Turning your child into a tragic child

source John MacArthur

You can turn your child into a tragic child; you can turn your children into a story like that and it may not be because of what you do to them, it most likely will be because of what you don’t do to them and for them. How can you provoke your child into tragedy? How can you provoke your child into anger? How can you get a bitter, sullen, anti-social delinquent?

Here are some easy steps:

1. Spoil him. Give him everything he wants, even more than you can afford—just charge it—so you can get him off your back.

2. When he does wrong, nag him a little, but don’t spank him.

3. Foster his dependence on you. Don’t teach him to be independently responsible; maintain his dependence on you, so later on, drugs and alcohol can replace you when he’s older.

4. Protect him from all those “mean” teachers who want to discipline him from time to time, and threaten to sue them if they don’t let him alone.

5. Make all of his decisions for him because he might make mistakes…and learn from them if you don’t.

6. Criticize his father to him or his mother, so your son or daughter will lose respect for his parents.

7. Whenever he gets into trouble bail him out. Besides, if he faces any real consequence it might hurt your reputation.

8. Never let him suffer the consequences of his behavior; always step in and solve his problems for him, so he will depend on you, and run to you when the going gets tough, and never learn how to solve his problems.

9. If you want to turn your child into a delinquent, let him express himself any way he feels like it. Don’t run his life; let him run yours.

10. Don’t bother him with chores; do everything for him…then he can be irresponsible all his life and blame others when things don’t get done right.

11. And, be sure to give in when he throws a temper tantrum.

12. Believe his lies because it’s too much hassle to try to sort through to get the truth.

13. Criticize others openly, criticize others routinely, so that he will continue to realize that he is better than everybody else.

14. Give him a big allowance and don’t make him do anything for it.

15. Praise him for his good looks, never for character, and on it goes.

If you want an obsessive child, be critical, snobbish, domineering, legalistic. You want an accident-prone child: fight with each other, ignore the child, and the child will hurt himself to get your attention…and so it goes. The point is, you have this treasure, you have this child and you can exasperate that child. How do parents do that? I’ve just given you a little litany of things that you can read about it in a typical book on child-raising, about how to raise a delinquent.

But, let me give you my own list here of how to provoke a child to wrath. I’m going to give you this list rather rapidly so stick with it. Ten ways:

Number one, by over-protection. Fence them in; never trust them; don’t give them the opportunity to develop independence, and deprivation will instill an angry mood. Parents must give children room to express themselves, to discover their world, to try a new adventure, gradually releasing them to live independently. Let the rope out. Over-protection frustrates and angers a child. We live in a world where that’s a tendency among Christians—to keep them under your control all the time. You have to be very careful about that or they become exasperated.

Secondly, you can do it by favoritism. Isaac favored Esau over Jacob—Rebecca favored Jacob over Esau, and the sad results are well-known. Don’t compare them against each other. They’re each unique. Love them the same without special regard for each…no respective persons. If a child feels that you love another in that family more, that is a very, very frustrating experience.

Thirdly, you can cause a child to become angry by setting unrealistic achievement goals. Some parents, literally, crush their children with pressure. Pressure to excel in school, pressure to excel in sports, in music, in any activity they do. And it really has little to do with the child and everything to do with the reputation that the parent wants. This becomes very frustrating when the child has no sense of having reached the goal, no sense of having fulfilled an expectation…it leads to being angry and bitter. I have dealt with such children who have killed themselves. I think of one girl in particular who killed herself to get her parents off her back. She never could accomplish enough to satisfy them, and she was so angry, she wanted to hurt them in the most profound way she could, so she took her life so they would have to live with the pain of causing that…devastating.

[Fourthly], you can frustrate your child to anger by over-indulgence. By giving them everything they want; by picking up after them always; by allowing them to throw all responsibility and accountability on others. You can exasperate them by letting them sin and get away with it so they learn to do that successfully. Ultimately, when they face the world and people don’t serve them and don’t take all the responsibility for them and for their misdeeds, they will get angry and bitter and violent. It’s just exactly the kind of generation we’re seeing raised today.

