For Kids, Weird is Normal

by Kaye Wilson on May 24, 2020

People are weird. We’ve all thought that at some time or other, because it’s true–sometimes people just do weird things. We don’t really understand that we’re created to find real happiness in union with God, so we use people and things in ways we think will be fun, or make us feel good and keep us safe, or just get a reaction from the people around us. This results in all kinds of “bad behavior” (sin) we’re familiar with: selfishness, pride, greed, lust, deception, etc, which show up in everyday things like rudeness, overeating, avoiding people, “little white lies”, putting ourselves above the rules, and more. We see all of this and we don’t really like it (unless we’re the ones doing it), but it doesn’t seem really weird to us because it’s within the realm of “normal human behavior”.

Children are just small people, and they, too, are weird. They use people and things in ways they think might be fun or make them happy or safe, or get a reaction, or just to see what happens! They haven’t yet learned which bad behavior is acceptable, and they have even less impulse control than we do, so sometimes their behavior seems really weird to us. I mean, we would never think of biting someone when we’re mad, banging our head against a wall, consuming a half bottle of flavored medicine, rubbing poo all over our bed, or trying to drink out of the bird bath, right? But kids do this kind of stuff all the time.

Every day we hear stories of adults who were seriously messed up as kids, about suicides and sociopaths, and we start to obsess:  “What if our kid turns out like that because of something we did? What if he’s biting out of underlying trauma? What if he’s banging his head against the wall because he has a negative self-image? What if he wiped his poo in his bed because he’s got a complex about toilet-training?”

Then we Google the behavior, ask our friends on social media, and read a few more terrifying stories. We jump to the worst possible conclusions, assume the worst is true of ourselves and our children, and put ourselves through unbelievable stress and worry.

But there is an alternative–when our kids do weird things, let’s begin by remembering the truth: People are weird. Our kids are people. Just because they do something we wouldn’t do doesn’t mean they are mentally or psychologically ill. It just means they somehow got an idea in their head that they want to try, just to see how it feels, or even more fun, to see how you’ll react!

The “cure” is annoyingly frustrating but simple: teach them right from wrong, punish disobedience, and the rest of the time enjoy your quirky kids. Don’t compare your kids to other people’s kids. When you have to punish (we don’t like that word, so we say “consequences” but it’s the same thing) remember:

  • Human nature says “You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not the boss of me, you can’t make me, I’ll do whatever I want, so there!” (Tell me this never goes through your mind from time to time)
  • It is impossible to make lasting behavior changes using rewards (this only works with dogs)
  • Children will not choose to obey unless the alternative is something they REALLY  do not want, i.e. is painful in some way (do you?)
  • All discipline is unpleasant at the moment Heb. 12:11. It’s hard.
  • Things will get worse before they get better–kids will test to see if you mean it, and if you can outlast them.
  • Real change will take a long, long time–much longer than you think it should.  (See above)

Our world has become over-psychologized– we’ve come to regard behavior that is disruptive, difficult, loud, resistant, annoying, repetitive, energetic, or otherwise unpleasant as a “disorder” of some kind, something that probably should be medicated (or at least run through a course of probing and therapy).

Let’s remember this: children are childish and honestly, uncivilized. Our job is (among other things) to help civilize them. Correct your children, gently but firmly. Teach them how to behave. Make the lessons stick by demonstrating that when they ignore or disobey your instructions, things will happen that they don’t like.

If you do this with reasonable consistency, while continuing to undergird your relationship with unconditional love, you will see change. Rest in knowing your kids are weird! Just like everyone else!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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