Prickly Parenting

As a parent, do you ever feel prickly?

Merriam-Webster defines “prickly” as “covered with prickles.”

Two prickly creatures that come to mind are the puffer fish . . .


and the porcupine . . .



When my children are . . .






I tend to puff up like the puffer fish and the porcupine, my prickles catching, poking and piercing every little thing my kids do or say that is wrong. I become like a porcupine in a balloon factory.

And then their responses multiply my prickles. You know what I’m talking about . . . .

The eye-rolling.

The sighing.

The back-talking.

The sass.

The condescending laugh, making it known that they are wise and that I am a fool. Or the gratuitous, “Yes Sir,” so that I will be quiet. Or telling me what I want to hear so they can get back to their texting.

Every fiber of my being wants to pounce and correct. Show them clearly and irrefutably the waywardness of their ways. But no matter how inspired my rebuke, no matter how eloquently I lay bare their irrationality, no matter how much I yell, I get this . . .


You’re smiling because you’ve encountered that brick wall before, haven’t you? That cold, hard surface of intractability? That loathsome stare of hostility and disrespect? The unwillingness to bend in the face of irresistible force?



Chris Knight sings a song called, “Bridle on a Bull,” which partly goes like this:

Don’t put a bridle on a bull,
He’ll never do what you want him to.
Don’t put a bridle on a bull,
He’ll just take you for a fool.
And if you take him by his horns,
That bull will run right over you.

I’ve struggled with that bridle and been run over many times. And I know going in that I am not going to “win”; it’s an unwinnable battle. So why do I continue rolling that boulder up the mountain like the Labor of Sisyphus?


In my head, I truly want to open my children’s eyes to the truth, but in my heart, I just want to win the unwinnable battle. Selfishness overshadows benevolence. This attitude leads me to statements like:

“I can’t just let that go.”

“If I don’t tell him, he will never learn.”

“He can’t disrespect me like that and get away with it!”

“He can’t possibly believe what he just said.”

“Why does he not ever put up the milk?”


My wife just shakes her head at me and says:

“Let it go.”

“It’s not worth it.”

“Choose your battles wisely.”

“With teens, you have to focus on the big
things and let the little things go.”

It’s more important to build a relationship with them
than to show them every way they are wrong.

Grrr. I know she’s right, but it’s so hard to back into my hole with my prickles out.

Porcupine Clipart


So, what’s the solution?

I’m still in the game, so I don’t have the magic answers, but here are some observations:

My children stop listening to me after about 3 minutes.

They hide in their rooms more when there is a lot of conflict.

Many times they don’t believe what they are saying but will defend it unto death.

Many times they absolutely do believe the shockingly irrational statements they make.

Many times they intentionally go in the opposite direction when pushed.

The world never ends when I don’t convince them of their ignorance.

The world never ends when I let the small things go.

The world never ends when I listen to my wife.

If a parent hovers over his child, there will be an endless number of opportunities to critique and correct. But what is the profit if relationship is forfeited?

Is the goal perfection? Are expectations reasonable? And would that parent want someone hovering over himself with that same level of scrutiny?

With so many opportunities to tear down, parents must learn to ignore the small things, hit the big items, and look for opportunities to build up.

I fail miserably and repeatedly at this, but I know the bigger picture is more important than the constant little battles.


Above all, I want my children to love God and to have a happy and healthy relationship with me.

I want them to talk to me.

I want them to come to me with problems.

I want them to desire and enjoy spending time with me.

I want them to call me regularly when they are grown.

But that will not happen if I continue rolling that boulder up the mountain. That will not happen if my prickles are always out.

No one wants to be around someone who
constantly corrects or rebukes him.

No one wants to be around constant conflict.

No one wants to be friends with
someone who argues constantly. 

Children want to be respected. They want to be nurtured. They want you to be a friend, not an enemy.

They will exercise their budding independence awkwardly and frustratingly. I often want to unscrew my kids’ heads and examine the contents to determine what practical joke God is playing on me. There has to be a Whoopee Cushion in there, right?


But parents need to build up their children, not tear them down. They need to teach and shepherd, not conquer.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4.

A parent cannot build up his children with his prickles out; too many unimportant things get impaled.


72 thoughts on “Prickly Parenting

  1. Such an insightful post. Too often we emphasize ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’, as a credo while forgetting Ephesians 6:4. Without a gentle spirit we can break the spirit of a child, and what a grave offense that would be. By mirroring God’s love we draw our children to Him – no small task for parents when we get the eye roll!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Right on! Our oldest is our strong willed one, so, unfortunately, I’ve had to learn through him. On the constant mend. It really does surprise me how much happier and tolerable he becomes as I let off on the pressure.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this post. I couldn’t help but think as I read it how this applies to our interactions with the world as well. Too many times, as Christians, we tend to go for the juggler and attack rather than seek the relationship. “It’s the goodness of God that being repentance” and yet we still think it’s our defense of the law that does so.

