"I won't do it!" my child screamed after being asked to sit down and start the day's math assignment. "You will too!" I resolutely stated right back. "I will not!" And thereupon ensued an all-out fight of wills. The strong-willed mother determined to win over the strong-willed child. After all, the books said that if I didn't win every battle, I would not win the fight. And boy, did we battle. This was the beginning of years of anguish in dealing with a strong-willed, highly eruptive child.

Some days were worse than others, but all were equally miserable. The older siblings would complain and take up my offense. Younger siblings would cry because Mommy was crying. All the while, the smug little hard-nosed rebel sat defiantly on the bed screaming and shouting to his (or her) heart's content. It was a struggle not to allow bitterness to rule my spirit. The daily strain upon my heart, soul, and body were wearing me down to the point I wanted to pull away from everything and everyone. I would cry out to God. "How long, O Lord?" I lived in the comfort of the Psalms. After I cried, I would read and pray. I HAD to in order to face my child again.

How did we end up here? We analyzed everything from birth. Was it the fact that this child was born screaming? Maybe it was that time at 3 that I intervened, thinking Dad was too harsh. Or was it because in public he was well behaved, so I let slip his passive rebellion at home? Was it his early mental maturity trapped inside a childish body? Was it because he was sandwiched between six other siblings? Was it medical? (Indications of ADD were present--not hyperactive, but rather the ultra-slow, highly distracted side.) It was probably the combination of all of these things that enabled this sweet little child to erupt into a full-blown rebel. Yelling, screaming, throwing things, you name it. I had only read about this kind of child, and now I had one.
What in the world was I to do?

Recognize the Triggers of Rebellion
We both desperately needed help, so I started to research. I learned to recognize the triggers of these angry responses and my contribution. I began to look at what happened before the flare-up and recognize the signs of an impending eruption. Was I angry with him? Was he provoked by a sibling or maybe jealous for my attention? Was he distracted? Was his schoolwork too difficult or too easy? Did he get enough sleep? What was he eating? Getting to know the triggers helps in warding off the explosions. Follow me as I share with you what I have learned in dealing with a rebel.

Be a Disciple, Make a Disciple
Discipling was one of the keys to eventually opening our rebel's heart. As we continued to disciple and pour the Word of God into our child, we began to see things change. Here are some suggestions:

  • Be a good disciple of the Lord yourself! My goal is for my rebel to follow Christ as I follow Christ.
  • Draw your child in close. We had to pull our rebel in as a shepherd does with a wayward lamb. We took him with us wherever we went, and he stayed by our side as much as possible.
  • Be to her what you would have her be. Exemplify patience and kindness. You will begin to see your child's heart soften and your own heart change toward her.
  • Have other godly influences in his life: teachers, friends, and godly pastors and speakers who reinforce what you are teaching.
  • He needs to be close to the authority figure. He should go to work with Dad or become his shadow when he is home.
  • Disciple her in prayer. Show her who to run to! Let her see your vulnerability. She usually sees your strength. Let her see your tenderness. Allow her to follow you to Jesus.
  • Discipling takes time. Invest time you do not have, and you will reap fruit you did not expect.

Teach What Is Good