The Passive, or Quietly Rebellious Child

By Joey and Carla Link
March 2, 2022

We were visiting friends who had 3 children. The kids were told to get their pj’s on and get in bed with lights out and Mom and Dad would come in to tuck them in. When Mom came back from doing this, Dad asked her why the light was still on in their oldest (10 yrs.) daughter’s bedroom. Mom told him this daughter was reading and wanted to finish her chapter then said she would turn her light out. We went on visiting with them, and Dad got up about 45 minutes later to use the bathroom. We heard him open a bedroom door and tell his daughter to put her book down and he turned off her light. He came back to the table and told his wife since he had been a poor reader in school, he was glad she enjoyed reading so much.

Joey and I looked at each other, deciding whether to not to say anything. They had been asking us plenty of questions about their 8 yr. old son, but hadn’t asked us any about this daughter, repeatedly saying she was their compliant, “easy” child.

Rebellion is shown in 2 ways in kids. There is the angry in-your-face defiant rebellion their 8 yr. old son had down pat. Then there is passive, or quiet rebellion. Pouting, sulking, deep sighs, all typify this rebellion. “Rebellion” is “the action and/or attitude of resisting authority or the control someone has over you.” It doesn’t say “unless you are quiet about it.”

The most frequent responses your quietly rebellious child will show when you go to find out why he/she didn’t do something they were told to do are I forgot”, “I don’tremember”, “maybe”, or our daughter’s favorite when we asked her if the job was completed, “I’ll go check”.

We all like to think our kids are smart, talented kids. So, why can’t they “remember” to go clean their room when you tell them to? If your child is characterized by saying any of the above, he/she had no intention of doing the chore/homework. They were just hoping you wouldn’t find out it wasn’t done.

When your child has no intention of doing something he leads you to believe he will get done, he is deceiving you, which is a form of lying. Do you see why this is just as powerful a form of rebelling against your authority as angry defiance is? The root is the same for both, they don’t want anyone telling them what to do or making choices for them.

So, what can you do about your “easy” child? This child is harder to parent, as you have to be a detective to track them down when they aren’t being obedient. We would tell our daughter to come find one of us and let us know when she was finished with her task so we could check her work and make sure she had done it completely and efficiently. I (Carla) would set the timer for the amount of time I thought it should take her to get the job done, whether it was schoolwork or chores, and if she hadn’t come to find me when it went off, I would go find her.

I will never forget the time I told her to clean the Barbie doll mess off the floor of her bedroom. I went to see what was taking her so long 20 minutes later to find her dressing all her Barbies for church! This daughter of ours has the Sanguine temperament and they are easily distracted and have trouble following through on what they are told to do. She was following through all right. She just wasn’t following through on what I had told her to do! Kids with Sanguine as their primary temperament are quietly rebellious.

Keeping Track of Your Quietly Defiant Child:

Use a timer. If they are 7 years or younger you determine how long it should take them to do the task.
If they aren’t done when the timer goes off, have him/her go sit in an isolated place with no freedoms until they are ready to apologize.
After he apologizes, ask him how he is going to make it right. He should tell you he will finish the task. Allow him to go do this.
Double the amount of time the timer had been set for and your child sits in isolation for this amount of time during his/her free time for his consequence. Every minute it takes him to complete the task is added x 2 to this amount of time he sits.

When this Child “Forgets”, and “Doesn’t Remember”:

Quietly keep track of how many times over 3 days your quietly defiant child says “I forgot”, “I don’t remember”, “Maybe”, or something along these lines. If it is more than 1x per day, you are dealing with a quietly defiant rebellious child. Please remember, this child is choosing to forget and choosing not to remember, both of which are lies because he didn’t forget and he does remember.
When you get these responses from your child, resist the urge to remind him/her. He doesn’t need to be reminded to do something he doesn’t intend to do.
Deal with these as you would other lies this child tells.
When he apologizes, please make sure he tells you how he is going to make it right.

We have just scratched the surface of how and why your kids don’t and won’t submit to your authority. We will be covering more on this in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, if your kids are working on obeying immediately, completely, without challenge and without complaint (we have often shared this is what obedience training looks like), they will do what you say, when you say it, how you have told them it needs to be done without arguing or deceiving you. If your kids are constantly defying you, we urge you to step up their obedience training.

“To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23