    I must admit I was convicted by this. I tend to be very outspoken in my rebuke of how the direction the church is going…”nobody wants to be friends with someone who is always rebuking them”

    Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. OMGoodness, you hit the nail right on the head. I feel the same frustrations and get these same illogical arguments from my own boys, ages 11-17. My girls have yet to reach that age. They are still young enough that mom and dad know what they’re talking about, or appears that way even if we are pulling bits and pieces from a magicians’ hat. Parenting is hard. There’s so much they need to learn and yet, so little time to teach youngsters, it seems. 😉 I do have to agree on pretty much all of what you, and even more so in your description of The Gift of a Wise Woman, as I am a woman myself. A beautifully written, informative piece for what seems to be kid vs parent which many households endure when the teen years roll around. Sometimes, okay oftentimes, parents just want to shake the sense into their children. It’s hard to let go, to let them learn on their own, although it’s going to be the most meaningful way they learn. Age-old debate, at what age or maturity level does a parent cut the cord? Inspiring and entertaining, thanks for posting.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your positive feedback! And yes, we have a mix of ages as well–5 kids ranging from 4 to 15 (two teenagers and twins who are on the cusp). I have to be very careful because my oldest feels unloved occasionally due to him getting so much “parental attention” compared to the others. I just have to keep reminding myself what an outstanding young man he is instead of worrying about him being late all the time, or taking too long a shower, or not putting up the milk, or arguing with me about everything . . . . Ooops, smoothing down my prickles. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Maybe time to renegotiate curfew? Respect his private time (maybe the only time he has?) in the shower. Milk – you’re lucky. Mine all polished it off, never mind forgetting to put it away 😉 17-19 was the hardest time for me with all three of my sons. I enjoyed your essay. I hope it reaches many ears.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. Nah. Embrace the wisdom your wife offers 😉 It helps. It didn’t take mine long to realize I was their ally. The longest I ever went without a phone call from my oldest (college in Boston) was a week. Which reminds me lol it’s been two now. Guess it’s my turn to call him. (Enjoy your humor, it’s great!)

            Liked by 2 people

  4. It sounds like you and your wife are a good balance for each other. I’m sure she gets puffed up like a porcupine at times. You DO want them to come home when they’re older, you DO want them to share with you, you DO want a relationship with each of them. You only have those boys of yours for a short time. The days are long but the years are short!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The brick wall…yup! I got that a lot while my kids were teenagers. Here’s what I learned, I don’t have to break through the wall to get to them. I can toss bits and pieces of info over it and even if they won’t admit it, they’re listening and my voice becomes the little voice in the back of their heads when they are out in the world on their own.
    Great post and really appreciate your honesty.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, they do parrot wisdom down the road in surprising fashion. You think they aren’t listening, but in reality, they know you are right but refuse to relent in the moment. But when the tempers cool, and they reflect upon the advice, it very often sinks in. I also make a point to return to them a few hours after a disciplining moment with a calm and conciliatory spirit, and they are much better at engaging in logical reasoning.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A parent cannot build up his children with his prickles out; too many unimportant things get impaled.

    This is an excellent post! I hope lots of parents read it. I’ve learned to not even begin speaking with my children until I have their attention via eye contact. If they aren’t looking at me; they aren’t listening to me either. Eye-to-eye contact also opens up the door to more communication. I will often give them a cooling down period before attempting to discuss the problem.

    It all fits to your point. As parents, how we interact with our children is teaching them how to someday interact with our grandchildren.

    I’m so glad to have read this today!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Walking down a very similar road myself. A lot of my prickles come out when I get defensive. I stop listening and start defending. Learning to love unconditionally and build others up while still setting healthy and respectful boundaries is quite a challenge. Learning that my kids are trying to set there own boundaries right now too. A time of growth for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I enjoyed reading your post as a teenager. 🙂 Although, I bet my parents can relate. I’ve seen my dad blurt out some bashful comments after my reaction. It’s okay, we all need work on the closest relationships. But, then again, why am I commenting? I have nothing useful to say. Right? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! After posting, I wondered what some of my younger followers would say. Part of the problem very likely is the parent’s perspective that kids know nothing and are wholly illogical. I’m not too far removed from those teenage years that I can’t place myself back there before my parents. But I didn’t act like kids today. Cough . . . cough. Yes I have blurted out stupid things in my parenting career, and I have tried to do what many parents don’t–I go to my kids and apologize. They perk up when Dad admits his failures. Thanks so much for your comments and younger perspective!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes! I was first not going to comment because then you would of thought, “Oh, she’s a teenager, you know, what they all say…whatever.” Haha! Nope! Oh man, there’s been a couple of times when my Dad comes to me with his head lowered and says,” I’m sorry.” Yes, we teenagers appreciate that! I know that my ears jump when I hear that coming from Dad.

