Parenting tips is a monthly blog post to encourage those of you who are parents to think Biblically about parenting.
Parenting Tip #11 Allowing Excuses for Disobedience
A basic principle that parents should live by is that there really are no good reasons for a child’s disobedience ( Except in a life and death situation – a dire emergency where of course this is acceptable). So, when you are confronting your children’s misbehavior they shouldn’t be permitted to offer an excuse except when of an emergency nature (For example: It is Ok if your child gets out of bed, when instructed not to, in order to let you know that Jimmy has a screw driver and is poking it in a power socket, or Susie fell out of the crib and has her arm or leg caught) .
So, why shouldn’t we allow excuses as a general principle?
- Because the parent that allows excuses for disobedience permits a child to avoid the consequences of their actions, and thus inadvertently encourages greater misbehavior in the future.
- A child who routinely has their excuses accepted will develop a “victim” mindset, believing that nothing is ever their fault. They are simply the victim of circumstances beyond their control.
We often precipitate these excuses by asking our children “Why did you do it?”, thus opening the door to a million excuses, instead of asking, “What have you done?” This latter question avoids sending the message to the child that if they can come up with a good enough excuse, then punishment will be avoided.
A parent should first establish a child’s guilt and have them accept responsibility and then proceed to find out the reason why. The reason why is important in order for the parent to determine if the child is guilty of rebelliousness (willful defiance), or childish disobedience (accidental or thoughtless action).
Parents tend to accept excuses because:
- They put themselves in the child’s place and know they would want mercy if it were them.
- They think they are to busy to stop and bring about proper discipline.
- They have bought into the lie that the child by nature is good and so are easily manipulated by an excuse.
- They want to believe the best of their children so are open to their children casting blame on others.
- They don’t know who to believe in a dispute, especially between siblings whose stories don’t add up. So not knowing what to do they simply send the child off with a warning.
- They hate conflict, and so accepting excuses seems to be the easiest way to settle the problem.
While we are to act graciously when dealing with our children, accepting excuses does not help the child take responsibility for their own actions. As children the results of disobedience may be miniscule but as adults the results can have very serious consequences.
Parenting Tip #12 Tricking or Distracting
Another incorrect form of training our children, is the often used form of tricking our children into doing something they don’t want to do, or distracting them so as to stop their anger or willful rebellion from taking its natural course. While there are times where this kind of action may get you out of a tough situation and thus seem to be working, it is in fact not taking you forward to the goal of training the child’s heart/will.
If the goal of parenting is to see you children submit themselves to God’s clear command to obey and honor their parents (Eph. 6:1-2), then we must seek every opportunity as parents to assist our children to this end of submissive obedience. Tricking and distracting our children does not move the child towards this goal. Tricking and distracting does not subdue or shape the will towards godliness, it simply diffuses a very tense situation and may help stem some embarrassment for the parent.
Some examples of tricking a child:
- Making a game of picking up the toys.
- Creating a contest, such as challenging them to get their room clean within a time limit.
- Instead of giving a direct order to go to bed, you manipulate them by saying, “Do you want to take your teddy bear or doll with you to bed right now?”
I am not saying you should never use these tools but they must never be used as a substitute for godly discipline and instruction. Discipline and instruction are the God-given tools we must use to shape our children’s wills into conformity to God’s will. An angry three year old might well forget what it was that he was so angry about, when an exuberant parent swoops him up and points out the window and says, “What is that!” However, his willful anger has not been addressed with the chastisement needed to reshape it. And if we use the peace offering of a special toy to bring calmness we are in effect rewarding willful angry behavior. This will only strengthen and encourage the child to act up in the future and exercise their wills against you and ultimately God.
Parenting Tip #13 Assessing the Actions of You Children
When disciplining your children it is important that you discern between thoughtless disobedience and rebellion, childishness and foolishness.
What is the difference between thoughtless disobedience and rebellion? Thoughtless disobedience is an accidental misbehavior. Rebellion is a willful defiance of authority.
What is the difference between childishness and foolishness? Childishness is an undesirable action that is related to the child’s immaturity and inability to act rightly. For example the child might be helping clear the table and in their effort to be helpful they may drop a plate that was to heavy for them. Foolishness is an undesirable action that is done knowing in disregard for the previous instruction already given.
