“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?”
A struggling mom
This mom’s problem is typical in many homes regarding at least one of their children. Regularly I read or hear a description of a child like this from someone. Immediately, I think of one of our children. When this child introduces himself at our music session, he says, “Hello, my name is John. I am nineteen, and I play the banjo. I wasn’t what you would call a model child growing up. As a matter of fact, because of how difficult I was, I think my mom was able to write that book, Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit. I expect if I had been put into a public school, they would have labeled me with a learning disability. However, the reality was that I was simply lazy.”
John has now graduated from our homeschool, and the message I want to share with this mom, and others like her, is a message of hope and encouragement. Today John isn’t what he was when he was a little boy. He is a winsome, young man whom every one seems to love. He invested his out-of-school time for two years building our house with his brother and dad— a project he and his brother volunteered to do. He learned to study as a result of his homeschooling years and has been tackling some difficult after-graduation study assignments of his own choosing as he prepares for a vocation in construction and also to obtain his commercial driver’s license.
I have graduated five children from homeschool, but John was the first to say to me, “Mom, for my graduation I want to take you out to eat at the nicest restaurant you can think of to go to.” He then spent the evening telling me of his gratitude for my investment in his homeschooling. John read and approved these articles because his heart is to help other families who might be facing some of the same issues that our family faced with John.
I am delighted that I can share such good news about this son with you. As John was growing up, every year we saw improvement in his attitudes and behavior. At nine, he wasn’t like he was at six. At twelve, he had made great progress from when he was nine. It got better for him day by day. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Perhaps what we did with John and where he is today will be an encouragement to you and give you some ideas for your situation.
John caused Steve and me to pray more. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). There is something about increased need that drives us to a greater frequency and fervency of prayer. We knew that we were dependent on the Lord’s working in this child’s life for his growth and maturity both emotional and spiritual.
Steve and I found that we had to encourage ourselves greatly about our difficult child. We knew the importance of loving and accepting him, but his behavior caused us to sometimes have negative feelings toward him. He could be unkind to his siblings, plus he regularly had bad attitudes toward us. As Steve and I talked about and prayed for John, we would remind each other of what this son needed and what the Lord would have us do. Seeing that we were both struggling helped us realize that our feelings were normal even though they weren’t ones we wanted to allow to fester. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
We discovered we needed to deal with John very quietly and in a matter of fact manner. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Because of the ongoing nature of the problems, it was extremely easy to have an irritated tone in our voices almost before the first word was out. We knew that anger, impatience, and frustration were not the vehicles to loving our son and helping him. Therefore, his behavior was our training ground as well—a training ground for our own growth in self-control.
In families, it is common to have a child who struggles more with his behavior than the other children. Steve and I know how easy it is for parents to become discouraged over this child. However, we also have seen the Lord work through the years of our child’s life, achieving incredible changes that have been almost unbelievable considering his early childhood behavior. What we did with and for John were things that were valuable for all our children. Therefore, we know that our parenting improved because of John. May we encourage those of you with a difficult child to continue doing what you need to do. Love this child abundantly even when he is not loveable. Look for ways to help him grow and mature. Pray for this child, knowing that the Lord is as interested in him overcoming wrong behavior as you are. Next month we will continue with more of what we did in parenting John and what we learned.