A friend wrote with this dilemma and question.
“You said spanking should be reserved for two times: when a child intentionally hurts another and when they’re in rebellion.
I’ve never seen my 2.5 year old rebel. I’m wondering if I don’t know what I’m looking for?
When asked to do something Jared often tells us “no”. But we think he’s just expressing that he doesn’t want to do it – rather than refusing to do it. For example, I tell him to clean his room. He says, “No” but starts cleaning almost as soon as he says it.
Am I missing something?
I know Jared. He has a wonderfully sweet temperament and I agree he’s probably just expressing his sadness at having to stop playing and clean up.
But let me add, we can’t be shocked when even the most compliant child tests to see if we’re big enough to make them obey. Rebellion is as much a part of human nature as breathing. We inherited it from our father – Adam. And it’s not all bad.
In many ways, testing the authority is a way a child probes to determine if he’s safe. “Is this person – my parent, teacher, whoever – strong enough to make me do what they say?” Inherently they know that if you aren’t strong enough to do that, you’re weaker than them and they have absolutely know one around them strong enough to protect them.
As far as recognizing rebellion, it can be tricky because there are two types of rebellion – defiant and compliant. The defiant rebel challenges you head on – “What gave you the silly idea that you can tell me what to do?” The compliant rebel camouflages his rebellion with sweet intentions and excuses. (I explain more about how to deal with both types in Chapter 2 of Spare the Rod.)
So what do you do if you’re not sure if it’s rebellion or not?
Always give the child the benefit of the doubt.
Assume it’s not rebellion because if it is you’ll get a chance to deal with it later. If the rebel gets away with something he’ll do it again and be more brazen about it. Once it is clearly a “my will vs your will” conflict you can go after it.
I’m not saying rebellion is no big deal. I’m not saying wait until rebellion is bad enough that you are forced to confront it. It might be too late at that point.
What I’m saying is, “When in doubt, give your child the benefit of the doubt. When there’s no doubt make sure you leave no doubt as to who’s in charge.”
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
1 Samuel 15:23