        Dad and I are SO much alike that our wars usually end up with endless smart-alec comments. Just imagine your kid saying something overpowering the thing you said before. Then, you, thinking of a way to overpower their, “smart” comment. I bet I will once understand once I am older! 🙂 I appreciate your comment! I enjoy your humor!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. My hope is your take away is a bit of insight into what parents struggle with, when by their experience and wisdom they know things that kids don’t and can see destructive paths before kids often do, and it’s frustrating as heck trying to get kids to appreciate the shared wisdom. Also, parents act in such a way out of love; they want the best for their kids, even when their kids aren’t focused on that same thing. My kids often mistake my disciplining as disapproval, but I try to let them know how proud I am of them and that if I didn’t discipline then I wouldn’t love them. Just as God wouldn’t love us if He didn’t discipline and shepherd us.

      But what I would love to hear from you is if you have any words of advice for the parents reading this Blog? When you might be in that eye-rolling moment, what is going through your head, and what could your parents do to connect with you?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes! I understand the love part. My Dad has said that to me many…many time and I appreciate it. 🙂 Yes! My chance to tell parents what to do! Oh, wait, never mind. Haha! Well, if you want to tell us your opinion, please…do it in a manner of connecting with your teenager’s statement and trying to understand it. Please, if you want to tell us when we are wrong, please don’t raise your voice or anything that will reflect over anger or frustration. Honestly and personally love when adults come up to you and politely and softly asks you to do something. That right there just gives me motivation to sit up in my chair and say, “Sure!” It makes the whole world a difference.
        When we are in that eyerolling moment, usually you can’t do anything to make it better. It usually we didn’t get what we want (which is okay we just need to understand and comprehend that we couldn’t go to that party).
        Now, for punishment. Just punish us. That’s it talk about it with us. Usually my Dad asks me,”What do you think your punishment should be?” And I reply honestly to them. Usually they take it and use it on me. 🙂 Parents you’re going to have to discipline your children, it’s the way of learning. Here I’ll share an experience of my own.
        I went somewhere in my car without asking and my parents found out by tracking my phone (I know..hahah) and they asked,”What should be your punishment?” I replied,”I should have my car taken away for a week.” And I learned my lesson from there! It’s defiantly not worth it.
        I don’t know if I answered your questions to your satisfaction, but I tried. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

        1. You appear to be a very bright and mature 16-year-old. Your parents are very blessed. If you have any interest in writing a “response” post to this article, I would be thrilled to publish it and see what adult feedback it generates.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Aaaaaah you’ve hit it right on the nail. Maybe because I was brought up in a household where respect and manners were the top priority, I feel I need to do the same with my own kids. I mean, I turned out alright (I think, lol). But it is a tough call. My boys are very young still, one being non verbal. But my typical child, wowzers, he can be a great attorney when arguing his case. And it’s even tougher when the parents are going through a very tough divorce and each household has its own set of rules. One is lax to the extreme and one is trying to correct the laxness…(story of my life 🙃)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ugh. Yes, that multi-family dynamic injects a complexity on which I’m not equipped to comment. I suppose all you can control is how you treat your children while under your roof. And if done with love and grace, perhaps they will come to appreciate your parenting even if different from your ex-spouse’s. But I can totally see the friction where freedom in one house is restrained in another. If you have any advice for handling that circumstance, I would love to hear it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s like trying to fight fire with fire. All it’s going to do is keep heating up until there’s nothing left but ashes. Aka – the relationships dissolve if there’s nothing by conflict. A quiet voice and an understanding ear go a long way. Great post. (I also found a few more to follow by reading all your awesome comments!)

