Children between the ages of about 8 or 9 and 13 or 14 (but really at any age) can sometimes go through an extremely annoying phase. Perhaps most do, and if you remember yourself at that age, if you’re like me, you can remember yourself being really annoying at times. As a parent trying to get things done, to manage work, home, family, perhaps Homeschooling, and outside involvements, etc., you can feel very frustrated and short-tempered when your child behaves this way. They may have habits that are annoying, they may repeat things over and over, or make noise just for the sake of making noise! Or, they may do things that are just, so childish! The temptation is to get angry and yell at your child. Or to speak in a very irritated way to them, perhaps dripping with sarcasm or to be insulting. Though these are the temptations, we cannot give in to them.
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
2 Corinthians 7:1
I was reading this morning in a book I use as a devotional sometimes, “A Passion for Holiness in a Believer’s Life,” by Charles Spurgeon, (compiled and edited by Robert Hall). These words jumped off the page (he is speaking on “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” from 2 Corinthians 7:1): “The Christian is developed by actively seeking growth, earnestly striving after holiness, and resolutely endeavoring to obtain it. The utmost of our activity should be put forth in cleansing ourselves. Your bad temper will not be overcome by saying, ‘Well, you know I cannot help it.’ But you must help it; you must, if you are a believer. You have no more right to shake hands with a bad temper than you have to fraternize with the devil. You have got to overcome it, and in the name of God you must…Albeit sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit, yet it is equally true that the Holy Spirit makes us active agents in our own sanctification.”
Here are 5 things I would like to encourage you to remember
(and to do) when your child is being really annoying.
1) They are acting childishly immature, because they’re still children and immature.
Don’t punish them for childish immaturity. There is a difference between childish immaturity and disobedience and rebellion, which things should bring swift discipline. Consider also, if they are acting annoying, they may have some excess energy to burn off. We used to say, “Go run around the house 5 times!” When you exercise your body releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, are known to reduce stress, create a euphoric feeling, and fight against depression. Sending them outside to run off some of that energy also provides a change of scenery, and distracts them from whatever may have been instigating them to display annoying behavior. This is not a reward for annoying behavior:)
There is another activity you can have them do when they’re being annoying that is also good–work! I sometimes used to say, “You must not have enough work to do!” If they had enough time to bother a sibling, or torment the cat, they had time to do those chores that were waiting! Children need to be trained to work. They should be doing their share of the work to keep the home running smoothly. This also makes them feel needed and you should show appreciation for what they do, and let them know their contribution is valued. Especially your sons need good hard physical work, if possible, and it’s best if their dads can direct this. My husband would write a list before he left for work of jobs or chores he wanted our son to get done that day. They also chopped and hauled wood on the weekends for our wood stove. This was a godsend!
At this age, they’re trying to figure out what is appropriate behavior, they’re unsure of themselves and finding out who they are, they’re testing the waters to see how they fit in to the family and other groups of people. They’re developing their own personality and their own sense of humor. It’s not always obvious to them that what they think is funny or appropriate or expressing their individuality, isn’t necessarily appropriate at that particular time and in that particular place.
They’re immature—give them time! When you are so annoyed with your child, there is probably also an element of embarrassment you’re experiencing. You may overreact because of it. You need to remember that their behavior doesn’t necessarily mean that you as a parent, and your child-training, are a failure. Take a step back and try to be objective. If someone else’s child did the same thing, would you laugh? (Evaluate, however, if more training and instruction is needed in a certain area. But, don’t beat yourself up. Pray and make a plan. Perhaps you’re not seeing first-time obedience–you’re not expecting them to obey the first time you speak–and your frustration level and anger, therefore, rise.)
This is Part 1. In Part 2 I’ll talk about more practical things you can do when your children are being so annoying!