Tag Archive for rebellion

Children Are Not Our Puppets

Our children taught us an important lesson when they were mere toddlers. It’s true. I remember the lesson clearly. They told us by their actions and words: “We are not your puppets. You cannot control us.” They remind us of this fact every time we offer to help them and they say “No, I do” in their broken toddler English…or, when we tell them not to do something and they smile at us before doing it anyway. Children are not our puppets. They will not allow us to control them.

Dancing MarionetteMost parents still try to exert some level of control over their children. For instance:

  • We fear for our children’s safety so we control their actions with rigid rules and expectations.
  • In an effort to protect our children from emotional pain and hurt, we hover over their lives and become involved in every activity and stick our nose in all their drama trying to control every outcome.
  • In anger at their disobedience or “attitude” we step back, distancing ourselves and withholding love at a time when they likely need to know our love is unconditional and never ending.
  • We may even try to change them by inducing guilt with statements like “Your mother would be so disappointed’ or “after all I’ve done for you….”

I’m sure you recognize some of these actions in yourself. I know I do. We attempt to control our children out of fear. Nonetheless, our children are not our puppets. They will not be controlled. Like Pinocchio, they do not want to be puppets. They want to be “real” boys and girls.

In all reality, our children are right. We hurt our children when we control them. Research suggests:

  • Controlling our children crushes their self-confidence. It leaves our children with a chronic sense of guilt, a belief that something is inherently wrong with them…that they are bad.
  • Children who grow up with over-controlling parents tend to be hypercritical of themselves and others. Critical of themselves, they struggle with a positive self-image. Critical of others, they can struggle with friendships.
  • Since over-controlling parents make every (or almost every) decision for their children, their children become dependent. They do no learn to think independently and make their own decisions. They rely on others to do their thinking for them.
  • Children who feel controlled may lie, sneak, or openly rebel in an effort to establish their own identity and have the opportunity to “think for themselves.”
  • Since over-controlled children do not learn healthy ways to assert themselves and confidently express their opinions, they have greater difficulty in relationships when they become adults as well.

Our children are right. They are not our puppets. We do them a disservice when we attempt to control them. We interfere with them developing a healthy self-image, intimate relationships, and the ability to assertively stand up for what they believe.   What can a parent do to cut the puppet strings and let go of control? Read Cut the Puppet Strings to discover five actions that will do the trick!

Parental Assumptions & the Cycle of Discipline

What do you believe about your children’s behavior? When they misbehave, what assumptions do you make?  When they behave well, what do you think? Many parents parenting challengedon’t take the time to answer these questions. However, the answers you give impact your children’s behavior, your children’s belief about themselves, and your response to your children’s behavior. Consider these examples.

  • If you see your children’s misbehavior as rebellion, you will respond swiftly and harshly to squelch the rebellion. You might assert your adult power to “put down the rebellion” and show your children who is in control. Your children will grow to see themselves as powerless. They will feel intruded upon and imprisoned by your assertion of power. They will want to break free and push against your authority even more. They will want to assert their power, but the only way to do so is through rebellion. Ultimately, they will grow more rebellious in their attempt to assert their own independence, autonomy, and power. And so the cycle grows.
  • If you assume your children’s behavior is a result of laziness, you may push them to do more. You will attempt many ways to motivate them, maybe even call them lazy in the process. They may accept that label and begin to consider themselves lazy. Unfortunately, a lazy person can’t change; it takes too much work and they are too lazy to do the work. As they struggle to feel motivated to do what is asked, they may also begin to feel bad, like something is wrong with them. With no other choice, they live up to (or should I say “down to”) the label of lazy.
  • If you believe your children act out of sneaky defiance, you will have to constantly be on your toes. You can stalk their Facebook and Instagram. You will look at them with accusing eyes when they arrive home late, assuming that they are lying about the reasons for their tardiness. Your suspicions will grow in their mind, making them believe they are not trustworthy. “If my parents don’t trust me, who will?” Your children will then begin to see themselves as sneaky and defiant. They will begin to act sneaky and defiant…“What else can I do? It’s who I am. Just ask my parents.”

