Call them rascals, bad boys, or the strong-willed, everyone knows of one or has faced the challenge of how to deal with them. They don’t seem to set out to be that way, but their choices leave them at odds with authority and conformity to society. They usually attract attention from others who would be otherwise very obedient without the rascal around. They are like little high energy pied-pipers with a fan club who follow them, or secretly admire their tenacity. They question rules and preconceived notions of others. But most of all, they want to be in control of their own actions.
James C. Dodson wrote a best seller on the subject, “The Strong-Willed Child,” that became a handbook to many perplexed parents. I won’t go into what he wrote but I will share some observations I have made. First, they can be self-motivated, bright, inquisitive kids with their own opinions. It is not a question of obedience for them, it is a matter of following their own conscious and understanding about the issue at hand. Wise parents will treat them with respect and discuss their viewpoint even though the final decision must rest with the parent, although many parents think this approach is being overly permissive. Many become leaders in the future. Where the child gets into rebellion is when that respect isn’t forthcoming and they are forced to behave in a way that seems unreasonable to them. Then they can leave a broad swatch of misbehavior in their wake.
I find it interesting that so many of our most effective religious leaders were once bad boys turned good. I guess God was a wise parent who knew to let them try it their way until they got to the end of their own ability. They were smart enough to know the universal standard of righteousness, and being in right relationship with themselves and with God. They recognized they needed the higher power who was always true, trustworthy, and respectful of them. Once they figured out who was boss (and justifiably so) in their lives, they were okay with pouring out their own energy, talents, love, and experience in partnership with Him in a divine directive.
I know of what I’m speaking, because not all bad boys are boys. Some are girls. I was one of those girls. I was a clandestine bad girl, but one nevertheless. I wanted to be obedient, but my father had me tied in emotional knots during my childhood and youth. I was angry, especially at God, so I didn’t want any involvement with Him, if He did exist, which I doubted. I was like Jonah fleeing from my divine directive, and like one of the disciples once I had discovered Jesus. I like to keep an eye out for the little rascals of this world, and try to give them a little extra love and understanding. Most of them need it.