Fifthly, you can exasperate your child by discouragement and I think that comes in two ways: lack of understanding and lack of reward because both of those destroy motivation and they destroy incentive. You must understand your children. Understand what they’re thinking. Understand what they’re trying to accomplish. Understand why a certain thing happened, why a certain behavior occurred, why a certain incident went a certain way. Grant them a listening ear and an understanding heart and reward them graciously and generously with love. Give them approval and honor and be patient with them or they get very defeated and discouraged and that turns to anger.

You can provoke your children to anger, number six, by failing to sacrifice for them. In other words, by making the child feel like he’s constantly an intrusion into your life, constantly an interruption, always a bother…you want to do what you want to do. You and your husband want to go where you want to go—you just farm these kids out somewhere. Leave them. Let somebody else take care of them. You’re not about to change your lifestyle—you’re going to do what you want to do. You’re going to have your fun and your pleasure and the kids are just going to have to fend for themselves. Leave them; make them prepare their own meals. Don’t take them places because you can’t be bothered with them, and they will resent your being uncaring, unavailable, and self-centered. One of the things that I’m so very thankful for in my own family is Patricia’s devotion to our children: all the years when they were growing up in the home. Many years when I had to be going and traveling and she refused to do that because she wanted to be with those children all the time.

Number seven, you can provoke your children to anger by failing to allow for some growing up. What does that mean? Let them goof up a little. Let them make mistakes. So they knocked something over at the table—laugh it off! They get don’t quite have the manual dexterity yet, or the coordination. Give them a little job and they do it in an unacceptable way, but it’s a little bit of progress, commend them. Let them share some of their ridiculous ideas. Let them plan some silly things to do and do them. Don’t condemn them. Just expect progress, not perfection. The best of men are not perfect.

The New York Tech, many years ago, defeated Rensselaer Poly (Polytechnic), 21-8. In that game, the only Rensselaer touchdown was set up by a sixty-three yard pass-play, says the newspaper. On the play, there appeared to be a breakdown in the Tech defense. The next week, when reviewing the films, Tech coach, Marty Senall (sp.), noticed that the defensive back on the play, freshman John Smith, stood frozen on one spot while the Receiver flew by his for the winning touchdown. “Hey Smitty! Why didn’t you move?” the coach yelled. “I couldn’t. My contact lens had just popped out and I covered it with my foot, waiting for a time to put it back. If I had left the spot, I never would have found it again in that grass. And, my parents would have killed me for losing it!” Now, I’m telling you, when you’re in the “big game” and you live with that much fear of your parents, you’ve got a problem. Let your kids fail. They’re going to lose things. Hey, I remember when Matt flushed my watch down the toilet. I said, “Why did you do that?” He said, “I just wanted to see what it would look like, going down.” Did I spank him? No. In fact, I wished I’d have been there. I’d like to see what it looked like when it was going down. Allowed for a little growing…for a few experiments.

Number eight, you can provoke your children to anger by neglect. If there’s any biblical illustration of this, it’s probably David and Absalom. David spent no time with him, no time shaping him, and Absalom ultimately hated his father with a passion. He tried to pull a coup to dethrone his father and take his place. Neglect—and the worse kind of neglect: lack of consistent discipline. That’s the worst kind of neglect. I’m not talking about the neglect of time and things; I’m talking about the neglect of discipline. Teach them, discipline them…consistently using the rod in love.

Number nine, you can provoke your children to anger by abusive words. You understand that a little child has a very limited vocabulary and you have a very comprehensive one. Verbal abuse is a terrible thing. A barrage of well-chosen words from your adult vocabulary can cut that little heart to shreds. What is as devastating as anything are words of anger, words of sarcasm, or words of ridicule. Frankly, we say things to our children, we would never say to anybody else.

And, lastly, by physical abuse. An angry child is often a beaten, abused, overzealously punished child usually from an angry, vengeful parent who only cares that he has been inconvenienced or irritated—not that the child needs correction for his own good.

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