The Difficult Child – Part 2

This month we continue a discussion that was generated from the below e-mail that I received.

“I just stopped school to come in here to write you. I don’t know what to do, and I am at this awful place with one of my children that a mom definitely doesn’t want to be. I have five boys ranging in age from nine months to nine years. Four of my children are sweet, obedient, in love with the Lord, wanting to sing praises to Him, and wanting to please my husband and me. Then there is my six year old. He is the most difficult child, and I don’t know what to do with him. I have had him memorize Scriptures on obedience. He has more Scriptures memorized than I do—he is really smart. But he is a huge handful. He has no control over his emotions and will strike out at anyone who crosses him.

“Recently he has started back talking me. I’ll tell him to do something, and that is followed by whines and reasons why he doesn’t want to obey. My other kids would NEVER do this. At first I was shocked and talked to him about his attitude and his need to obey me. Then I tried consequences and talked more. He isn’t responding. I love him so much and don’t want to be around him—all at the same time. Am I a terrible mom?”
In Christ,
A struggling mom

Last month I shared about one of our children who was a difficult child, but who has outgrown the problems that were such a struggle for him and for us through his younger years. There was more to cover concerning how we dealt with this son than there was room for in just one Mom’s Corner so this month is a continuation. Here is the link to the previous Mom’s Corner in case you didn’t read the first article.

It was important for us to have set consequences for wrong behavior and then to use those consequences consistently. “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Proverbs 29:17). This was hard for me because John was so frequently doing or saying something that would earn him a consequence. What I tended to want to do was to ignore some of his behavior so that he wouldn’t have another consequence. However, consistency was our ally, and we needed to maintain it. We can’t imagine what John would be like had we given up with him.

In our homeschooling, we needed to be very patient with John, but still hold to the family homeschool standard. Even though John struggled greatly with staying focused on his schoolwork and completing it, he accomplished what the rest of his siblings did. On our part, we continually worked with John to teach him to stay in his place where he was doing his work, to keep him on track with the work he was to do rather than having his mind elsewhere, and to motivate him to complete the schoolwork.

Our attitudes were key in this process. If we were frustrated or impatient with John, he responded with his own level of frustration. The more we were pleasant, gentle, and encouraging, the more we diffused his negative attitudes. In addition, we had consequences for schoolwork that wasn’t done. If schoolwork was not finished during the school day, the child had to stay in to do it after school ended. If it wasn’t finished by Saturday, then Saturday became a school day as well. John stayed in many afternoons doing schoolwork he hadn’t done during the allotted time on the school schedule. However, he only had to spend one Saturday doing school. The afternoons he worked late on school, he was generally more motivated the next day to be diligent and complete his work on time. Here is a link to a Mom’s Corner I wrote on homeschooling a dawdler.

John needed a great deal of love and affirmation. That really isn’t surprising considering how often he did something that wasn’t right and needed to be corrected. We made quite an effort with this child, and then with all the children, to smile at them much more frequently, to hug them, give pats, ruffle the hair, sit close to one for Bible time, and simply to give as much affection as we could.

We discovered that John blossomed when made to feel very special. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). Steve made an effort to have one-on-one time with John too. He encouraged him to come and talk frequently. We worked at fostering those close relationships.

Over and over, we modeled for our difficult child how he could have responded in the situation, how he could have spoken kindly to a sibling rather than cuttingly, and how he could have done what he was supposed to do. This son needed extra help to teach him the right responses because they didn’t come naturally to him.

We spoke truth to this child. He would allow his mind to twist his thoughts—even Scripture at times—so that he wasn’t thinking truth. We would lovingly, gently, often with an arm around him, speak the truth to him. We regularly encouraged him on the importance of repentance in his heart over his sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We let him know that sin is something we all deal with, but until he repented, he wouldn’t have victory over his sin. John seemed to always have an excuse for his bad behavior. When spiritual growth occurred in his life and he was repenting of his sin, we saw great improvement.

Sleep was a critical issue for John. He was the most dependent of all our children on getting a certain amount of sleep. Without that amount of sleep, he became almost impossible to live with. The other children would show some signs when they hadn’t gotten a normal’s night’s sleep, but nothing like John. When he was tired, we worked at being understanding; however, he was still responsible for his behavior. We then made an effort to get him caught back up on his sleep.

