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.


Child Centeredness: The Silent Killer

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 29, 2014

Nothing wreaks more havoc on society in general and the family unit in particular than little Johnny as god. The only justice in the sordid affair is that it will eventually kill Johnny as well, but rarely until Johnny has left his unique brand of scorched earth on his sphere of existence. In many instances, it is a silent killer of marriages because both spouses are equally invested in the worship. They wrongly interpret their misguided priorities as a good marriage. Johnny is the only tie that binds. Even in the bedroom, does the good sex flow from an intimate friendship, or because Johnny won the spelling bee?

Things happen for a reason, and people do what they do for a reason; always. Whenever you hear of a couple getting divorced after say, 35 years of marriage, it will almost always be in conjunction with empty nest syndrome. Both spouses will end up knowing little about each other, but will be experts on Johnny’s every want and need. Is your dinner with the Johnsons awkwardly silent? Start a conversation about little Johnny and the dinner will soon take on the excitement of a drunken orgy.

One of the most errant ideologies known to man is the idea that children “complete a marriage.” In contrast, it is the marriage that is to be “one flesh” between two people, not three, four, five, and for damn certain, not 19! Dominion theology doesn’t make a biblical marriage—that is completely messed up. Little Johnny is to “leave and cleave” when the time comes, and unfortunately, many marriages are a Three’s Company sitcom between newlyweds and mommy.

So, child centeredness is a major cause of dysfunction within the family, and will spread throughout the family tree like gangrene, and also affect society at large. Two parents who have made a child the center of their life send a clear message to that child that he/she is also the center of the world. They have grown up in a sphere where they are the center of all priorities, and when they go out into the world, they will assume the same. We have all worked and gone to church with such. And nothing pictures a doomed marriage destined for divorce or mere coexistence more than four or five miniature narcissists sitting between a husband and wife on a church pew.

Strong marriages make a strong family and strong contributors to society at large. This is a short food for thought post, but let me close with some basics. You should NEVER know your child better than you know your spouse. NEVER invest more in your children than your spouse. If you do, as you grow further apart from your spouse, the children themselves will fill the void and a downward spiral of marriage-death will occur.

You should NEVER model anything in the home that represents a flawed view of how society works. Child-centered parents will often display a propensity for not holding their children accountable. I can also tell you this if I know nothing else: the primary cause of teenage rebellion is the realization by the teen that they are able to drive a wedge of disagreement between parents. The teenager recognizes that he/she can obtain a perceived want by pitting one parent against the other. This in and of itself often leads to divorce, and then the child actually uses the parental guilt in regard to the divorce to further the same agenda. I have seen this at work firsthand.

Children must see an ironclad marriage that is the primary priority. I understand that this is a vast body of applicable wisdom, but are there some simple principles that can help us stay in a mindset that will continually cultivate a marriage-first environment? Yes.

One time, I was invited to a Southern Baptist pot luck dinner. When it came time to get in line for the buffet, the front of the line was populated with the children, followed by the dutiful parents, and the back of the line was populated with seniors, many donning walkers and canes. Need I say more? Are we so saturated with a child-centered culture that I would have to expound on this picture further? I hope not. I will only say this: the clueless seniors in the rear, smiling, were the parents of the clueless parents behind the homegrown narcissists in the front of the line.

All in all, marriages don’t have a life of their own, you must feed them. Family relationships must be in proper perspective in order to have a healthy family.