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Macro or Micro Rebellion

Macro or Micro Rebellion

Which is Your Child Characterized By?

by Joey & Carla Link



What is ‘Macro’ Rebellion?  Macro refers to BIG. Think of the child who throws major tantrums, fits, and is always in your face with defiance.  When a boundary is spelled out to them, they will throw themselves over it and then smugly look at you to see what you are going to do about it. The ‘macro’ child lets everyone know HE is in control.


What is ‘Micro’ Rebellion? Micro refers to SMALL. Think of the child who disobeys in little ways. When a boundary is spelled out to them, they will push their big toe just over the line. They rebel in ways they won’t get caught in, because parents have to be really paying attention to catch them.


Their rebellious actions are not always obvious or clear-cut. However, they will cross the line in some way almost every time an instruction is given to them. The ‘micro’ child doesn’t need parents to see their rebellion. Just knowing he didn’t obey and didn’t get caught is enough for him.


Please Note: For children, rebellion is rebellion. If they throw themselves on the floor kicking and screaming or roll their eyes and walk away, their hearts look the same. Don’t overlook this. There is no such thing as a ‘compliant’ child. They are just ‘micro’ in their rebellion and are not getting caught.



Macro – Mom mops the floor and tells the children to stay off it until it is dry. Her son, wanting a drink, walks across the floor leaving his footprints for all to see.


Micro – Mom mops the floor and tells the children to stay off if until it is dry. Her son stands in the doorway, puts one foot on the floor to reach the counter to get a cookie his mom just made and walks away.


Which child do you think gets Mom’s immediate attention? Again, for the ‘micro’ child, putting one foot on the floor was just as defiant as the one who walked across it. Even more so, because he took a cookie without asking for permission.


Working with the Macro Child

1. The parents must stay in control. You run the family. Don’t let this child forget it.


2. Keep the boundaries tight (funnel) and be consistent in your correction. These children don’t handle choices well because they have an over-inflated view of their ability to make choices which is why they openly question and challenge the parent when their freedom to make their own choices is limited.


3. Be fair and consistent. A ‘macro’ child rebels against what he perceives to be unjust. Make sure your instruction is heard and expect a verbal response.


4. Teach this child self-control in both attitude and action.


5. Give this child ownership of behaviors/attitudes as soon as he/she demonstrates the ability to take it. This way, they are in control of things they have earned the right to be in control of.


Working with the ‘Micro’ Child

1. Parents need to observe this child and learn HOW his rebellion is demonstrated. This is the child who never quite does the chore completely, but does it well enough you don’t notice the part he didn’t do. But he knows and it reinforces the rebellion in his heart.


Example: It is this child’s turn to clean the kitchen after dinner. He knows this job also includes sweeping the floor.  He ‘forgets’ to sweep the floor. You tell him to do it again, not dealing with the “forgetting” as the rebellion it is.


Parents need to watch and learn how their child demonstrates his/her rebellion, and then have a watchful eye out for it, so that you may train this foolishness out of them!


2. Parents need to be willing to correct this child consistently, even if it seems the child’s action wasn’t a big deal. Remember, it is a huge deal to the child. When parents let the ‘little’ things go, the child will develop an attitude of being “wise in his own eyes” (proud).


3. Keep the boundaries (funnel) tight – so you can see when he crosses it.


4. Don’t confuse ‘micro’ rebellion with ‘passive’ rebellion. Passively rebellious children rebel quietly. They will say “Yes Mom” and have no intention of doing what they were just told to do. The ‘micro’ child openly rebels, just in seemingly small ways.


Passive Rebellion: The child has been instructed to go to bed. He does get ready for bed, but instead of getting IN bed, he puts his toys away, taking 30 minutes past his bedtime to do so. His parents, not seeing this for the rebellion it is, praise him for picking up his room!


Micro Rebellion: This child gets in bed but ‘forgets’ to turn out the light first. He asks permission to turn out the light, and is delighted when give permission, as this reinforces his disobedience of not staying in bed. As it would be with most of us, Mom is clueless. Then he asks for a drink. Because he so sweetly asks, he gets one. Then he calls his Dad in and tells him he forgot to tell him something that happened to him at school that day.  He hears his mom tell a friend of hers the next day how proud she is of him because he asks for permission to do things. She wished his sister would do this. Really? This boy knows he uses the freedom to ask for permission to do something instead of what he is supposed to be doing.


We are often asked how young you can tell is a child is micro rebellious. Actually it is quite easy. Kids are one or the other. If they don’t throw tantrums when they don’t get their own way, they are most likely micro in their rebellion. When our son Michael was not yet walking, we used the walker with him.  This was in the days record albums were still in use. He would go to the open shelf they were on and throw the record albums across the room like frisbees.

I corrected him for this. The next day he went to the shelf and touched the shelf, not the records. The next day he pointed to the shelf and looked at me with a smile. It was exhausting to stay on top of him. Even then, I knew he was challenging me.

When he was in Middle School, I asked him why he didn’t do the little things well. He told me he did a good job with the big things, and I just needed to learn not to sweat the small stuff!  I told him letting the little things go were like cracks in a mirror. When he looked in the mirror, the cracks reflected an image that was marred. I told him the cracks would widen over time because he wouldn’t do the little things and they would eventually become big things. Working with him and Amy on their micro rebellion was a process that took place over years of time. We had to be consistent in both our instruction and our correction. God doesn’t give up on us, so how can we as parents give up on training our children?


Watch your children over the next few days. Determine if they are ‘macro’ in their rebellion. Talk things over with your husband. Decide what steps to take to rein them in. It is worth the trouble.

“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer,

he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.

For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty,

and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts,

he will be blessed in his doing.”

James 1:21- 25


Resources available at Parenting Made Practical Bookstore:


Mom’s Notes presentation, “Working with Your Child’s Besetting Sin, Part 1: The Choleric” (Volume 2)

Mom’s Notes presentation, “Working with Your Child’s Besetting Sin, Part 2: The Sanguine and the Phelgmatic” (Volume 2)

Mom’s Notes presentation, “Understanding First –Time Obedience” (Volume 3)

Mom’s Notes presentation, “Training the Passive Rebellious Child” (Volume 4)

Mom’s Notes presentation, “Understanding the Funnel” (Volume 4)





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