Parenting Tip #14 How To Identify Rebellion
In a parenting culture where assertiveness training is promoted, and submissiveness training is non-existent, it is little wonder that there is a struggle on the part of many parents to identify rebellion in their children. Richard Fugate writes, “A rebellious child is one; whose actions are defiant of parental authority, who asserts his will against the will of his parents, and who resists his parents’ efforts to direct his life.
Rebellion is seen either actively or passively.
Evidences of Active Rebellion:
- Knowingly disobeying – a conscious face to face defiance of direct parental commands or established rules. For example: “Come here, Junior,” and he doesn’t move, or “Don’t go Mary!” and she goes, or “Don’t wear that Terry!” and she wear it.
- Defiantly saying “No!” This can include statements like, “Whatever”, or “Get a life”, or “I don’t want to.”
- Hitting parents: Toddlers may slap, bite, hit, or kick; older children may spit; teens may use their strength to cause serious injury.
- Throwing temper tantrums: Throwing themselves on the floor because they are not getting their own way, screaming and crying while falling down on the floor, going stiff, going limp, not standing up, pounding their head or fists on the floor or wall, throwing things around, purposely stomping on things, stamping their feet, slamming the door etc.
- Ignoring Instructions: Hearing the instruction but continuing to do as they please. When receiving a tap on the leg under the table, or a look from the parent which says, “Stop what you are doing”, they look away or pretend they received no communication. Running away when called on to come. This is not cute or funny, this could be very serious and even mean the death of the child should they run into the pathway of a moving vehicle.
- Resisting a parent-initiated action: A parent chooses to initiate an action requiring their child’s involvement, but the child refuses to co-operate, or the child moves their shoulder away when the parent reaches out to touch or embrace him, or the child who is trying to pull away from the parent who is holding their hand. When a child is squirming and wriggling and arching their backs they are acting rebelliously.
In all these situations we must be consistent as parents to bring corrective discipline to bear on our children. Failure to do so will only deepen the rebellion in the heart and harden the child against authority.
Consider three applicable Proverbs for bringing the necessary correction:
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15)
“Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.” (Proverbs 23:13)
“The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)
We will consider passive rebellion in the next tip.
Parenting Tip #15 How To Identify Rebellion Part 2
In Ephesians 6:1-2 the Apostle Paul writes “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise)” We see in this instruction that the Apostle Paul ties obedience to honor. Even the fact that Paul quotes a command that is found in Exodus 20:12 reminds us that honor towards God is dependent on obedience to His commands. One thing that is common in every human heart is disobedience. We all have inherited a heart that is bent on rebelling against God and the truth. As parents one of our tasks is to instruct and teach our children to choose to do what is right before God.
As we continue to think about obedience it needs to be said that we are not talking about obedience that leads a child to sin against the God or reject the truth of God. As Christian parents we are guiding our children into a knowledge of the truth and calling them to walk in accordance to the truth.
In the last Tip I spoke about ACTIVE REBELLION in the heart of child. However, there is another side of rebellion that we don’t often address and that is PASSIVE REBELLION.
Passive rebellion is seen in many different ways:
- Consistent forgetfulness: I am not talking here about age appropriate forgetfulness, but about a heart issue of choosing only to remember to do the things they want to do. The older a child becomes the clearer this form of passive rebellion is. Does your child remember to set the alarm and get ready for soccer practice, or going to the movies, and yet forgets to put the garbage out?
- External obedience with a bad attitude: This is where your child outwardly obeys but sends a defiant message by sulking, stamping their feet, pouting, slamming a door etc.
- Obeying but only on own terms: Doesn’t come exactly when called; walks slowly, postpones obedience based on doing something else, does just one more thing after being told to stop.
- Does what is required but not how it should be done:
- Walks away while being spoken to:
- Lies to escape discipline: Some parents just expect the child to lie to get out of trouble.
- Violating unspoken but understood rules: Although not written in stone, some things are obviously unacceptable, which requires children to do some justifying in their minds, ie. Johnny takes Dad’s power tool out of the garage to show his friends, knowing it would displease his parents, but justifies it to himself, saying “Dad lets me use it sometimes.” Yet, he jumps and tries to hide the tool when Mom walks in the room.
The goal of addressing rebellion is not simply to get a certain kind of outward behavior, nor is it to break the child’s will, rather it is to instruct and teach the child of the need to be humble, responsible and accept the consequences of their choices and actions, and in so doing honor their parents. The child that cannot willingly honor their parents will never willingly honor God.