Joey and Carla Link
April 12, 2023
We tell our kids what to do every day. “Take out the trash”, “Clean your room”, “Pick up your toys”, “If you hit your brother again you will be in big trouble!” and on and on and on. When your kids’ responses are something like, “Why do I have to take out the trash, it isn’t full yet?” or “I’ll clean my room when I think it needs it, okay?”, or “Why do I have to pick up my toys, it isn’t time for dinner yet?” or “He deserved it, he made a mess of what I was playing with. What else was I supposed to do?”, there is the same underlying reason for these responses. They are asking you “WHY” what you told them to do needs to be done.
In the parenting class Growing Kids God’s Way we learned there are 3 why questions kids ask. They all start with the letter “C”: the why of curiosity, the why of comprehension and they why of challenge. Which of these “whys” do the above responses fit into?
The one about the trash is the why of challenge – this child/teen is challenging you. His response about the trash being half full isn’t about how much trash is in the bag, he is telling you that he doesn’t want to take it out. The response about cleaning the room is also a statement of challenge. You should never try to defend their challenge to you. We would respond to this if one of our kids said such a thing with, “I will hear a ‘Yes Mom’”. We have talked many times in our blogs and social media posts about expecting this verbal response from your child for this very reason. When I would say to a child who was challenging me “I will hear a ‘Yes Mom’” I was laying down a line to them they knew if they crossed they would be in a lot of trouble. Even then, when they said “Yes Mom”, it still would be in a disrespectful tone so this child would be told by me to go to his/her room to sit and get self-control.
The response about the toys is a question of comprehension. Your response to his question of not understanding why he has to pick them up early could be “we are eating early because we are going to a program at church tonight.” Your child’s question about what she should do when her brother messes up the project she is working on is also one of comprehension and needs a response from you, unless it is asked in a challenging way. Then you should require a “Yes Mom” and send this child to his or her room. When he has calmed down and asked you for forgiveness for speaking to you disrespectfully, you can give him the reason why.
When your child has a challenging attitude, he/she is telling you that you don’t have the right to tell him what to do. As we said above, please do not defend a direct challenge to your authority which all too often turns into a lecture this child/teen isn’t listening to in the first place. When you do defend it, you are raising your child to a peer level with you and are telling him/her they don’t have to obey you or submit to your authority as their parent.
The question you should ask yourself is, “Why does my child think he/she has the right to challenge my authority?” If your child often speaks to your spouse in a challenging way as well this question would be something you ought to discuss together because this will help you find out what you need to do to deal with it. If you don’t deal with it, then this attitude will continue to get stronger and more forceful, and who else is going to train your child not to have an attitude? Otherwise, he/she will carry it into adulthood and it will affect every area and relationship in his life in a negative way.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.”