What do we do when our perfectly good children behave consistently badly?
There are so many identified conditions now that effect children … autism, Asperger’s, ADD or ADHD, OCD, ODD, specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, … shortcomings that effect their social awareness and / or interaction as well as their educational growth. Does your child still throw tantrums at age 8? Can she not sit still? Does he seem fearful or dismissive of peers? Is she finding learning or socializing particularly difficult and getting overly frustrated with herself? Why does your perfectly good child behave badly?
When children misbehave as toddlers or young children, we see it as typical, at least to a degree. Tantrums are meant to gradually wane into cooperative behaviour, so long as parents are vigilant in their training. But what about family situations where a child’s heart or a teen’s desire is clearly to comply, but her behaviour doesn’t follow your direction? We can teach or discipline a child into an attitude of – and behaviour of – responsibility, but only to the degree they have the desire or skill to follow. What if a child seems to have the will to behave appropriately, but not the way, despite all your efforts to show her?
When they have the desire then we’re all in a very good place. But what about those children who want to cooperate but seem to unable to ‘get the message’?
When a child has a mild handicap – a lack of ability to cope socially, academically or emotionally in certain ways – then we need to maintain our expectations so they can grow into responsible adults, but modify our practices so they can discover and learn what most children absorb naturally. I’ve been discovering this myself within my own family.
We can, as people of God, have our children tested and labeled for disability. However, we can also research their symptoms ourselves and pray for God’s healing and transformation.
I write to encourage all parents: children may or may not have a condition such as the above, but they will have shortcomings. How do we cope when a child is consistently ‘difficult’?
If you suspect something may be lacking in your child’s equipment to socialize, moralize, learn or emote in a way that is constructive, teach him how do to it. Research to uncover any descriptions or symptoms that match your child’s behaviour. Be patient. Share your frustration but keep your anger, and lavish love on him. Prayer (and fasting) are tools the LORD provides for breakthrough.
The most important aspect to raising children is to integrate their faith-life with their secular. For example, Jesus is the healer, and as Paul says, our bodies are a living sacrifice and our minds need to be renewed by faith (Romans 12:1-2). This truth is for any person, including a child. As you learn about your child’s learning difficulty or shortcoming, apply God’s Word to your methodology to help him. Teach him that as a child of God, he is chosen by God, and victorious in all things (Phil 4:13). Pray about his identity in Christ and then sow that identity into him. For example, I believe my son is called to be a peace-maker. So, I will share with him what God says about peace-making, and that it needs to be a part of his behaviour to sow peace. In this I am encouraging him to rise to his identity and purpose in Christ, even at an early age. How I put it to him will depend on his age, of course, but I will use it as a means to motivate him beyond his fears or frustrations.
As you unveil a disability in your child – if you unveil a disability in your child – the discovery will, inevitably, uncover wounds that have developed because she has been misunderstood up until now, or because too high a level of expectation was placed upon her, given the shortcoming.
I believe in healing for the family as a whole, both of the disability and the trauma that comes with unmet expectations. I recognize that healing may not be the course for all children with a disability. God has reasons for allowing ‘thorns in our sides’ (2 Cor 12:7-10) too. But I believe, in this age of Google, where there is a library of information in your home, we can study and identify the issue, learn and work with our children through the difficulty. With the quality and quantity of responsibility placed by God on our children, we can – and must – raise them to their calling, nurturing them in the process.
Ready: Discover God’s call for your children.
Set: Raise them to that call. Don’t allow a disability to rule, but use it as a tool to teach your child blessing, humility, grace, courage, and perseverance.
Go: Be realistic, be faithful, be steadfast, be optimistic, be patient, be loving.