My daughter is a defiant teenager. I know this because she told me so.
Yesterday she was asked to do one of her chores. At first she refused, saying she’d do it, but she didn’t want to do it until she was ready. Why not?
“Because I’m being defiant,” she said. She had the self-awareness to know she was in the wrong. She was testing her boundaries, as well as our reaction. Perhaps she thought that if we overreacted (as I tend to do,) she would be justified in digging in her heels and continuing to be defiant.
The whole thing was silly, and she knew it. But sometimes kids have to see their own error instead of having it drilled into them by a parent.
Defiance and Pride
Sin is, at its heart, defiance born of pride. It is doing what we want, instead of what we ought. It is understanding what is best for us yet rejecting it in pursuit of our own desires. Sin is the conviction that our way is best, regardless of what is best for ourselves or those around us.
There is not a virtue that pride cannot convert into a vice. – St. Justin Popovic
I have a long track record of trying to parent by insisting on compliance, instead of behaving in a way that inspires a desire to do the right thing. This approach rarely works and even when it does, it’s at the cost of anger and resentment from my daughter. When I act out of pride instead of love, the results are predictable.
Children are observant, and look to see whether our words and our deeds are in alignment. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a terrible way to parent, but one that is all too common.
A Model Parent
In the book Parenting Toward the Kingdom, author Philip Mamalakis asserts that good parenting comes from modeling the behavior you want to see in your children:
“Learning how to parent is not about learning how to get our children to behave; it’s about learning how to get ourselves to behave. Remember, modeling is the most effective way to teach our children. The goal of this parenting book is to invite parents how to learn to act like adults, no matter what childish behaviors our kids present to us.”
By modeling good behavior, we become the parents we want to be, and the Christians we are called to be. Our children in turn see an example of self-control, humility and love.
If, on the other hand, we are one way at home and another way in polite society, children pick up on that. This quote from the book hit me particularly hard:
If they see us behave one way outside the home or in church, and another way in the home, they will believe the way we act in the home is true and real, and they will learn how to pretend in public. If my children see me model the Christian virtues in public, but then see me gossip, criticize or get angry with family members at home, they will learn the gospel is something you pretend to believe, but not something that is real.
I’m still defiant when it comes to parenting. I know what works and what doesn’t, but I want things on my terms. But with God’s help I make baby steps toward loving others more fully. Along the way, I hope to become an example for my daughter, so that she can grow from a defiant teenager into the woman she was meant to be.
Interested in learning more about Orthodoxy? Subscribe to Finding the True Faith and download my FREE ebook, 10 Questions About Orthodox Christianity.