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Mail Bag - Attitude: Moody Kids

By Michael Pearl


[intro music]

Debi Pearl:  Papa and I are going to record, so y'all go ahead and shut the door. [door slams]

Child 1:  Come on, let's go play tag. Tag! You're it. [laughs]

Child 2:  I'm going to get you. Hey, you're going too fast.

Announcer:  Welcome to No Greater Joy's Vintage Answer series. Let's listen today as the Pearls offer some practical advice on issues that so many of us face every day.

Debi:  OK. Here's a letter from the Crays. Dear Mike and Debi Pearl, our other problems with Stephen is his attitude. He does not have a teachable heart and he never has. Since he was three years old he has had a bad attitude about learning. I'm talking about academically as well as sports.

When he was three and I'd be singing ABC's with him, he would get mad and yell at me to stop. He drifts off at school after a few problems and complains when he has to start in the morning. Now granted, we do have a few good days when he wakes up and gets started on his own. Throughout school he'll ask me if he's doing well, so I know he wants to do good. There is just so much I can't articulate it all.

Yet he gets along with other kids and the siblings. He is very friendly and loving. One thing I've noticed is, if he's competing or if someone else is doing better at something than he is he tends to give up, get mad or act up. Please give us an answer. May God bless you and continue to bless your ministry.

Michael Pearl:  OK, there's something you need to understand about a child, a child has a natural propensity to selfishness, a natural propensity to be number one. We're all born loving ourselves first. The newborn child is just aware of two things: pleasure and pain. As a child grows into six and seven months he becomes aware that there are ways that he can manipulate to increase his pleasure and to minimize his pain. As a child gets up a year or two years old, he begins to realize that the social order around him wants to deprive him of some of his pleasure, and so he starts seeking ways to maintain control. He finds that there's people around him won't give him everything he asks for, won't give him everything he wants, that there are people who want to deny him.

He learns that anger is a response, that hurt feelings is a response that helps manipulate and control people to keep them compliant with his will. There's a natural propensity there. I see in this child, when he's competing you say that he gets his feelings hurt and he gets upset if he doesn't win.

Well, all you have to do is watch a hockey game on TV, or a baseball game, or a football game and you'll find that big, grown adults also get upset when they lose or when they fail to achieve. This is, again, a natural human propensity. I'm not justifying it, but it's a natural human propensity to want to be number one, to be the most important, to think of oneself as the most deserving.

Normally what happens is, in a normal culture, normal development, we learn that even though we have a feeling to be number one, we don't have a right to be number one. Even though it's pleasurable to win, to be the champion, to take first place, to be the smartest, the best looking, the most talented or any other number of things, even though that's pleasurable to any of us, to all of us, that realistically you can't always be first.

In a proper social development we learn to give up and give over and let someone else be number one, knowing that our turn will come back around. Those who are emotionally immature, who don't fully develop, take it as a personal offence if they're not always first. There's a lack of maturity, there's a lack of development here.

We always have this inner circle. All of us have an inner circle where there's some people very important to us. In that little inner circle, we're very concerned about what they think. In other words, it doesn't bother me if somebody on the street says to me, "You're stupid." I can discount them. They don't value in my scheme of values. But if someone in my family were to say, "You're stupid." then that would hurt.

In this area of competing it doesn't matter to me if I lose, say, playing a volleyball game as long as my wife thinks I'm great. If she doesn't, it's not important to me that she thinks I'm the best volley ball player. It's just important to me that she thinks I'm the best regardless without anything attached to it. The same thing with the child.

Normally, children will grow up and they'll known that they can't be the best at everything. There's this security that comes from the family that says, "You're the best. Not the best at doing this or the best at accompaniment, but your just the best, to me, you are the most important." That's usually sufficient, that satisfies that emotional need to be number one.

We still enjoy the pleasure of winning but it satisfies the need. I would say, first of all, it appears, it may not be the case, but it appears in this situation, that this child is not receiving the assurances that he needs outside the context of competition or school. In other words, I'm wondering if in times when he is not put on the spot, if he is being made to feel that he is of value and he has worth just as he is.

Without accomplishing anything. That he's important. He needs some affirmation of his significance. Now, he gets that not artificially by you just heaping praising or telling him how wonderful he is. He gets that by involving him in little things in life with you. When he accomplishes something small, you give him a moderate manner of recognition and praise.

When he carries out the garbage, you tell him "you are a big boy, you are strong and you are a good helper." Whenever he does some other job, you say you do that so well. Don't be goosy about it, don't just flood him with emotion, but just let him know he is very important.

Then just look into his face and smile, give him some assurance. Now, I'm wondering at three years old, how he first, he was three years old when she was...what was it about learning. What was it she was doing it at three years old? Oh...doing some A‑B‑C's, and he had a bad attitude.

That tells me that already he felt a sense of condemnation or rejection over his ability to participate in that. That was a very unpleasant experience. The only way that could have been unpleasant if mother made it unpleasant.
What would make it unpleasant for a child is either that it bored him to death, but I see some hostility in his response, or that somehow, he felt a sense of rejection or inadequacy at that. Maybe, you were asking something from him, or demanding something of him, or he felt some sense of pressure or responsibility upon him that he wanted to flee from that.

It's important for a parent to not allow the child to come under a sense of pressure on something like that, especially child that young. If you are reading A‑B‑C's or anything else to a three year old, it ought to be just plum fun. If he is bored with it, doesn't like it, drop it. It ought to be just like you sing nursery rhymes, it ought to be just a jolly experience for him.

He shouldn't think of it in terms of a duty, responsibility at all. In fact a three, four, five, six, seven year old child shouldn't be put under any duty or responsibility for schooling. It should all just be a pleasure and a joy. Seems to me like, maybe this kid go off on the wrong start with some pressure being put on him, that shouldn't have been. He is fighting, he is competing in life to be significant. He is competing in life to be valued. That's something you need to consider. Deb, you have some ideas on that?

Debi:  One short thing about home schooling, when you're teaching a child anything, it doesn't matter if you're are teaching him grammar or algebra or if you are teaching him A‑B‑C's and you've taught him something the first day and you say, "now, Stephen, you know that, now just tell me, you know that Stephen. just think. That puts that child under stress, if that child knew it he would tell you. He just can't think and when he's under stress, he certainly not going to, know what you're wanting to ask. Never say, "You know that we discussed that yesterday and you knew it just fine." Don't ever do that. Just say, "Hey, you remember this is the A‑B‑C's," or "remember this is how we do algebra."

That, is better to reinforce what the child needs to know rather than demanding him to come up with an answer they can come up with and you break your relationship.

Announcer:  Thanks for listening. I hope it blesses your day. Don't forget to check out Cane Creek Corner for this week's specials.

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