Paul's Passing Thoughts

Children as Master Manipulators

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 29, 2015

Whether lost or saved, people in general want to know how to do life. Protestantism has forfeited this angle as a way to recommend God because the Reformation was all about interpreting reality through redemption with very little emphasis on wise living. From a commonsense perspective, lost people assume God knows what makes people tick. So, if Christians don’t know how to do life any better than non-Christians, the latter will be little moved by the gospel.

The Reformed actually address this issue straight away. It goes something like this: being a testimony to the world is futile because on our best day we have shortcomings that the world will see. Therefore, the gospel should be about God and not us—we should point to God and not our own testimonies. Well, trust me, the world ain’t buyin’ it.

One of the things that excites me abundantly about the growing exodus away from the wicked false gospel of justification by faith is the rediscovery of kingdom living. That’s the other good news about life more abundantly in the here and now as we move on from the foot of the cross and the gospel of first order. It’s about having a life built upon a rock through the application of God’s wisdom and glorifying Him accordingly. The world understands that we are not perfect; what they take note of is overall quality of life and life patterns.

People will, and do judge us by our children’s behavior. If you are unable to control your 3-year-old, you are a poor representative of the gospel. Christians should be smarter than a 3-year-old.

The fact that young children are utterly self-centered is not altogether a sin issue. They are in total discovery mode. They have been recently introduced to the world with limited intellectual resources. Their perspective is strictly outward. They have NO conscience and NO concept of right or wrong.

More than likely, what they learn about right and wrong as they grow intellectually will inform their consciences which in turn will accuse or excuse their behavior with bad feelings or good feelings. However, for many different reasons and varying circumstances, children will attempt to manipulate others; an art they possess that is normally underestimated in apocalyptic proportions.

This is one of many categories critical to parenting: knowing WHY children do what they do. Once you know why they do it, you can then communicate that knowledge and instruct them in a better way.

In my own living of life, an excellent example was shared with me today, and therefore I type. It is an example of a 5-year-old rendering two grown adults utterly disarmed and standing speechless, hurt, and dumbfounded. That would include me also, because when I heard the testimony, I was also without answer. Hence, we have 5-year-olds standing triumphantly over adult overseers, a scene far from being uncommon.

What’s going on? This kid is good; I had to think about it long and hard before the lightbulb went on. Then, once I figured it out, I had to think about a proper response. Let’s first examine the verbal judo that was used on the parents. It went, in essence, something like this: “I don’t love you. I know some adults that are good parents and you are not. I wish I could live with them instead of you; that’s why I don’t love you.”

This is pure genius. Can you really punish a kid for saying he/she doesn’t love you? Can you really spank a kid for having an “honest” opinion? Through observing life, the child knows the answer is probably, “no.” What’s going on, and what should the response be? What I am saying is that much of parenting should be twofold: discerning of motives and teaching. Unfortunately, some sort of punishment usually takes the place of discernment because discernment is harder than doling out retribution. ALL, I repeat, ALL parenting shortcuts will NOT end well.

Your response doesn’t have to be immediate. Once you discern the situation and the proper response, you can revisit the issue, ie., “Remember when you said this the other day…” One may also use that time to get counsel.

What would my counsel be? First, like all judo, the goal is to control the opponent and that is what is going on in this case. If you think the mere fact that the child has said such a thing indicates a failure on your part, the child has already flipped you over and pinned you to the ground. The child has attempted to disqualify the parent as a worthy parent, and therefore, disqualifying the parent’s right to tell said child what to do. The goal is to control the parent by dismantling the parent’s confidence as a parent. Parents who think they are unworthy parents will be crippled accordingly and much easier to control.

You could start by informing the child that you know what he/she is up to as a response, but in this case, the child’s use of words can be used to teach. By the way, what this child has done is indicative of what Susan and I see when we counsel adults.  All of the same manipulation techniques are taken into adulthood and refined. The key is the child’s definition of “love.” This is an opportunity to correct and teach the child what love really is. If the child accepts the counsel, he/she will respond accordingly. Punishment is primarily for a refusal to respond to counsel. The adult’s response might sound like this:

“Love doesn’t do what it does for the purpose of getting something in return. Whether you love me or not, I am going to be the daddy/mommy that you need because I love you. This is why I don’t give you candy or some other reward for obeying—obeying is an act of love that does not obey to get something in return. I try to do everything with you out of love regardless of whether you love me or not. I am not going to stop loving you just because you don’t love me—that’s not love.”

The child must not be allowed to define love in a way that suits an agenda and efforts to control. This is the exact same techniques that adults use. It also has a blackmail angle. If you don’t do what I want you to do, I won’t love you and that will hurt you because I know you love me. Again, this same technique is commonplace in adult marriages. Correcting the child now has a long-term effect in regard to the future. Likewise, as another example, how a child does a chore is indicative as to what kind of adult employee he or she will be.

Primarily, in this case, the child is seeking to control the parent via a self-serving and erroneous definition of love while holding the parent hostage emotionally. The ransom is the child’s love for the parent. The child is also attempting to disqualify the parent as a way of stripping the parent’s authority.

As in most cases, the why must be discerned and the response must be teaching. Punishment is for a refusal to heed wise counsel resulting in blatant rebellion.

paul

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One Response

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  1. Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on July 29, 2015 at 9:49 PM

    Right. The whole total depravity thing. Babies don’t have a developed conscience, are therefore not under law, and therefore have no sin. One of the major questions follows: can a parent have a major role in the development of a child’s conscience? I think the answer is “yes,” and the answer can be found in the Scriptures. Young children are in total discovery mode, but if left to themselves to figure out life, they will come to their own conclusions and goals through observation. And if not taught otherwise, will follow whatever gratifies. Let’s take children who chronically don’t want to eat dinner. We shove food in front of them without any instruction or education about food. We think good eating habits just happen naturally. At any rate, I think my point is that the art of Christian living is mostly untapped territory. Everything has been about salvation for 500 years.

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