My prayer is that what we learned with our John will be a practical help and an encouragement to Struggling Mom. I hope that she won’t feel like a terrible mom, but that she will become even more committed to loving her son and helping him through the problems that he presents to the family and that she will have renewed courage and motivation with her son. We are so grateful for the guidance the Lord Jesus gave us through our years of parenting John as we continually cried out to Him, and we desire to see other families look to Him for their strength and wisdom as well.

What Great Reward?

New beginnings are upon us with the upcoming advent of another year. We like to begin fresh, leaving behind what wasn’t so grand. If only the new year was like being born again. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Then the slate would be totally wiped clean just like our sins were washed away when we are born again, but alas our past year remains with us.

What if the God of creation came to us and said we could ask for anything? What would we ask for—the past erased, new job, riches, power, fame? Solomon asked for wisdom, but what would we ask for? Our request reflects our heart focus. In Genesis 15:1-3, God spoke to Abram in a vision and told him that He was Abram’s protector and reward. “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.” Abraham’s response indicated that rewards mattered little without children. Abraham was looking for a real heritage. “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalms 127:3).

Abraham could have asked for great riches, but instead he wanted a heritage. His focus was on those who would follow after him—his children. Yet, Sarai was barren, and so the one who would inherit his possessions would have been Eliezer, his servant. To Abraham, godly seed was the earthly desire of his heart. I wonder how many today would choose children over riches.

Now let’s compare Abraham to another man from Scripture. As godly as Hezekiah was, he wasn’t too concerned about a righteous heritage but rather the things of this life. Soon after Hezekiah had been sick unto death, the king of Babylon sent emissaries and a present to Hezekiah which appeared to be a “get well” token. The Lord healed Hezekiah prior to their arrival. Hezekiah, honored with the visit, took them on a tour of the palace and his treasuries. In his pride, he wanted to impress them with his wealth and possibly win favor with the pagan, Babylonian king.

Hezekiah had just been healed from a fatal illness by the Lord, and all he cared to do was impress these men with his wealth. In reality, everything he had was from the Lord, but there is no record of him proclaiming the goodness of God or His mercy in healing him. There is no record of taking them to the temple of his mighty God Who healed him and the One Who was responsible for all that Hezekiah had. Hezekiah was proud, and his focus was on material things.

We are given a confirming view into Hezekiah’s heart by the dialog that took place between him and Isaiah. Isaiah came to Hezekiah after the emissaries left to return to Babylon and asked him what they had seen. Hezekiah answered, “All the things that are in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them” (2 Kings 20:15b). Hezekiah revealed the treasures of his heart. He showed them what he was most proud of and delighted in.

As a rebuke to his pride, Isaiah pronounced the Lord’s chastening on Hezekiah. “Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (2 Kings 20:17-18). What a consequence! God is saying that all the treasure Hezekiah delighted in would be taken, and his sons would be carried away to Babylon as slaves.

We can assume Hezekiah’s reaction to this bad news would be similar to a father who loves his children. In grief, he would cry out for mercy from the Lord. He would beg the Lord through repentant tears to reconsider. It had already worked once when Hezekiah had wept before God for healing from his illness, so why not cry out in repentance again?

The fact was, Hezekiah was satisfied with the judgment. Hezekiah had repented earlier when God’s consequence had meant his personal suffering and death, but since these consequences would come after he died to his children, he was accepting of it. Even more than that, his response was, “Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19). His proud focus was on himself, and he had no concern for his children as evidenced by the extreme wickedness of his son Manasseh.

Where are our hearts? What do we delight in? What consumes our attention and our time? Abraham was such a wonderful example to us of a godly father. As much as he loved Isaac and wanted descendants, he was determined to put God first, obeying Him, even if it meant sacrificing Isaac to his Lord. The love of Abraham’s life was Isaac and having descendants; earthly treasure was less important.

Abraham’s greatest treasure was his God, and next were his descendants. He had a heavenly focus. He wasn’t like Hezekiah, who is noted as a good king, but was concerned with his own pleasure, circumstances, and wealth. Abraham knew this earthly journey was a short one compared to eternity, and he was looking toward a heavenly wealth. Next, to our relationship with the Lord, those we touch for Jesus are the only things we take with us to heaven. If we will surrender our lives to the Lord as the One Who is our reward, He will use our lives in ways we can’t even fathom.

One way to avoid regrets this year is to trust God with our new year. He won’t make mistakes with our lives. “. . . no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalms 84:11). God told Abraham that He was Abraham’s shield and reward. Amen. Is He our shield and reward as well?

Posted in: Dad's Corner