Monday, April 27, 2009

Defiant or just irresponsible?

By Dr James Dobson

I want to talk to parents today about the very important distinction between childish irresponsibility and wilful defiance. Let me explain.

Suppose little Chris is acting silly in the living room and falls onto a table, breaking some expensive china cups. Or maybe he loses his books on the way home from school or leaves his bike out in the rain. Now, these are acts of childish irresponsibility, which are inevitable during the early years.

Forgetting things, losing things and spilling things do not represent direct challenges to authority, and they should be handled very gently. But when a child stamps her foot and tells her mom or dad to “shut up”, something very different is going on. She’s moved into the realm of willful defiance.

It occurs when the child knows what the parent wants, but she clenches her little fists, digs in her heels and prepares for a battle. It is a refusal to accept parental leadership. When this kind of nose-to-nose confrontation occurs, a firm response is in order. Why? Because the question being asked is: “Who’s in charge here?”

If a parent equivocates at that moment, a strong-willed child will precipitate other battles designed to ask that same question, again and again. So it is the ultimate paradox of childhood that a youngster wants to be led, but demands that the parent demonstrate the courage to lead.

From TODAY, Voices – Monday, 27-April-2009
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