KEYWORDS: time, punishment, mother, something, right, way

Child Psychology

David Berg

—By Father DavidDFO 9154 August 1974

1. CHILDREN WILL WHEEDLE & cry & argue, cajole & whine by the hour to get something they want if you don't just set your foot down! They know just how far they can go with you. They'll say, "You don't love me anymore. I'll get me a new mama! I'm going to run away from home! I'm going to go live with Grandma!"—Until you're really afraid they're going to run away!

2. Mother Eve just couldn't say no! She always tried to talk around the children or give them some substitute. She didn't believe in a flat out confrontation. I finally got desperate because Deborah was such a handful, so I appointed this guy to be master of the children. They all loved him & he played with them, but he could really get tough with them & lay down the law. I guess that was our first nursery headed by a man! I said to him,

3. "You're in charge of the kids & you make them behave no matter what you have to do!"—& he did. They would come squalling & bawling, "Ted spanked me!" & I'd say, "Good! That's probably what you needed." I didn't sympathise with Deb & I didn't let her mother sympathise with her. So she ran off & hid in the neighbour's yard until about 10 o'clock at night when the neighbour finally brought her home! Then I really did give it to her for running away & hiding & worrying us all!

4. Children are expert psychologists!—They can read you like a book! They know just how far to go & how much you can take. They know their parents & their weak spots & just exactly how much they can get away with. They know just what methods to use to get what they want.

5. Eve's tactic was to stall & beat around the bush & use evasive & diverse tactics, & a lot of times it worked: They'd forget about it. She'd give them something else to do. She was great at giving them a substitute, & children have to have something to do. If they insist on doing something you don't want them to do‚ you have to substitute something. She'd dream up something else & try to distract their attention & get them off on some other track. That worked pretty good & saved a lot of explosions‚ confrontations & spankings.

6. I guess I deal with you kids today the way I dealt with my four then—head–on! I figure if they can take it, good, & if not, that's tough! For one thing, I just didn't have the patience or time to fiddle around trying to figure out some way to distract their attention & get them off the subject.

7. I just hit them head-on & said, "I'm sick of hearing that! You sound like a broken record, & I'm tired of that tune!" I'd just tell them flat out, "If you don't shut up & stop that whining, I'm going to give you something to whine about!" It's funny, sometimes if you'll make fun of them & imitate them & call them Mr. Whiney-Piney & whine & cry just like they do‚ they'll burst out laughing, 'cause they know they're just using that to try to persuade you, & they know they're not really all that upset about it.

8. They just use those tactics on you because they know they make you feel bad, & if they keep it up long enough, they know they'll persuade you after awhile. So I just let them have it, but not always the way they wanted it!—I usually let them have it on the rear &/or legs ...! ...

9. ... Well, they knew when I said no I meant no‚ so they didn't try to work me too much. But oh, their mother!—She couldn't say no, & she couldn't give them a spanking, so she usually left me with that job.

10. If you finally do give them a spanking, the first thing they do is cry like their hearts are going to break! You've really hurt their feelings worst of all, & they usually cry the loudest when you first start spanking. Deborah would start screaming before I even [spanked] her! She'd start wailing & crying & screaming before I even touched her, because the first thing they try to do is get your sympathy to try to make you feel sorry you're spanking them, make you feel bad. ...

12. They cry harder when their feelings are hurt than when their bodies are hurt. So I just used to say‚ "Now when you stop yelling so loud, I'll quit." So when Deborah would stop screaming & start whimpering & saying, "Oh Daddy, Daddy! No more, please Daddy!" & would start begging me instead of screaming so hard & waking all the neighbors up, I would usually begin to stop.

13. They deliberately try to embarrass you & make you afraid all the neighbors will hear. ...

14. Then they'll run to their mother screaming, "Oh Daddy's killing me! Daddy's going to kill me! Mama, mama, help me! Please help me, Daddy's going to kill me!"—And quite frequently that works: She'll say‚ "Now Daddy, you don't have to spank them so hard, there must be a better way."

15. The minute they've got the parents divided, they know they've got it made! So one of their favourite tactics is to pit one against the other & get the sympathy of one against the other. They know the minute you're not united on it & not going to stand together on the punishment, the whole thing will crumble!

