The Problem Child

Some of you, after reading this book, are probably thinking, "This is all fine and good, but I wish someone told me this years ago." What do you do if you started out your child-rearing on the wrong foot?

First, understand that things will not improve if you continue using the wrong methods. It is likely that you will not be able to completely repair all the previous damage that you may have inadvertently caused in your child's younger years. However, ignoring the problem and continuing your present course will not improve the matter. Sit down with your child and explain that you have been learning about parenting from God's Word and that you have discovered that you had been doing some things incorrectly. Apologize for the error and explain that you will be changing how you handle things in the future. Some aspects of the changes they may not like, but assure them that God said this is a better way. If your child is old enough, sit down with them and have a family Bible study on the topic of raising children. Not only will this warn them of the upcoming changes that you plan to make, but it also helps them to understand God's Word so they will not make the same mistakes you made when they become parents.

Second, you have a lot of lost ground to make up. It will not be easy and it will not come quickly. Where a forewarned parent has a number of years to adjust and tailor their child's training as the child is growing, you will have fewer years to get the same lessons accomplished. If you are starting with a teenager, you will not be able to concentrate on teaching self-control. You will have to also teach the lessons on obedience and responsibility that the child had missed. The concentrated lessons will not be enjoyable for you or the child, but they are necessary.

Once in a while, a child will go astray despite our best efforts. It seems that most people I have met with wayward children feel they have done everything possible, but the child chose to stray. We are all free agents, able to chose to obey or disobey our Lord. However, there are few families that I have met where it wasn't apparent that they had not been following God's teachings on raising children as closely as they should have been. The Bible lists a number of godly men who were unable to raise godly children. Eli, the High Priest of the Most High, raised wicked sons. The reason for his failure is clearly stated: he never restrained them (I Samuel 3:12-13). Like many modern philosophers, Eli did not punish his children for wrongdoing, but let them do as they will. Sometimes, children raised without proper discipline grow up to be godly people, but it is despite their parent's instructions, not because of it. King David had a number of rebellious sons. In I Kings 1:5-6, Adonijah's rebellion was attributed to the fact that David always tried to please his children. We can't always be a chum with our children and raise them to be respectful and obedient. Children need correction. It is a part of their training.

Often, parents who raised their children with poor technique face their biggest challenge when their children reach their teenage years. The tranquil child now asserts his independence, but instead of moving towards godliness, he chases after the wicked. What is a parent to do? I will admit that I don't have all the answers. I don't even have most of the answers. The following are a few suggestions to consider in various situations.

Spanking: There is nothing in the Scriptures to indicate that spanking must be limited to young children. Many times you can find effective, non-spanking forms of discipline for older children. However, there are times when nothing better drives the point home than a simple spanking. Consider spanking as an option when you are dealing with willful rebellion, backtalk, or foul-language.

Restricted Privileges: Parents and children both assume that everything that comes their way is theirs by right. Few people learn to appreciate that most of the things that we take for granted are privileges. If this lesson would only sink into more people we would have fewer problems with pride. Sometimes a point is made by removing privileges of going places or engaging in certain entertainment activities. If you chose to punish by removing driving privileges or limiting television viewing, you must make sure that the consequences are spelled out before the violation occurs. Older children need to be able to weigh the temptation against the consequences. It makes the punishment much more effective.

The removal of privileges can be an effective tool in correcting access to things that help a child accomplish their wrongful practices. Is your son's rebelliousness coming from associating with wicked friends? Then limit his free time in the evenings and weekends. Not only forbid him from leaving home for a period of time, but also make sure that his extra time is filled with special chores to be accomplished. Have you discovered that your daughter is experimenting with drugs? Then remove those things that allow her to purchase the drugs. Eliminate her allowance and require her to earn her own spending money. Severely restrict her telephone privileges. I am surprised how many parents, who told me their child was into drugs also told me that their children had their own phone -- paid for by the parents! Why make it easy for them to arrange drug deals? Yes, I understand that phones do not lead to drug use, but if you know a child is into drugs, these same tools can facilitate the purchase of drugs. Accomplish two things at once. Punish the child by removing a privilege and have the lost privilege cause the child extra difficulty in violating your rules.

In the extreme, a child can lose access to all luxury. If you find drugs hidden in your child's room, then make it difficult to hide drugs in the room. Remove every luxury from the room, and I do mean everything that is not an absolute necessity. Remove all the furniture, except a mattress. Remove all the posters, pictures, trophies, games, and collectibles. Reduce the clothing down to the minimum needed to get by, such as two sets of everyday clothing and one better outfit for Sunday. Sell or give away all the items. Make it clear to the child that these privileges may be earned back by extended good behavior. This probably sounds extreme, but some offenses require extreme action to show the significance of sinful behavior.

