Q: “I need some serious advice here. My daughter is 9 years old but ever since she was very young like four years old, she has been very discontent.
Nothing we try ever seems to make her happy. It’s like nothing is ever good enough. She takes little interest in any kind of extracurricular activity. She is not very interested or involved with church. She goes because we make her but we can’t make her like it. She gives little attention to her academics.
We have to force her to spend time with the family. The only thing she seems to enjoy is being over at her grandparents house where she can play with all of the neighborhood kids. She wants to be over there constantly and when I tell her no she will nag and manipulate and pout to try to get her way. I just feel like she is headed down a very dangerous path and need some ideas for how I could change this”
Since you’re asking, I would pull her very very close. In our home, you don’t get privileges of outside time with others and preferred activities if you’re not acting rightly inside the home.
This statement here concerns me: “she will not take no for an answer without being downright awful to be around. ” To me, this sounds like she is playing you like a fiddle.
She barely puts forth any effort to obey, honor, respect, be a productive member of the family, etc., and yet she is being rewarded with the things she wants and punishes YOU if you don’t give it to her.
You are right that this is setting her up for terrible things down the road. Reread the paragraph between the stars and imagine her being a wife with the character traits listed. Or a mother. Or an employee, neighbor, or simply a fellow-citizen.
No matter what, these are terrible qualities for her to be growing in.
So in our home what this would mean is (and what it HAS meant for one of our children, once), is that everything outside would be completely removed from her life. At church, by our side. At home, by our side. On weekends, working/living alongside us, etc., until and unless we saw a LONG STEADY SEASON of faithfulness and contentment in the ordinary things. THEN, a slow (months/half-year long) release back into the other things, depending on her attitude and ability to reenter home life with a willing, reasonably-pleasant attitude.
YES, this will cause a major fracas. YES it will be difficult. YES she will kick and scream and it will (initially) cause things to be MORE difficult, not less, for you for a time. But in the end it will produce peace and joy in her life.
This passage from Hebrews 12 is particularly encouraging for me as a parent in times like this:
“5 have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,Hebrews 12:5-11
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Especially meditate on verse 11.
“For the moment, ALL discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later (!!!) it yields the PEACEFUL fruit of RIGHTEOUSNESS to those who have been TRAINED by it.”
Discipline will– by definition– seem painful. It takes a season of training. It does not (in the moment) seem to produce fruit… but LATER it yields the fruits of peace and righteousness.
This is our job as mothers (and fathers). It’s a hard job. It may be thankless and horrible for a time, but in the end faithful discipline (productive pain alongside teaching and training) will produce peace and righteous living in the lives of those who have been trained by it. It is worth it!
Don’t lose heart and don’t give in to the faithless, undisciplined spirit of this age.
This is why you have been made her mother.
God has given you the vantage point of seeing these things IN her, and has not left you without the ability to do something about it– in fact, He has sovereignly given you the responsibility TO do something about it.
Namely, discipline her (which means, ongoing training and teaching and coaching). Train her in what is right. Draw out her heart, help her with greater and greater clarity and self-awareness to identify the sins and idols lurking there, and discipline her from the outside to help constrain her toward right living, while pointing her to the Savior who can change her from the inside.
And one more always-true piece of good news: God will help you! He will help you through each and every hurdle of parenting her, and He is able and willing to help her as she looks to Him and not herself.
Grace and Peace,