16. Whenever they'd run to their mother & persuade her to side with them‚ I'd tell her, "Okay, if you're going to sympathise with them, I'll just let you have them! You can handle the problem. I'm not going to fool with them anymore!" It may not have helped the child at the moment, but it taught Eve a lesson!

17. If she was not going to cooperate with my disciplining, she'd be left with the whole thing on her hands to have to solve without my help. Well, she usually didn't want that to happen, because she knew she couldn't handle it all by herself. So she'd finally give in that I was right. She'd have to cooperate, because the problem didn't usually come to me until she couldn't handle it anymore. Then when I took over she either had to agree with my methods & go along with them, or I threw it back into her lap.

18. Kids know just how to try your patience & see just how far they can make you go. It starts out when they're even little tiny kids, before they can even talk! Every one of them do it. You tell them not to touch something & they'll look at you & reach their hand out toward it & just almost touch it. All the time their eyes are glued on you to see exactly what your reaction is & how far they're going to be able to get away with it! And this is one of their favourite tactics also:

19. They'll reach out & touch it real quick & then jump back & see if you're going to smack them for it, even when they didn't touch it very much or do any damage. They'll try to touch it just a little bit. I never saw any of them that didn't do it. And if touching it just a little bit doesn't raise any furors, then they try it again to touch it just a little bit more to see if they can still get away with it.

20. The funny thing is, some of those quick touches do more damage than if they grabbed hold of it‚ because sometimes in their quick touching of it they knock it over! But they really think that maybe you don't really mean it. You may have said, "Now don't touch that or I'm going to smack your hand!"—But because they've gotten away with it before, they think they can do it again.

21. One of the worst things in the world you can do is let them get away with it just that first time. If you fail to keep your word of punishment just once, then they figure they can get away with it again. They're always hoping this will be that one time in ten when they can get away with it. A lot of people are just like that with the Lord.

22. Kids are real psychologists, child psychologists! Most parents find out it's mostly on the side of the child. The child knows more about psychology than they do!—It's just instinctive with them, probably taught, trained & engineered by the Devil. If they pulled any of those little trial tactics on me to see how much they could get away with, I'd say, "Now you touch that & I'm going to swat you one real good & hard!"—And if they'd just reach out & give it a trial touch, they found out what happened!

23. Just like everything else, children learn by experimentation, trying things. That's why little babies crawl around on the floor & put everything they find in their mouths, to find out if it's good to eat, like a little animal. They don't know what's good for them‚ & sometimes even when you tell them it isn't‚ they'll try it anyway to find out for themselves.

24. Every little kid is just like Adam & Eve in the Garden all over again. You spend most of your time laying down the law & telling them what to do & what not to do & what's right & wrong, & they spend most of their time experimenting to find out how much they can get away with to see if you're right. That's exactly the way they are, & exactly the way adults are too.

25. One of the first things you have to teach a child is about dangers, & one of the main dangers of the average home is some kind of heater or something hot. One of the first words kids learn besides "no" is "hot." But I don't know a kid yet that ever believed your "No, no! Hot! Don't touch! No!" Every one of them is just exactly like Adam & Eve: They have to touch it first & get their finger burned before they'll really believe you. Most kids are that way with a lot of things.

26. They don't want to take your word for anything. They want to find out for themselves. So they have to find out the hard way & learn by sad & bitter experience & a few burns & hard knocks. But once they find out they can get away with something‚ then they will forever try to do it again, figuring this will be the time they'll make it & get away with it again.

27. Once you've yielded & let them get by with it & they find that through their whining & wheedling & crying they can get you to change your mind, they will forever try to do it again. They'll figure that your no doesn't really mean no. I used to tell them, "You may be able to change your mother's mind‚ but when I say no, I mean no! If you try that one more time I'm going to sock it to you!"

28. One of the cleverest little tricks they use, especially when they get a little older, in their subteens: "Well, Mother said I could, it's all right with Mother. She said that if you didn't mind, it's all right with her."

29. Eve had a great knack for putting the decision on me. She didn't want to say no, so she'd make me do it. So she'd say, "Well, you go ask your father"—figuring of course I'd say no. That way she didn't have to stand the brunt of being the old meany. So they did. Talk about psychology, she'd say, "Well, if your father says you can, all right," thinking of course I'd say no.