Withdrawal: Some sins can be effectively punished by removing access to the encouragement of the family. Just as an unrepentant sinner can be made to see the repugnancy of sin by the withdrawal of the congregation, the same lesson can be used on a smaller scale within the family. Parents commonly used this method with their younger children without thinking about what is being accomplished. We often send our children to their rooms for periods of time when they misbehave. The isolation gives them time to cool down and think about what they have done. They soon realize the separation from the rest of the family is boring. Too many games require someone to play with. This form of discipline is effective for children who are fighting or throwing tantrums.

When an older teenager constantly rebels, refusing to obey the rules of the home, it may be necessary to remove him from the home. Just as a sin left in a congregation can spread rapidly to all the members, a rebellious child's behavior can influence younger children to sin in their own ways as they grow up. Pack the rebellious child's bags and put them on the porch. Few things make a bigger impact than to come home and find you are no longer welcomed. Offer to help him find a place to rent. You may even offer to pay the first few months rent, so he can find a job to support himself. Make sure that he understands he is welcomed to return if he will repent of his sins and is willing to live by your rules. Just because the child is out of your home, it does not relieve you of your responsibilities to try to bring him out of his sins. His removal from your home is to make him understand your disapproval and your seriousness in not tolerating wrongdoing. It also is important to keep his sin from spreading to your other children. They will learn that sin has a serious consequence when they observe your actions.

Punishing a child is usually difficult for a parent. We want the best for our children and it is difficult to inflict discomfort and pain on our little ones. It becomes even more difficult when a child forces us to use extreme measures. Not only does it distresses us to see our child in trouble, but the fact we have to take these steps makes us realize that we haven't done our part as parents. We have failed our child, ourselves, and our Lord. However, as with any sin, feeling sorry for ourselves is not going to correct the situation. Every sin has a consequence and if we haven't lived up to the Lord's rules for raising godly children, then we need to accept the consequences and do the best we can to fix the problem we have caused. Even parents have to learn to accept responsibility for their own mistakes.

Why Do You Act Like That?

When four-year-old Johnny went to the grocery store with his mommy, Johnny snitched a piece of candy from the bottom shelf and promptly ate it. His mother saw him do it and she took the candy wrapper and hid it behind some cans of beans.When Johnny was six, he was in the front seat of the car when his daddy was pulled over by a policeman. When his dad gave the officer his driver's license, he also slipped the policeman a twenty-dollar bill. When the cop would not take the money, Johnny's dad cussed him out.

When eight-year-old Johnny went to a family reunion picnic, he roasted marshmallows with the other kids while the grown-ups told funny stories about how they had cheated on their taxes over the years.

When Johnny was ten-years-old, he went hunting with his grandpa. They helped each other get through the barbed wire fence and grandpa tore down the "no trespassing" sign and hid it under some fallen branches.

When twelve-year-old Johnny spent the weekend with his aunt and uncle, Johnny fell and broke his glasses. His aunt called the insurance company and told them that Johnny's glasses had been stolen from their care, and she collected $115.

When Johnny was thirteen, he made first-string on the Junior High football team. Johnny played right guard, and the coach taught Johnny how to block. He also taught Johnny how to grab the opponent by the shirt in a way that the officials could not see.

When Johnny turned fifteen, he got his first summer job, working at a produce stand on a busy road. The manager taught Johnny how to put the overripe tomatoes at the bottom of the carton and how to set the scale so that it added a couple of ounces to every purchase.

When sixteen-year-old Johnny was sent to the store to pick up some things, his dad told him to pick up some beer while he was out. To make that easier, Johnny's dad fixed him up with some phony ID, just in case.

When Johnny was seventeen and a senior, he found chemistry class to be very difficult and he was failing. His class president, however, sold Johnny the answers to the chemistry test.

It was near midnight when the phone rang at the home of Johnny's mom and dad. His mom answered the call.

"Ma'am," a husky voice said, "we have your son here at the county jail."

After about ninety days of legalities and lawyer's fees, Johnny was on probation for grand theft and was attending weekly meetings of Narcotics Anonymous.

"How could you do this to your mom and me?" his father shouted. And his mom chimed in with "Where did you learn to act like that?" His aunt said, "If there is one thing I can't stand, it's a kid that lies." "John," said his grandpa, "we must all obey the law."

Terrence D. McLean


Bipolar or Spoiled?

The symptoms, which are regarded as evidence of bipolar disorder, usually are what most people recognize as ordinary belligerence. Children who have anger outbursts, who refuse to go to bed, who are moody and self-centered under the current standard of care in child psychiatry are being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. To most rational human beings, these behaviors describe an ill-mannered, immature and poorly disciplined child. Nonetheless, the temper tantrums of belligerent children are increasingly being characterized by doctors as the mood swings of bipolar disorder.

Instead of grooming, feeding and educating the next generation of Americans to be the fittest, brightest, most competent contributors on the planet, we have indulged, placated and spoiled our children into dysfunctional misfits. We are teaching our children to use a psychiatric diagnosis to excuse their antisocial behaviors. This will inevitably lead to a greater reliance on psychiatric medications, which unfortunately do not endow an individual with improved self-control or maturity.

Dr. Elizabeth J. Roberts, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist


Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

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