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Kids learn more by watching how parents act than by what they say. My suggestion is to teach by example. Give respect to get respect. If you have suggestions for correcting what you consider inappropriate or bad behavior, let them know you have suggestions when they are ready to listen. If you really listen to them, they will learn to listen to you. Remember, you can never hide anything really important from your children. They always know something is wrong. Maybe not specifically what is wrong, but definitely something. Also, don’t always give them what they want. Give them what they need. Sometimes they need a hard lesson, so keep you money in your wallet and hang on to the car keys if you don’t think they should be going out. Let them find their own way. Let them make their own mistakes. They will do it anyway, no matter how many times you might tell them.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. My two girls are adults, doing great and stating their lives. This, in spite of the many times I was not a good father to them and allowed my anger to build walls between us. Walls that took years to demolish with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Very well said. And yet they manage to get us to this point. I think it’s part of their “job description”… it’s there to teach us something too. So take it, grow from it. Evolve. Love your post!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Awesome post and not just relevant towards children I would say. Also, I was just trying to remember the name of the guy pushing a boulder up the hill two days ago, but didn’t look it up…thanks for the Sisyphus reference 😛

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Amen. It’s not so easy being a parent especially when you desire to grow them up in the admonition of the Lord, relying heavily on Deuteronomy 6. We will definitely make many mistakes. I know that I have. But even now, God has given you grace, through your wife, through his Spirit. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Oh how much I love this post! I will blow up and frame your wife’s words!! My husband is always trying to correct my son and is scared he won’t grow up to be ok if he doesn’t. I try to tell him this will have the opposite effects. And I’m not perfect either! Thanks for the reminder not to sweat the small stuff! (I might show this to my husband) 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Reblogged this on The king'soracle. and commented:

    Parenting can be a lot of hard work,It’s an institution where you continually learn on the job. Parenting is work-in-progress as well as a working progress.
    Many of us can relate to this prickly nature, I experience it more of than not.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I’m not a parent yet, but have many nieces and nephews of various ages–and I work with children. I love them all with the love of our Abba Father.

    I believe what you are sharing is precious and godly encouragement for any adult in the life of a child (early 20’s and younger).

    Thanks, hermano–especially for believing Jesus!

    Liked by 3 people

  19. This is SO good! I get ya…been there with all of it! Actually my 16 year old daughter has a word for it when I am “prickly”…she says, “Mom…you’re really salty today!” Loved the post…

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Thank you for your candor in “putting to screen” what so many of us sincere,yet sincerely wrong, Christian parents do. It is HARD to let your children exercise their God-given free will,to heed our counsel or not, when you know the pitfalls ahead. Relationships are more important than proving you’re right at all costs.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Daddy Blitz, you have done it again! Teenagers are a different animal and one that seems often to have lost his or her marbles. Pardon the mixing of metaphors, but that is how teens appear, as a mixture of different personas. Your advice, or gentle, loving reminders for those of us who know but forget, is welcome. To extend the lesson and the learning, I apply the same strategies to my students, whose ages run from 16-29. They need to know the community rules of the classroom, but when they stray from both the rules and their own responsibilities, harshness is destructive. I keep them informed, ask for cooperation, and remind them of their stated goals, but I never condemn them as a person with “You are _____________,” statements. Whatever my complaint is, that is not who they are as individuals. It is only a behavior. I invite your readers to visit my blog, where they will find posts on travel, people who are up to something, plus education and big ideas like


  22. You really gave me some great perspective. My wife and I are first time parents. And it has not been easy raising our young son. Yeah, I can admit that I have made some mistakes, but that is why I am constantly learning new ways to teach and relate to my son, so that I can grow him into a great man.


  23. What a great post. I actually prayed on this for awhile before I commented. I feel with the stress of life it is easy to get the prickles when life is hectic towards our children. Its like the old saying about kicking the dog. I too want my children to want to come to me and have a relationship but make it hard when I am prickly to many times towards them. We should be building our children up not tearing them down. It is easier to teach a child then it is to fix an adult.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Sometimes it’s more about calming ourselves down and remembering what it was like at their age-I have to do that constantly. My little boy is only 6, but at times I have to remind myself how difficult it was to have an adult listen to you, much less understand what you’re trying to say.
    Very insightful post. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. The biggest thing I have learned is to have grace for myself and for my kids. I am no where near perfect, so how could I, the adult, ever expect that from my boys? I also try to apologize when I mess up, I treat them how I want to be treated. My dad did this with us and it went a very long way in our teen years!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I had fun reading this blog and especially from a guys point of view. I love your comparison to a puffer fish and porcupine because us parents have all had those times. In fact, I just had a similar conversation like this with my husband who is a new father of three kids under the age of 10. They are all my kids from previous relationship(s) and he was a bachelor. He’s doing great but likes to stress over every little thing, teachings of a Marine father, and we’ve had discussions as to not stress over every little thing. I will definitely have to read him your thoughts. Thanks for the thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

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