30. But they'd come to me & say, "Mother said I could, is it all right with you Dad? Mother said I could, can I? She said it was all right, she just wanted to know if it was all right with you."—And quite frequently I'd find out she had said nothing of the kind‚ but they had just interpreted it the way they wanted to interpret it. I'd think, "Well, I guess if Eve said it was all right‚ if she didn't mind, I guess it's all right." And all the time we were figuring, well, if the other doesn't mind, it must be all right.

31. At about that same age, late preteens, they found out they could use another very good tactic on their mother because of her absentmindedness. They'd go & ask her, "Mom, can I go to the store? Can I Mom? Can I? How about it Mom?"—They are an endless tape when it comes to asking for something they want to do!

32. And they knew just when to tackle her on this, when she was talking to somebody else & didn't have her mind on what they were saying or asking. She'd say, "Yes dear, what is it?"—And between the "yes dear" & "what is it" they were out the door! They'd say later, "Mother, you said yes! And she'd say, "What do you mean?—I never even heard you!"

33. Then the final tactic, & this is a favourite of teenagers, is to breeze through the room & say‚ "Mom, I'm going to the store," or wherever they're going‚ "Mom I'm going to the show with So-&–so"—& they're out the door before you can say a word, before you had time to even think it over! So when they get back & you are fuming & just absolutely having a fit about it, you know what they say? "Well, I told you I was going, Mother, & you didn't say I couldn't go."

34. Every time you don't say no, that means yes as far as they're concerned, if you don't give them a flat-out no! They say, "Well, I told you & you didn't say I couldn't, I thought you knew, Mother!" Or they'll tell one of their sisters or brothers to tell their parents.

35. We had a rule that they were never to leave the house without permission, & even if they had permission to do a certain thing, they were never to leave without notifying us where they were going‚ because in case of emergency or something we'd want to know where they went.

36. So they'd breeze through the room where their brothers & sisters were busy playing or studying & say, "Blah, blah, So-&-so, tell Mom"—& they may not have even heard them. And then later say, "Well, I told you, Faithie, to tell Mother." And she'd say, "You never told me!" "Yes I did‚ you didn't listen!" Especially when they wanted to do something that they were sure we'd question. They'd say the same to Mother, "I told you where I was going, Mother, so I figured it was all right"—when she had her mind on something else.

37. Or finally, without telling anybody or getting permission or anything, they'll take off & go someplace or with somebody that you gave them permission for before‚ & they'll say, "Well, you let me go before, so I figured it was all right." Well, we might have found out since then that the before wasn't all right, & we would have determined that there wouldn't be a next time, & they figure that very thing, that they better not ask you next time because you wouldn't let them!—And that will often be one of their defenses: "Well, I didn't ask you because I knew you would say no!"

38. You have to do just like God does: First He lays down the law & the rules & tells you, "Now if you be good & obey these rules, you'll have certain privileges & blessings & be allowed certain things & can eat of every other tree in the Garden, but just don't eat of this one. You can have all the rest of these blessings‚ just don't fool around with this one because it's dangerous! But if you do, this is what we're going to do about it."

39. From the time they're a little baby you tell them, "Don't touch, or I'll spank your hand!"—& you illustrate it. If they act like they're going to touch it‚ you act like you're about to slap their hand really hard. When they see you raise your hand to strike them, they know what you mean. You have to threaten them with punishment, just like God does. (Maria: By the time they're teenagers you shouldn't have to use corporal punishment anymore.)

40. I think I slapped their mouth a few times, especially if they were insolent or sassy. It's not that it hurts so much, it's just that it's so embarrassing to them & humiliating. I did this to Jonathan when he was full grown with a whole tent full of people, grown & married, when he sassed me back about something, to the shocked amazement of some of the kids that were standing by!

41. One thing I couldn't stand was for people to be sassy & insolent & show disrespect by talking back. Arguing is one thing, but downright disrespectful remarks just infuriate me, & I used to really sock it to them for that!

42. ... It's one thing to talk back & show disrespect for your husband in private—he might be able to take it—but when you deliberately try to embarrass him & humiliate him & show your contempt for him publicly before others, it's usually something he can't take.

45. With every rule & every law there has to be some kind of agreed forewarned punishment. It's not really fair to tell them what the punishment is going to be afterward, because then you lose the value of the deterrent effect of the forewarning or threat of punishment.

