Most of us are relatively comfortable seeking advice when our child is being bullied, or dealing with mean girls, and bad boys. But what if your child IS the bully or the mean girl? What if you are faced with parenting the bad boy?
I hesitate to label my child (or your’s for that matter) with any specific negative term just yet, whether it be mean, bad, or bully. I will say however most of my four children have had momentary lapses in judgment and have behaved poorly from time to time. Just this year I have had to field calls from several not so happy moms regarding my child’s behavior and then the dreaded calls from the school, where I start to hope it is “just” the nurse this time.
God bless our souls.
When I parent through tough situations I often feel like a weird sit-com version of myself. “Now dear, what you did is wrong, very very wrong, and must be punished. This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you and we are very disappointed. Now hand over your phone and clean this room!” Then I leave the room with phone in hand wondering if that was enough, thinking, “What the heck man! What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with me!”
These are actually great questions to ask ourselves and it’s healthy to do a little check for time to time.
You’ve heard the phrase “Apples don’t fall far from trees”? Sometimes they do, but mostly they don’t, so let’s just do a check. Our kids are stubborn and strong willed because, well, so are we! They are also loyal and kind, funny and feisty. You get the picture. They watch us too. One night recently I was recounting an awkward moment in my day, telling a story as I do, and my son said, “Wait, how do we feel about her again?” It stopped me dead in my tracks to realize that apparently my judgmental opinions were deemed commonplace and weighty in my own home! I vowed then and there to watch my mouth and not be so judgmental. Some conversations are better had behind closed doors or maybe even not at all.
They also imitate us.
Do you gossip or get caught up in drama?
Does your daughter witness your conversations with girl friends and are your words full of grace and kindness or are they mean spirited and judgmental?
How do you speak to your children and how do you expect them to speak to each other?
What does your son witness his father do and say?
Is bad glorified or praised in actions or screens?
Is drinking or smoking or sexual conquest glorified?
Do siblings bully him?
Sometimes kids come by things honestly and sometimes it’s more of a learned behavior, so check yourself and your influencers. It’s a good place to start. You could pray like the Psalmist did in the bible.
Psalm 139 23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Check your child-
Sometimes alarming behavior in your child could be a cry for help. Maybe they are struggling with feelings of jealousy or envy or even rejection. Perhaps there is some intense peer pressure to fit in with the wrong crowd, or they’re being bullied themselves, or, God forbid worse. Everyone deals with emotions differently and definitely a stronger willed child may lash out instead of retreating. Ask some questions that might give you insight into their daily life. Get in there and “sniff around” so to speak and make it your job to see what may be at the root. It could take time for them to open up, but often, all I have to say is, “What’s goin on bud?” and the dam breaks. (also random and regular phone checking is a good idea. I like it just about as much as I like picking lice, but you may be surprised what you find!)
Check your assumptions-
Growing up is hard and we just can’t assume they know how to properly navigate and resist it all on their own or that they know how to be kind and considerate either. Address harsh or unkind behavior by showing your strong disapproval and then showing them a better way. Appeal to the best versions of your child. (That you know is in there.) and help them become more well rounded. Isn’t that the goal, responsible, kind, productive, God fearing members of society? I feel like in our current culture (especially for the boys) the way to be cool is to rip, or roast, or burn and cut down. I see my boys do it one to another and it breaks my heart.
It’s a good time to teach self awareness and others awareness.
“How does that make you feel?
How do you think that makes someone else feel?”
Teach them to listen, respond and validate someone instead of “one-upping”.
I tell my children that in this house we need to be kind and loving. The world is harsh enough, mean enough, and dark enough. In this house we need to be a soft place for each other to land, everything isn’t a challenge and there is no pecking order here. Because it starts in here.
Dear Lord Jesus, let it start in here.
Check the water pressure-
Once you know what they may be struggling with, FLOOD their heart with exactly the opposite.
FLUSH THAT TOXIC BEHAVIOR OUT!
“Are you battling rejection? Let me show you acceptance like you’ve never seen before, from me and a God that promises to never leave you or forsake you.”
Unworthiness? Speak to their worth!
If a certain group of kids isn’t treating them well, let’s find some who do A.S.A.P.
If it’s jealousy and envy, let’s teach them to count their blessings and learn how to be happy for others and content with what they have.
Is your child drawn to the bad, the dark, even the dirty?
Talk to them about why and what they get out of it.
Show your child a better way!
Engage them in a better way!
They may hate it at first, but I remember going to some “binge drinking” parties in high school and wishing I had stayed home. I don’t think I even considered that I had alternatives. Movies, cooking as a family, game night, laughter, shopping, (my homework!!)
If they don’t want to be around you, limit their negative options for sure but keep trying. Leave the invitation open. It’s not easy! Parenting well can be selfless, difficult work. Cultivating an environment of trust and love and community with in your home takes time and intentionality. Flood their hearts with kindness, and love, and acceptance and grace until there is no room for anything else.
Check your heart-
I can’t do this on my own! Parenting makes me very aware of my human condition and my need for a Savior. The more I lean into Christ… no, the more I cling to Him, the better mom I become.
This time I enter my child’s room and I say just that. “I know you are sorry and I know it’s hard. This is why we need Jesus! This is why He came. To save us from our sorry sinful condition and give us a heart that runs to His goodness and righteousness. It’s hard I know, I’ve been there! Choose to follow Him and ask God for help and ask us too. We’re not meant to do this alone. In Christ, we can do all things. including overcoming this ‘momentary lapse in judgment’.”
Including parenting well through difficult seasons.
I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.