I wish I could go to my mom, give her a big hug, and tell her she was an amazing woman. At one point she had four children age six and under. I am sure our house rang with a lion’s share of tantrums, screams, yelling, and tears that came with the territory of raising young children and babies. So, I totally understand why she reached the point where she didn’t tolerate shows of negative emotions. We were told to stop. We were told to be quiet.
Later, as an adult, I saw any show of sadness or anger as embarrassing, even rude. To make matters worse, I didn’t really understand how to deal with my own reactions to many situations in a healthy matter.
I was visiting a close friend a few years ago. Her son had just turned four. He had a bad case of the “whines”. Instead of getting onto him about his display of emotion, she quickly put an end to the bouts by simply asking him what he was upset about and then giving him some options about how he could deal with his sadness, fear, anger, etc.
I wondered if this tactic was not “baby-ing” the boy. Our parents would have bluntly told us to stop crying. However, today, that same little boy is very emotionally solid. He not only deals with disappointments and hurt in appropriate matters, but he also is positive and encouraging to others.
Recently, I reflected on how powerful it is for us to acknowledge the feelings of our little ones. The girls and I were in Target and Adela desperately wanted to buy an extravagant beaded and feathered pillow (so weird!). Unfortunately there was neither room in our budget or our vehicle for such an item so I told her, “No”. She immediately fell apart.
I remember staring at her red face and teary eyes. The words, “Stop crying.” Were ready to fall off my tongue, especially with half the people in the store staring at us. Instead, I took a deep breath and got down on eye-level with Adela. I said, “Hey, that makes you sad, doesn’t it, that we aren’t going to buy the pillow? I am sorry. We can’t buy that right now.”
I swallowed and continued. “So, sometimes when we are disappointed we can’t have something, then we need to remember to be happy with what we have and that we have other things to look forward to.” I went on to talk about the new school supplies we were buying and that we were headed to her cousins’ house to play.
Her tears dried. She smiled. Life went on.
Just like that.
Acknowledging the feelings of our children is a tough job. It takes an extra level of patience. It asks us to be compassionate. If we simply discipline them and don’t take the time to teach them, then they will never know how to handle hurt at a level of deep maturity.
Goodness, even Jesus cried. Jesus was angry. Jesus experienced hurt and disappointment. It is part of life and I am thankful that I have an opportunity now to help my girls grow.
What tactics have you used to help your children understand how to deal with their emotions?
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"...and God was already there with me."