Why Do The Kids Keep Testing Us?

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My wife and I have two very strong-willed kids who are hard to handle. They seem to need to test us, and they’re the happiest and most contented when we are toughest on them. Why do they insist on making us growl at them and even punish them more than we’d like to?


It is curious isn’t it, that some children seem to enjoy fighting with their parents. It’s a function of temperament with which they are born. Many kids just like to run things and seem to enjoy picking fights.

There is another factor that is related to a child’s sense of security. Let me illustrate it this way. Imagine you’re driving a car over a bridge, which is suspended hundreds of feet above the ground level. As a first-time traveller, you’re pretty tense as you drive across. It’s a scary experience. I knew one little fellow who was so awed by the view over the side of the bridge that he said, “Wow, Daddy! If you fell off here, it’d kill you instantly.”

Now suppose there were no guardrails on the side of the bridge. Where would you steer the car? Right down the middle of the road. Even though you don’t plan to hit those protective railings along the side, you just feel more secure knowing they’re there.

It’s the same way with children. There is security in defined limits. They need to know precisely what the rules are and who’s available to enforce them. Whenever a strong-willed child senses that the boundaries may have moved, or that his or her parents may have lost their nerve, he or she will often start a fight just to test the limits again. They may not admit that they want you to be just the boss, but they breathe easier when you prove that you are.

This article was written by Focus on the Family Malaysia (www.family.org.my) and the Questions and Answers are extracted from “Complete Family and Marriage Home Reference Guide” by Dr James Dobson with permission.