The “Strong-Willed” Child

So many Christians view “strong-willed” children in a very negative light.  There’s a book by James Dobson entitled The Strong-Willed Child that I can’t stand. Dobson’s way of punishing these children include multiple spankings/hittings and other harsh punishments in order to break their wills. Equating love with pain has been proven to be damaging to children.

I’m well aware that Dobson claims all research proving spanking is “harmful” to children is somehow “biased.” As someone who has conducted my own scholarly research, I can assure you that strict guidelines are upheld. There are many more studies showing the harmful effects of spanking than the few small studies claiming “loving” spanking isn’t harmful. It makes me feel physically ill that many Christians use this horrible book on their children.

Yet, in the Bible, we see that God uses many strong-willed people to do His Will!

The most strong-willed person in the Bible that God used to do so much good for the kingdom of God, I believe, is the Apostle Paul.

We see in Acts 9:1-2, and even in the previous chapter, that we meet Paul first as Saul, a devout Hellenistic Jew and a Pharisee that enjoyed persecuting Christians. He approved of the stoning of Stephen in Acts 8:1. Needless to say, this Saul guy was one bad dude. And yet, God had a radical plan for Saul. In Acts 9, we see that as Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute even more Christians, Jesus got Saul’s attention in a big but non-painful way. Saul went blind. Jesus asked Saul why he was persecuting Him in Acts 9:4. Jesus told Saul to meet a man in Damascus who would tell him what to do. Saul, blind, obeyed God and look what happened:

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ’Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again'” (Acts 9:17-19, NIV).

From this moment on, Saul, who became Paul, lived his life for God, fearlessly proclaiming the gospel to all surrounding nations despite numerous beatings, imprisonments, and shipwrecks. Through the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote between thirteen and fourteen books of the New Testament—this is over half of the New Testament.

And anyone who is very familiar with the New Testament knows that Paul tells it like it is. He didn’t sugarcoat anything that God inspired him to write. He encouraged his fellow believers, but also rebuked and corrected them in his letters. Through Paul, God gained many believers into His kingdom.

God did not break Paul’s will. God molded Paul’s will into doing good instead of persecuting Christians. Had God broken Paul’s will, do you believe Paul would have clung to God through all the suffering he went through to share salvation through Jesus Christ?

Broken, compliant people are usually not strong people in that they find it very difficult to press against the tide. Strong-willed people have an easier time of questioning authority. They also have an easier time of pressing on when persecution occurs.

“We are struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12, NASB).

What I wish Christians would stop doing is viewing children as “strong-willed” and “manipulative.” And view them as intelligent, high spirited children who need much connection and guidance.

We should involve them in decisions about how the family needs to get things done.  We also need to provide them with appropriate alternatives for limits. For example, “You may not go upstairs right now but you can help with making dinner.” Or “Yes, you may go upstairs after I finish vacuuming.  I need you to pick up that toy.”

Having high spirited children can be very challenging.  But they can be disciplined without punishment. These children need to be heard. They need some control over their environment. They need lots of connection with us. They also need to have a great deal of consistency. By taking the time to truly work with high spirited children, we can channel that strong will into doing good and, ultimately, God’s Will.

I highly recommend the book, Raising Your Spirited Child.

image
Original image source: http://gardenofpraise.com/bibl34s.htm

They Have Souls. They Are Innocent!

Psalm 139:13-18 (NASB):
“For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.”

I love this Scipture for two reasons.

  1. God created us in our mothers’ wombs. Therefore, a baby has a soul from the moment he/she is conceived.  Even John The Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth while pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:41). Therefore, it is important we recognize that babies are babies in the womb and help the pro-life movement by giving to pregnancy crisis centers. Picketing at abortion clinics does not help.
  2. The other reason I love this Scripture is that it says nothing about sinfulness.  Yes, the parents are sinful, but God creates babies. Babies are incapable of sinning.  Therefore, we need to respect them and treat them in a way that reflects God’s love to them.

Here’s another beautiful Scripture showing us how God feels about babies and young children:

“O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease” (Psalm 8:1-3, NASB).

If young children are so “sinful,” why would God have established His strength in them?  He is in our babies.  Shouldn’t we view young children the way God views them?

They have souls and they are innocent!

image

Why We Need To Change Our Perceptions

We all have different ways of perceiving people and life events. Some of our perceptions are accurate and factual. Others are based on preconceived notions and experiences. Some perceptions are good. Some are quite negative and downright harmful.

For example, a while back I watched a show where they researched how different people perceived certain groups of people.  I don’t remember all four groups that the majority of people put others into based on how they perceive them.  But, one group stood out to me as it hit close to home.

That group was called, “not dangerous, incompetent.”

Guess who was put into this group.

The disabled and the elderly.  Had children been a part of this research, I’m sure children also would have been placed into the group as well since the majority tends to perceived children as incompetent.

What is sad is I am severely physically disabled due to my cerebral palsy, and yet, I have a Master’s Degree.  Every day I must deal with people that perceive me as incompetent.  This is why I’m working on getting my first children’s book published to change the negative and inaccurate perceptions of having a disability.

The elderly are very competent!  They have years of wisdom even if their bodies won’t allow them to physically accomplish that which they once could.

And finally, children are extremely competent!  They are capable of so much more than we give them credit.  Yet, we never appreciate their abilities, but punish them for not being adults.

Thankfully, Jesus never liked how society perceived and viewed children.  He gives us a high command when it comes to children.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
I believe that our society as a whole despises children. Children are the least respected people of our society.

They are murdered before they are born.

They are left to cry alone.

They are spanked/hit and publicly shamed.

People argue about their “right” to treat them however they want.

They are called horrible names.

The saddest thing about this is it’s Christians promoting much of this. Yet, Jesus is the One who elevated children’s societal status.

The way we view children is how they will behave. And when Christians perceive and view children as “sinners” and “manipulative,” they react and punish what they perceive as “defiance” when the child simply is trying to communicate with us.  That’s why Dobson’s (and others like him) view is so dangerous.   Not only does he call children horrible, degrading names in his books, but he sets up an adversarial parent-child relationship.

Interestingly, God calls children blessings in Psalm 127:3. I view children as little people in need of help, guidance, and discipline (teaching). When the focus is on cooperation instead of control, children cooperate. I’ve worked with some pretty difficult children and was able to get them to cooperate through positive discipline strategies such as modeling, child-proofing, validating feelings, fulfilling the child’s physical and emotional needs, setting realistic limits and boundaries, helping children comply, giving choices, and using natural and logical consequences with children. Children do better when we perceive and view them as God does.

We need to change our perceptions of all people–young and old, disabled, or any other differences.  We need to do our best to base our perception on fact.  Smaller humans are competent!

image