These beliefs might be true sometimes. I doubt if any child is always rebellious, always lazy, or always sneaky and defiant. When these beliefs become the primary way in which we see our children’s misbehavior they create a vicious, downward spiral of negative interactions and negative behaviors.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You could become curious about your children’s behavior. You will still need to discipline. You will still give consequences, but those consequences will change and become more effective.  Think about the process. You observe your children misbehave. You become curious about that misbehavior. Are they rebelling? Being lazy? Acting in defiance? Or something else? After all, the answer to these questions will definitely change my parental response. There is only one way to know the answers, ask. So you begin to engage your children. You start a dialogue about the behavior you just witnessed. You simply begin to explore what might have motivated their behavior. What was their intent? What was going on in their thought life as they considered the behavior? What feelings did they have? Was there anything that triggered the behavior? Was there anything bothering them or exciting them? Suddenly you find yourself having an interesting dialogue about behaviors, limits, and your children. You are learning about their fears as well as their hopes and dreams.  Not only that, you are training them to develop an awareness of their rich inner life of thought, intent, emotion, and motivation. You are teaching them to think before they act. You are teaching them to consider the consequences of an action in relation to the goal they want to achieve. Isn’t that the greater goal of correcting misbehavior? Then your consequence will merely reinforce the lessons learned in relationship with you.

Give up the assumptions and get curious. Start a dialogue with your children. Discover what makes them tick. Teach them how to think before they act by thinking with them.

What Drives Your Family?

What drives your family? I am not asking who drives your family…nor am I asking if your family owns a Chevy, Ford, or Toyota. I am asking, “What motivates your family life?” What Fun Vaninfluences your family decisions? What is the heartbeat of your family? Many families allow fear or guilt to sit in the driver’s seat.  When fear or guilt sits in your family’s driver seat you are in for a wreck. For instance, families driven by fear of bad behavior believe that structures and rules will make everything “work out alright.” As a result, when the fear of bad behavior sits in the driver’s seat, the family finds themselves on the road of over-rigid, legalistic, and unrealistic expectations.  Fear-driven families remain overly vigilant to assure the loose morals of society do not creep into their family. If anyone’s behavior starts to do down the “wrong road,” the family simply adds another rule to detour the negative behavior; and rules of avoidance are put in place to keep family members away from the “immoral influences” of society.  Rules pile upon rules. The structure becomes the top priority in the family…until the family experiences the inevitable collision with rebellion resulting from an inability to meet the expectations. Yes, the wreck is inevitable. Family members never internalize healthy limits in the family driven by the fear of bad behavior. When they find themselves “out from under” the family rules, they rebel. Or, when they feel that “no matter what they do it is never enough,” they give up and rebel. As the saying goes, “Rules without Relationship leads to Rebellion.”


Other families are driven by the fear of looking bad. When children throw a tantrum in the store, the parents in this family begin to worry that everyone will think they are bad parents who have no control in their home. Their embarrassment overrides the need to stand firm; and, they give in to their children’s tantrum behavior. This family, driven by the fear of looking bad, is more concerned with appearance than character. Their children have to perform to a certain level to experience acceptance and feel appreciated. This family believes that only the star athlete, the straight “A” student, the lead actor, the first chair musician, or the first whatever has truly achieved their potential. Anything short of this visible success brings “encouragement” in the form of prodding, nagging, or comparisons. Appearance, however, is fleeting. Achieving top status is not fulfilling. Sooner or later we all fall short of perfection. And, we all want something that no amount of success can grant us…acceptance. When that moment hits the family driven by the fear of looking bad, the wheels go into a skid, the sparks fly, and the family crashes into the wall of disappointment, anger, resentment, and isolation.


Families may also find guilt in the driver’s seat. Families driven by guilt often want to make up for some past hurt…the divorced parent who gives their kids everything they want; the parent who feels guilty when inducing the pain of discipline so puts up with inappropriate lovebehavior; the spouse who hurt his partner unintentionally so now gives in to her every desire. Each of these families, and more, are driven by guilt. Families driven by guilt may “discourage” unwanted behavior with guilt-inducing discipline. When guilt drives a family, you can expect a wreck. Intimacy is replaced with anger and bitterness. Family members help one another while harboring resentment that “I have to do this.” Even activities normally thought of as enjoyable become a burden, stressing the family relationships.


Instead of letting fear or guilt drive your family, put love in the driver’s seat. With love driving your family, each person will find acceptance and intimacy. The whole family will experience honor and respect. Mutual acceptance, honor, and respect will open the door for reasonable rules and structure to be internalized. Positive behavior will be lived out more intentionally. With love in the driver’s seat, no one worries about being made to look bad. Instead, each person encourages and lifts the other person, striving to make other family members look good. A family driven by love still disciplines as well. In fact, they discipline more effectively because they discipline with truth and grace, love and limits. They do not easily give in or give up. They graciously discipline in love, teaching a better way to live sensibly in this world.


So, what drives your family? Fear? Guilt? Or love? Think hard and answer honestly. A wreck awaits your family unless love is in the driver’s seat!