by Patsy G. Lovell
At age thirteen, our daughter Kathleen was a lively teenager. One day she excitedly asked permission to buy a short leather skirt, one like all the other girls in her class were wearing.
I could tell she was expecting a negative response. Nonetheless, she acted surprised when I said no, and then launched into great detail how she would be the only one in class without a leather skirt. I again said no and explained my reasons.
“Well, I think you’re wrong!” she retorted.
“Wrong or right, I’ve made the decision. The answer is no.”
Kathleen stomped off, but quickly turned on her heel. “I just want to explain why this is so important to me. If I don’t have this skirt, I’ll be left out. And all my friends won’t like me.”
“The answer is no,” I quietly repeated.
She puffed up like a balloon and played her final card. “I thought you loved me,” she wailed.
“I do. But the answer is still no.” With that, she whumped—a noise made only by an angry junior high kid trying to get her way. She ran upstairs and slammed her bedroom door.
Even though I had won the battle, I felt I was losing the war. Then an unexplainable thing happened: An inner voice said Hold fast!
The whumping noise started once more, and Kathleen appeared on the stairs. This time she was breathing fire.
“I thought you taught us that we have rights!” she screamed.
“You do have rights. The answer is still no.”
She wound up again, but I cut her off. “Kathleen, I have made my decision. I will not change my mind, and if you say another word about this you will be severely punished. Now go to bed!”
She still had a few words left, but she held them in check. Visibly seething, she disappeared.
I sat on the couch, shaking and upset. Since my husband was working late, I was the only parent “on duty.” None of the children had ever pushed me so far. Just when I thought our skirmish was over, I heard it again—whumping. Kathleen came down the stairs.
“Well,” she announced, “I’m just going to tell you one more time…”
I met her at the bottom step, planted my hands on my hips, and looked her in the eyes. “Do not answer,” I said. “Do not say anything. Turn around and go to bed. Without a single sound!”
For several minutes after Kathleen left, I stared into space and wondered what my blood pressure was. Then I heard her door open. Kathleen, her nose and eyes red from crying, walked down the stairs in pajamas and curlers. She held out her arms to me.
“Oh, Mom, I’m sorry.” We hugged as she said through her tears, “I was so scared!”
“Scared of what?” I asked.
“I was scared that you were going to let me win!” she sniffed.
You were scared that I was going to let you win? I was confused for a moment. Then I realized my daughter had wanted me to win!
I had done the right thing—Kathleen’s simple words assured me. I had held fast, and now she was holding on to me.
Do you have any idea how the mother in the preceding story felt? If you’re a parent, I’m betting the answer is a resounding yes! Children rebel in every home—some more often than others, especially when strong-willed personalities are involved. These encounters can cause even the most dignified fathers and mothers to grind their teeth in frustration.
Yet you are not powerless here. There are ways to minimize such conflict, promote respectful interactions, and instill godly “habits of harmony” in your children. We’re going to spend a second week discussing the concept of loving discipline, particularly as it relates to the “whumpers” in your family. You might discover how to put down some rebellions before they ever start.
- James C Dobson
“Love Wins” by Patsy G. Lovell. From Focus on the Family. © 1993. Used by permission of the author.