by Heather Bock
My youngest, JP, will be four on Friday. He’s no baby anymore, but he is limited in certain areas in comparison to his oldest sibling, Mr. C, who is eight and a half. Mr. C doesn’t torment him too much (not as much as he has his sister), but Mr. C has been known to wield his size as power against his little brother to tickle him or take a toy he’s afraid JP will break or lose.
The other day, JP found a fun way to turn the tables on his big brother. We have a long, skinny plastic stick, from the end of which hangs a long, skinny piece of colorful fleece, which can be whipped around to make our cat pounce or jump flips in the air if he’s feeling particularly frisky (not often anymore, now that he’s thirteen). Well, JP found this stick and decided it would be fun to run around the house after his brother with it. I’m not sure if he was hitting his brother with it or just taunting him, but Mr. C was running away, yelling–a very satisfying experience for an almost four year old boy.
As soon as I saw what was happening, I took the weapon away from my young son and put it where he couldn’t reach it (or find it again). He instantly began screaming, to Mr. C’s (and my) amusement: “I want my power back!! I want my power back!!!” He was pretending the stick was some kind of magic wand, which it kind of was, as it wondrously made his brother run.
It made me start to think. What is my power–my magical stick that I use to make my family do what I want them to do? Because when they are out of my control, anger can quickly rise, making me scream in my heart, “I want my power back!” I’ve used positive strategies as small power over my kids, like sticker charts and other reward motivators. I’ve praised them for good behavior, a less expensive prize. I’ve set up fairly consistent consequences for wrong behavior, like taking away toys or screen time or requiring them to do something undesirable. For the most part, these have been pretty healthy ways of wielding power over my children.
However, when I hear Little E, my six year old girl, spout sarcasm when she disapproves of something her brothers (or I) have done, I realize I’ve also used guilt trips, a very unhealthy but temporarily effective magic stick, as power. The ugliness of it coming from my daughter makes me see it for what it is: just a stick used as a weapon.
Others may use alternate unhealthy methods of gaining power: silent treatment, cutting words, unforgiveness, physical force, withdrawal, bribes (close to but different from incentives), threats, screaming, etc. I’m sure more exist than these. We might even be using some of these against spouses, parents, or friends. Of course, we notice them the most when they’re used against us.
I want my own Father to gently take my power stick out of my hands and place it out of reach. I think He would rather I put it in His hands myself–I know I wish JP would have done that of his own accord (as if that would ever happen). We should definitely have some healthy power over our children in well-thought-out ways, but I hope realizing we aren’t in complete control and God is, will help us surrender our unhealthy ways of gaining power.
How about you? What kinds of magic power sticks have you seen used?
Drawing for Dwelling Place Giveaway
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