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Nasty Attitudes - Issue 212
August 05, 2011
Hi there! ....

This week: We are actually unsure of the right word to use here… it was a weird, interesting, and/or funny thing that happened this week. A 3foot goanna (lizard) walked into our house – he just strolled in and had a good look around. He wasn’t stressed or in a hurry. He walked over to a bookcase, walked over a couch, rested on another couch, climbed over my pots and pans which sit on an open shelf in the kitchen and meandered back outdoors. Only Josh was home but he took a few photos.

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If you are an Australian reader I would appreciate you reading this special request.

Nasty Attitudes

Nasty attitudes – they are a part of every parent’s life and yet we aren’t always comfortable dealing with them. Let’s take a look at this parenting topic.

Nasty attitudes may look like a child who:

  • Argues
  • Gets angry
  • Won’t accept ‘no’
  • Won’t obey the family rules
  • Won’t do what you ask
  • Does whatever he wants regardless
  • Uses insults or name calling
  • Makes you feel guilty
  • Won’t take responsibility for his actions – blames others
  • Is manipulative, deceitful, spiteful, resentful, aggressive
  • Is moody and takes offense quickly
  • Takes verbal freedoms – grunts, moans, grumbles etc

I wonder how you feel, as a parent when your child exhibits these behaviours?

  • Frustrated that nothing is changing
  • Annoyed at the delay that these issues cause
  • Embarrassed
  • A sense of failure

If we aren’t careful we ourselves become stubborn, angry, manipulative, moody, resentful and aggressive towards our children (the very thing we are working on with them!) This is the first issue I want us to address – Our response to our children when they have these nasty attitudes.

First – We must not take it personally – it is their issue, not ours and yet we make it our issue if we get emotionally involved and begin to do the wrong thing ourselves.

Secondly we need to remember to respond, not react. Once again it is about controlling our emotions and responding for the good of the child, not reacting out of our own emotions and inconvenience.

A phrase that we constantly tell our children is:

Do the right thing regardless of the circumstances

How very applicable to us as parents when our children are challenging us.

Another phrase I use is:

Just because they do the wrong thing,
doesn’t make it right for you to do the wrong thing!
Two wrongs do not make it right.

Once again so pertinent to us as parents. Just because they are angry at us does not mean we can yell at them. Just because they are being stubborn does not mean we can be manipulative towards them. We must do the right thing ourselves regardless of their reactions.

When we keep our emotions in check, we are able to respond out of love and care for our children; for the state of their heart, and for the choices that they are making. It suddenly becomes all about them, not about me. How easy it is to be offended that they chose to be disobedient – instead we should be grieved that they are not making better choices and the affects that this will have on their life.

Once we’ve dealt with our own attitudes we are free then to help our children deal with theirs.

Attitudes and the behaviour that comes because of their attitude is really an issue of the heart. What is in the heart will be expressed somehow. So it helps us to pause, remember, we are not going to react so we can pause and consider what is going on in their little life. Here are some things we may find:

  • Rebellion - Refusal to accept authority in their life. They think they are the boss, they are self-sufficient, they lack humility (the recognition that they need others in their life)
  • Frustration – do they think they deserve more freedoms? Maybe they do! Honestly answer that question because they may be ready for more responsibility and they are trying to tell you (they are choosing an inappropriate way to communicate, but their message may hold some truth – or it may not!) Children who want more responsibility than they are morally ready for are wise in their own eyes.
  • Selfishness – they may think that the world revolves around them, and what they want or what they deserve. This is a lack of consideration for the other people in their lives.
  • Lack of self-control – especially with their emotions. They need to learn to communicate their disappointment, hurt, anxiety, and so forth in an appropriate manner
  • Unteachable heart – the Bible tells us that the wise will listen to correction and advice but the fool doesn’t accept it at all. We may see this as stubbornness – it is also a lack of humility – or we could say pride. A know-it-all.

What next:
There is no point in talking to, or trying to teach or interact with a child who is stubbornly disrespecting you. Instead we need to give our children time to consider their heart, their choices and the consequences of their choices. It is only after their heart is soft towards you and your authority that you can have input into their life.

I introduced this idea to my children with the story of Jonah from the Bible. God gave Jonah a particular task to do and Jonah didn’t want to do it. So he tried to run away from God. He caught a boat heading in the opposite direction than he was supposed to go. But you can’t run away from God. God sent a big storm and suddenly Jonah knew in his heart that God was on his case! He even offered to be thrown overboard thinking that the storm would go away and no one else would be killed. So overboard he went. But God wasn’t finished with Jonah yet so he sent a big fish, some say a whale, which swallowed Jonah. While in the belly of the whale Jonah had a change of heart and he repented (that means he changed his mind). This is my model for my children. When they make the wrong choice they get time by themselves to consider their choices, to consider which relationships they have damaged and be prepared to get things right. Once Jonah said sorry to God the whale spewed him out and Jonah went on his way, to complete the task God asked of Him. This is what I expect of my children too - to get back to task but now with a good and right attitude.

The benefit of this process is that our children start to be responsible for their own heart, their own choices and their own actions. This is what will make a morally responsible adult. But our children will only be able to process to the degree that we have previously taught them. Have we addressed the issues of respecting authority, privileges and responsibility, selfishness and other centeredness, self-control, humility etc. If we have, then once they are ready to talk to you, you will be able to direct their thinking to those values and how they could have made a better choice.

There will be times though when your child exhibits some issue and you know you haven’t taught him or trained him in those things. That is what makes parenting such an exciting venture!! There is always something to teach our children. When that situation arises it is the time for some intentional training.

When I did some research for this topic I was interested to see that most articles address rebellion in the teenager – and yet I believe that there is rebellion, stubbornness, pride, etc. in every child and we begin to see this at an early age. We can avoid it and/or sit it out – thinking it is just a stage they will go through – or we can address it. The earlier we address it, and help our children to deal with their own heart issues, then the smoother I believe the teenage years will be. Not because we sweep it out of their life but rather because we give them the strategies they need to be able to deal with their heart, and therefore, their attitudes and their actions.

Our job as a parent is to help our children understand what is right and how to make choices that are in keeping with these values. We need to see their nasty attitudes for what they are, we need to not be manipulated or intimidated by them, but rather with a clear heart ourselves address the heart issues our children struggle with. It won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t be quick, but with consistency and a gentle heart we will be able to help our children.

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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