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Redirecting Out of Control Kids

Dr. David Ludwig

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Dr. David Ludwig

Tiffany was upset. Her brother had teased her and she came running to her parents. "Brian laughed at me again," she began with tears in her eyes. What happened next was disaster. Dad scooped Tiffany up in his arms and yelled at his son, "Brian, get in here!" Mom looked away in disgust, knowing he would blame Brian again. "She's got him wrapped around her little finger," she thought in anger. As the four gathered in the den, Mom and Dad did not look at each other. Dad directed his words at his son, "I told you never to tease your sister again," he threatened with anger barely under control. Brian remained silent during the tongue-lashing, infuriated by the smug smile of his sister who was safe in father's arms. The scene ended as Brian stomped out of the room and Mom gave Dad an angry look. They were obviously not a team when it came to raising their children!

Such interaction only breeds more anger and upset. Mom may even go behind Dad's back to comfort Brian, since she feels he was unjustly criticized. Dad would feel his authority undermined. There would be war in the household when Brian became a teenager! This home is not a safe place!

Take another look at the family scene. What would happen in the same situation if there were a united front? What would happen if the parents formed a "WE?"

Tiffany was upset. Her brother had teased her and she came running to her parents. "Brian laughed at me again," she began with tears in her eyes. What happened next almost seemed like a well-rehearsed sequence of events. Mom and Dad looked at each other with a knowing smile. Dad scooped Tiffany up in his arms and gave her a big hug. Mom called out to Brian, "Would you come here please? WE would like to talk to you." As the four gathered in the den, Mom and Dad looked at each other again and smiled. Dad began, "WE want the two of you to get along." Mom picked up the same idea and added, "So let's talk this over so WE can learn from what just happened." In the next few minutes, the truth came out and both admitted doing things to the other to escalate the situation. With peace restored, Brian and Tiffany went back to what they were doing. Mom and Dad smiled as their eyes met, obviously a team when it came to raising their children!

This home is a safe place. When the parents form a "WE," the child experiences the security and well being that God intended. The child's spirit, nurtured by the love that the parents have for each other, grows strong and confident.

But if the "WE" breaks down, the child loses that security and the child's spirit is damaged. In fact, the child's spirit initially reflects the relationship between the parents. If this relationship is conflicted and breaks down, the child will have to deal with inner conflict and will develop unhealthy ways of protecting self (such as trying to please everyone to keep things safe).

The "WE" is a spiritual entity, formed from the "one flesh" union between husband and wife (Ephesians 5: 31-33). It is the most powerful force within the family unit. It can stop a teenager cold! It keeps the home a safe place.

However, parenting comes with the following product WARNING


The full-time job of your children is to spot the cracks in your relationship. The child will do something, then watch closely how the two of you react. If the "WE" breaks down, the child does not have to obey! So the gift your child brings to the home is to find the problems in your relationship! Your job is to fix them and restore the "WE" !

You have help. When the "WE" breaks down, God's Spirit pushes toward reconciliation. But the devil pushes toward blame and defensiveness...the usual reaction of the old self.

So what can you do when the "WE" breaks down and there is tension and unresolved conflict in the air?

  • Step 1: In prayer ask God to change your heart so that you will stop blaming your spouse.
  • Step 2: Meditate on the passage, "Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ" (Eph. 5:21). Let Christ help put "WE" above "ME" - so you can see the relationship as more important than your own hurt feelings.
  • Step 3: When there is a "right spirit" restored within you (Psalm 51:10), then send an ally signal to your spouse.
  • Step 4: Talk things through so that the "WE" becomes stronger and the home will be a safe place once more.

    The "WE" is effective even if you are a single parent...or if you are parenting with your spouse absent or non-cooperative. Now the radar of the child will find your "hot buttons." Your guilt, resentment, anxiety, inadequacy...the child will manipulate these emotions! So what hope is there with such powerful stuff stirring?

    You can form a "WE" with God as your NEW SELF finds strength in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:15-17). This "ONENESS" with Christ is a new set of thoughts and emotions (a new self!) that will allow you to say, "It is not good for our family for you to be disrespectful, so WE will not allow that." This is much more powerful than threatening or getting angry, for it includes the child in the "WE" and takes away the desire of the child to rebel!


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