue Is A Fire.
One of my favorite books in the Bible is James because he tells it like it is.
James says, “The tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity.” James 3:6 NASB. Later in this chapter he says, “…from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.”
I’ve noticed arguments between parents and children many times, including in my own home. As I observed these interactions, I saw a child manipulating the parent through many of the tactics described above.
For example, Tommy (not his real name), a boy around nine was trailing his mother in the toy section of the store.
“Can I have that football? It looks like real leather.”
“No,” his mother says. “You haven’t been doing your homework, you’re failing math, and therefore, you aren’t allowed any new toys.”
“But it’s not really a toy.”
“Why not?” The mother raises an eyebrow.
“Daddy says he wants me to be a pro football player when I grow up.” Tommy picks up the ball, lifting his arm as though he’s throwing a pass. “It’s training equipment.”
“He did not say that.” Mom turns back to the shopping cart.
“He said we would practice this Saturday, but we needed a ball.”
“What?” Mom stops the cart, turning to look Tommy in the eye. “What about your discipline?”
“I’ll do my homework every night this week.” Tommy smiles. “I promise.”
“But what about your failing grades?” Mom takes the ball from Tommy, looking at the price tag.
“I’ll get better. Football players have to know math to finish high school.”
“Well, I guess we can always return the ball.”
“Yeah.” Tommy nods. “And you don’t want to make another shopping trip, do you?”
Mom sighs and puts the ball in the cart.
I don’t know if Tommy’s Dad really wanted him to be a football player, but if he and Tommy’s mother were unified on their discipline plan, Mom wouldn’t have bought the football.
Did you see that Tommy redefined his discipline by saying he would fix it in the future? He also redefined a football as training equipment and not a toy. Tommy didn’t want to submit.
In the teacher’s guide, Christian Manhood*, the note to the teacher starts off with this statement. “Submission to authority is difficult for many boys…Many boys practice a ‘selective obedience’…”
Have your son memorize this part of the following verse: “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” 1 Samuel 15:22 NASB. This shows a supreme authority, all-seeing, all-knowing, and ever-present, for your son to obey.
Tommy didn’t want to submit to his parents and got his way by splitting his parents’ unity and creating doubt about the strength of his discipline.
In the Zook house, our boys like many of their contemporaries would argue with us. Often their mother was the target because I was absent, either on deployment or temporary duty elsewhere.
What’s the Quick Fix?
- Write the rules and the consequences (general and specific) on paper.
- Make sure the general rules are clear, understandable, and short.
- Do the same for the general consequences.
- Post the General Rules and Consequences for the (Your Name) Home where they can be seen easily. The refrigerator is where we posted ours.
- For specific or detailed rules and consequences, keep a running list in your computer and print them out as necessary.
Since the rules for your house are unique, it doesn’t matter what Johnny or Suzie’s rules are in their house, or for their teacher, coach, or other friends. They are your rules.
The parents establish the rules and consequences together. You could invite the children’s input. You’d be amazed at how hard they can be on themselves. But the parents make the final call and stand united when the rules are broken.
Breaking any part of the rule means you still receive the consequence. Make sure it is fair and reasonable.
Never violate the discipline (consequence) enforcement once the rule is broken without changing the rule or consequence together as a couple in a private conversation.
Do I Have To Write It Down?
For maximum effectiveness, when a child starts to argue you should merely have to point at the Rules/Consequence sheet for your home. We actually had a rule about arguing as well if it went on too long.
It’s best to establish this system while the child is young (Kindergarten or earlier), to make the procedures a part of their life.
Carry your list. In the electronic age, that’s a simple feat to accomplish!
Next month we tackle the fourth challenge—physical control. How do you handle a son or daughter that physically doesn’t comply with your directions? I’ll share a special technique in September that you’ll find helpful…
* Christian Manhood, Teacher’s Guide, A Guide for Training Boys to be Spiritually Strong Men