We tend to think there are basically two kinds of kids – “good” kids and kids who can’t seem to obey or control their behavior. While we all know that is a little too simplistic, what concerns me is that there is a type of child who is in a lot of danger, but often goes unnoticed until it is too late.
When we took parenting classes before our daughter was born, the class warned us about “sneaky” disobedience. They said the child who regularly practices it is in danger. Looking back on my decades of work with children and teens, I have come to the conclusion the parenting class authors were correct.
So what is “sneaky” disobedience? Let’s pretend you have drawn a chalk line and told your kids not to cross it. (Silly, but a very clear example.) If you have a good relationship with your kids and have consistently enforced firm loving boundaries, they will not cross the line the vast majority of the time. In fact, many will stay away from the line, because they don’t want to accidentally cross it either. When they do cross the line, they usually self-correct or correct with some additional guidance and/or consequences.
Children who are rebellious for any number of reasons will almost defiantly cross the line. They will even do it while you are watching. While this scares many parents, it’s actually a good thing. Because they are open in their defiance, you know you still have a lot of work to do to mold and shape their character. You probably even know on which areas you need to work.
Then there are the sneaky children. They won’t cross the line while you are looking, but the minute you are distracted, they will put a toe over the line. Then they make sure to pull it back across the line before you have a chance to catch them disobeying.
These are the children who are in grave danger. Why? Because to most adults, they are “good” children. They are rarely, if ever, caught disobeying. Since they are “good” they don’t get that extra character training and consequences they need. They become increasingly impressed with their own “power” to do whatever they want with no consequences. They even think God can’t “catch” them sinning. They often learn to default to dishonesty and manipulation in order to continue their sneaky disobedience as teens and adults. They think their actions have no negative consequences, because they have avoided most of them.
What is really scary is that most parents are totally oblivious to their own sneaky child. They are convinced they have been blessed with a wonderful, “compliant” child. Yet, one day they may be blind-sided by the truth – often when it is too late for them to do anything about it.
So how do you know if you are raising a “sneaky” child? It’s difficult to find out, but in my next post, I will give you some clues your child might indeed be more disobedient than you realize.