To get a rebel under control

Jan Kucinski

As a boy I liked reading books and watching adventure films, sea and ocean adventures. I always wondered why brave captains, who proudly and courageously overcame storms and sank enemies' ships, shuddered at the thought of their crews' rebellions. They treated the rebels, to put in mildly, cruelly: they often, in a rather spectacular way, took the culprits' lives.

What is a rebellion?

It is an attitude of disobedience: I will not obey you, I will not do what you expect of me; moreover, I will do the opposite, I will act against you and if I have the chance I will torpedo your plans. The captains of the ships whose missions and tasks were to reach their destinations were afraid of rebellions because rebellions made their expeditions impossible. Dearest parents, captains of your families, you will not fulfil your missions, you will not take your ships safely through storms of life and you will not defend yourselves against enemies' ships with rebellious crews.

What are the symptoms of a rebellion?

A child avoids us, shuts the door in our face (often rudely), provokes us, undermines trust in our authority, consciously and deliberately refuses to perform its tasks, uses passive resistance, sabotages our actions, destroys various things or embarrasses us on purpose (older kids often openly express what they think about us). At this moment we must ask the question:

Why does a child rebel?

A rebellion is not a natural condition of our kiddies. When relationships with parents are saturated with love and trust children want to meet their parents' expectations, which are often very demanding. Rebellion creeps in when children have no confidence what their parents care for. It frequently seems to us that children know our thoughts and we expect them to act accordingly. When my son Maciek was in his first grade one day he returned home from school and was angry with his teacher because she made a remark about his bad behaviour. But he could not say what his fault was. It turned out that he walked around the classroom since he had already completed the exercise. He rather expected to be praised for having coped with the task so quickly, he did not expect any punishment...I think that Maciek might have forgotten when the teacher said that children should sit at desks during lessons or it might have been so obvious that the teacher did not tell the pupils about that. Maciek behaved badly because he did not know the teacher's expectations. He was punished and since he did not know why he was punished he felt he was treated unjustly and assumed the attitude of rebellion. Try to teach an angry child. I can assure you that such an action will raise the level of your adrenaline more than a bungee jump. As a rule a feeling of injustice leads to rebellion. In order to put it down one should answer another question: Does your child know what you expect of him/her? Are your messages clear to your child? Remember that you should use a precise language while speaking to your child. You should make sure that your child has heard you and understood you. Our words should be followed by our deeds since only then we are trustworthy and clear. When we speak about our expectations concerning order in the room we should watch whether a child could cope with this difficult task. If this element is missing a child assumes that the task is not important.
There is no rebellion in the atmosphere of love and trust. I know you love your children but love is a mutual relationship.

So are your children in love with you?

When you ask them this question you will most likely hear that they do. But do not be satisfied with this reply but observe what happens when you go out: do your children run to meet you when you are back or do you feel like a tree on the branches of which children rock; do your kids sit on your laps and teenagers insist on telling you something now? If so, cherish this treasure because it expresses love. But if nobody greets you when you get home, the doors of the children's rooms are closed you have reasons to be concerned.
Dear captains of your families, you may be struggling with a storm at the moment, you may be fighting against an enemy, there might be some rebellion on your ship and your abilities as parents are tested. However, remember that when the Apostles struggled with the storm on the lake it was
Jesus that made the sea calm...

It is worth reflecting and praying:

- Are my children in love with me?
- Are my attitudes and requirements not driving children to rebellion?
- Am I in love with God or am I rebelling against his expectations concerning me?

"Niedziela" 48/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: