Magical Power Stick and Other Ways of Gaining Control

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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

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, who guest posted for me last Saturday, is giving away one of her books, Dwelling Places, to one of my readers. Here’s how you can enter to win: If you haven’t yet subscribed to my blog by email, you can win one entry by clicking the button “follow” in the above right corner and typing in your email address. If you’ve already subscribed, or if you just want more entries, you can earn entries by sharing Lucinda’s guest post via social media. Remember, though, you have to be subscribed for your shares to count as entries. Each share to a different social media venue earns you one entry (up to three). I will announce the winner next Saturday when I do my next book review, so look for it! Thank you!

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16 thoughts on “Magical Power Stick and Other Ways of Gaining Control

  1. Certain family members that I grew up with loved using “The Silent Treatment” as a weapon. Over the years I have found myself using it in my marriage, and I am learning to check myself. It reminds me of the scripture that warns to not let the sun go down on your anger. We’ve been married now for 37 years, so you could say that we have been successful; but that has only been accomplished through the power of the holy spirit. Left to my own devices I would have been chasing my hubby around the house with a stick!

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    • Hilarious! Yes, I’ve been tempted to use the guilt trips on my husband, too, but the Holy Spirit convicts me, so I’ve gotten a little better. I wish I never did it to any of my family!

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  2. Great post. I love how you took this funny story and turned it into a thought provoking message.I think I’ve tried all the things you mentioned to gain control and power. I hope I’m finally learning that prayer holds the most power.
    Hey, on a silly note: we have TWO of those cat toys around my house, so I could have a power stick in each hand!

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  3. Oh those kids…always looking for ways to gain some control over their situation in life. As adults we continue to do the same, only without broadcasting our intentions as loudly and obviously as we did as little crumbgrinders. As a father I discovered that my skills as “master of distraction” came in handy when dealing with the various attractions that allured my boys in an unproductive or even dangerous direction. I found it effective to empower my boys with the control they craved by giving them choices that they had not the mind to conceive. I would often find a way to give them the option and thus the power they desired to choose between one of two good things that I had in mind. This would most often distract them from one of the undesirable choices they were focusing on and gave them the satisfaction of being able to choose something on their own, even though both choices were by design in their (and my) best interest.

    No matter what, we all seek control in our life and we are constantly processing thoughts throughout the day to that end. What better way to choose from among good things than to go about our day by setting our affections on things of above as the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in the church at Colossae. We read in the book of Colossians chapter 3 verses 1,2 from the ISV, a version of the Bible I really enjoy: Therefore, if you have been raised with the Messiah, keep focusing on the things that are above, where the Messiah is seated at the right hand of God. Keep your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.

    In this way we will always have plenty of good things to choose from to focus on that give us positive ways to exercise control over our lives.

    And lastly, we have a further description from Paul as to what these “things that are above” are in Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is fair, whatever is pure, whatever is acceptable, whatever is commendable, if there is anything of excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—keep thinking about these things.

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  4. I am reminded of trying to keep control over my two sons when they were young. I tried taking away privileges when they were disobedient. It had little effect on my younger son. One day I looked at him in desperation. He looked back at me and said in his six year old voice, “What are you gonna do? Take away my bathroom privileges?”
    I am thankful that God never loses control or gets exasperated with us. He knows how to woo us and how to correct us. His power is absolute and loving.

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  5. Ooh, great analogy. It’s so easy to default to finding ways to hang on to our power, and you’ve listed some of the most common ones. I think you’re right–focusing on God’s sovereignty helps me let go of my need for power and control.

    Liked by 1 person

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