Training children to disobey

When I found my seat on the plane a two year old was standing on the seat in front of me looking back. We were becoming buddies when the flight attendant passed by and spoke to his mother, the only person traveling with him. “We are preparing to taxi. Ma’am, you need to buckle him in.”

Mom tried to get him seated but he had other plans. Mom begged, pleaded, threatened. But he was not impressed. Minutes passed.

The flight attendant returned and let her know the plane was ready but couldn’t leave until the child was buckled in. I tried to look away and mind my own business as mom helplessly pleaded with her rebel. Then I did something really stupid.

“Ma’am, would you like me to get him to sit down?”

Did I just say that?! What was I doing?!

For the first time I saw the mother’s face. She looked lost – a pitiful victim of this tiny tyrant.

“Would you please.” She whimpered.

Within a few seconds Junior was seated quietly. The plane pushed back and we were off.

I’d love to tell you what I did but, to quote Lois Lerner, “I’ve been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter.”

The saddest part of the story?
Tiny Tyrant was just doing what mom had trained him to do.

By consistently making demands with no consequences for disobedience Mom had trained him to ignore her. She had trained him that her word meant nothing.

He actually was a very compliant child or I wouldn’t have been able to get him to sit so quickly and quietly simply by looking him in the eyes and in a firm voice telling him exactly what he needed to do. Oh, and it probably helped too that with a firm grip on an ear lobe I gently indicated the direction he needed to move his body.

As soon as he knew someone was serious and was going to make him an unhappy camper if he didn’t do what he was told, he compliantly obeyed.

He was not the problem, mom was. And she was already suffering the consequences of failing to love her child enough to confront the rebellion in his heart.

We owe it to our child, to ourselves, to society and to our God to confront rebellion and put out the fire as quickly as possible.

A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.
Proverbs 29:15

Your Turn

What are your thoughts on why this mother may have been afraid or unwilling to confront her child?
Other thoughts, comments?

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  • Reply Sarah Haller April 27, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    I have a follow up question… My lovely 4 year old, Abby, is like many girls in that everything is dramatic and must be blown out of proportion. Her automatic response to anything she perceives as an “injustice” is to screech and cry at the top of her lungs. It doesn’t matter where we are or who is around… She is so engrossed in her flash temper that nothing we say, bribe, threaten or anything seems to quiet her down so that we can deal with the real issue. Not to mention, her creating a scene is embarrassing to us. Have we caused her to be this way? We are at a loss as to what to do about it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Reply Rick Malm April 28, 2015 at 7:02 am

      Hi Sarah:
      I think of a couple of things related to your question.
      1. You have not CAUSED her to be that way. “There is therefore now, no condemnation ..” 🙂
      2. My recent post about kids not “getting it the first time” applies here. They often don’t get it the fifth time, twentieth time, etc. I would think it is important to establish some sort of appropriate consequence for the outbursts. Remembering that we only change when the “pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change”. In other words, we all follow the course of least resistance. When it gets more painful to yell than it is to control myself then I control myself. By “Pain”, I don’t necessarily mean physical.
      For example, perhaps each time there is an outburst she has to sit quietly in a corner for 5 minutes and read or write. I am a firm believer in using Scripture as a tool of discipline when done correctly. After all, All Scripture is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. I might try having her sit and copy the passage about true beauty being of inner quiet spirit.
      Maybe the first time after explaining to her what is going to happen, she could copy it 5 times. When it occurs again, cause it likely will, copy it 7 times, then 10 , etc. And you can likely find other passages – read through Proverbs – that will also be applicable. This way, even if the outbursts don’t stop, she will be getting lots of Word into her heart. 🙂
      One thing I would not do, is try to address the issue of what she is screaming about -the injustice – until long after the fit is over. And probably not until after the consequences are complete to. “When you turn the paper into me then we will talk about the issue.”
      Main thing is – don’t give up. Be consistent, don’t freak out over it. Make sure your primary focus is her, not your level of embarrassment. (Parents sometimes over react in public because they are embarrassed and under react at home because they are just too tired of dealing with it. Keep it level and consistent. Be encouraged, this too shall pass. It may not be until you send her off to college (no, just trying to add some likely unappreciated levity). It will get better and, in the meantime you can fill her heart with the Word. That also lets her know this isn’t just a Mom and Dad thing but it is a God attitude. Hope that helps some.

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