46. The principle idea of the penal system is to deter crime—to discourage criminals from committing a crime before they ever do it‚ to try to be a preventative. They know the law says if you do thus & so you'll be fined or imprisoned or your license taken away or your car is going to be impounded.

47. These threats of fixed, forewarned punishment are not just simply to punish you after you've done it, when it's too late to stop you & you've already done it, but to forewarn you of these punishments to try to keep you from doing it. And that's the way it is with a child. You have to be firm.

48. You've got to sit down with them & talk it over & lay down the law & let them know that this is right & this is wrong. You like this, but you don't like that, they can do this but they can't do that. And if they do the right thing you'll reward them just like God does, but if they do the wrong thing you warn them in advance you're gong to punish them, & you hope that this fear of punishment or retribution is going to deter them‚ or keep them from doing it.

49. The purpose is not just merely to have a set system of punishments after it's already done, but it is to try to scare them into not doing it ahead of time. But no matter how good your laws are & no matter how fair & good the system of punishments are—the penal system—if there's not constant persistent & faithful diligent infallible enforcement, you might as well forget the whole business!

50. A law without enforcement is no law at all! A punishment without application is no punishment at all! The moment a child finds out, whether he be a baby or a teenager‚ that your no doesn't really mean no & that your threat of punishment will not really be carried out—the minute he finds out he can get away with it, he'll do it again! And the worst of it is that even if he doesn't always get away with it, even if he only gets away with it once, he'll always try again hoping this is another time he can get away with it!

51. Your punishment has to be consistent & without variation, & your no has to really mean no & he's got to believe it! The only way he's going to know that it means no‚ the only way he's going to believe that you really will punish him next time, is for you to punish him this time & every time he does it, without fail, so that he'll know he can never get away with it‚ so he might as well not even try, & he gives up & doesn't try any more.

52. Now you don't want to be unreasonable in your prohibitions & pass unreasonable laws that are almost impossible to keep because it's just against human nature, like they tried to enforce Prohibition against the sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. If you make unreasonable laws against certain natural vices, or you make your laws too strict & too stringent, it's almost impossible for anybody to obey them!

53. If you make the rules for the child too hard to keep, then you may feel sorry for him after he's broken it & realise it's too difficult for him to keep such a rule‚ & go back on your word & not stick to the no & not enforce the punishment. Then he'll have contempt for all of your no's & all of your laws & rules & all of your threats of punishment, & he'll probably not believe any of them! He'll expect he can always get away with whatever it may be, because you forgave him last time & you didn't stick to your word last time & you didn't enforce the laws last time, so you probably won't this time.

54. Once you have laid down the rule & said no & threatened punishment, you do not dare back down, even if you're sorry & you realise later that it wasn't a good rule & it was expecting too much.—Unless you change the rule before somebody's broken it. Sometimes they'll knowingly, wittingly‚ defiantly break it because they thought it was an unfair rule, just to see if you'll still keep your word & mete out an unfair punishment.

55. Once you've vowed a vow, sometimes you'll have to keep that vow even to your own hurt or the hurt of your child, because it will have a worse effect, more far–reaching & more long-lasting & more disastrous, for you to fail to keep your word & to be found a liar, than it will be to mete out an unfair or unreasonable punishment in this one case.—Which should make the parent sorry enough to be a little more reasonable & change the rule, once he's awakened to this fact. But you do not dare break your word!

56. God doesn't break His Word no matter what! He's exalted His Word above His Name, & it would be better for Him to be found a little unfair in some cases than to be found a liar upon whose word as well as warnings & promises you cannot depend!

57. If the lawbreaker cannot depend on the word of the lawmaker, then your whole legal structure breaks down & the whole force of government! If the criminal knows that the chances are pretty good he can get away with it‚ or that he won't be severely punished even if caught, he'll probably try it. And this is what's happening right now in extremely lenient permissive societies where crime is raging rampant, because the criminals have found they can get away with it!

58. In the case of unreasonable laws which should never have been made in the first place, or rules for your children that are too strict & too hard to keep, you'll find they won't do much good anyway. They're going to break them anyhow, & then you just make a fool & liar of yourself, because you yourself discover it's ridiculous to try to enforce it, like Prohibition, & you must change the law to be fair & just.—Amen? GBY & give you great lovepatience & wisdom!—And also the mercy to forgive when needed or necessary or advisable!—Or deserved because of great repentance & Godly sorrow!—Amen? PTL!