When my youngest was little, and he didn’t get his own way, he would go stand in the corner of the room and put his hands over his head to block his eyes. You know, as if he couldn’t see me, then I couldn’t see him? He did it quietly, and sometimes I didn’t realize he was gone until I looked over and saw him hugging the wall.
It was so tempting to let him pout a while. He wasn’t causing any trouble. In fact, he was quiet and still, and maybe I could get a project done while he was busy pouting. If I just ignored him, I knew he would snap out of it sooner or later and probably even forget what he was mad about.
But I also knew that his emotions—while maybe expressed more subtly than some of his sisters—were just as sinful and in need of loving correction. Pouting was just as unacceptable as a temper tantrum.
When a child throws himself on the floor in a public place, we have to do something, and do it fast. We can’t just walk away, no matter how much we want to. And so, that child often forces us to parent, whether we feel like it or not!
But the quiet child is easy to ignore. He may seem more “well-behaved.” He doesn’t embarrass or inconvenience us too often. He may not be happy when we say “no” but he is unhappy in such a way that makes him easy to ignore.
Quiet kids can easily fly under our parenting radar.
That is why, with the quiet or less expressive child, we must be all the more intentional to teach them how to handle their emotions.
Let’s be as faithful to correct pouting as we are to correct tantrums.
Let’s go after grumpiness with the same diligence as we address screaming.
Let’s correct bad attitudes, even if they are only a drooping head or an angry face.
You see, our children’s emotions reveal their hearts, and even if they express their emotions quietly or subtly, or not at all, we as parents must not let the sin in their heart go unattended.
Remember: our goal in parenting is not just to eliminate embarrassing outbursts. We are seeking to raise children who respond to our Savior with God-glorifying emotions, whether in quiet thankfulness or expressive praise.
I know, I know, “opportunity” isn’t the first word that springs to mind when you are leading a crying child out of a crowded room and everyone is staring at you. But our children’s emotional outbursts are like intelligence reports, marked urgent. They reveal the secrets of our children’s hearts and give us as parents an opportunity for strategic and effective parenting.
Outbursts are a chance to help our children learn to handle their emotions in a way that glorifies God. But not all “outburst opportunities” are alike, so we must apply some good, old-fashioned parental discernment in order to handle them wisely.
An Opportunity for Comfort – Tender love is what Ryle calls the “grand secret” of effective child training. When our child falls and gets a bloody knee or if another kid calls them a mean name and they burst into tears, we might be tempted to see their emotional outburst as inconvenient or embarrassing (if it is in public), but we should receive it as a chance to express our love and affection for our child, to enter into their sorrows. Isn’t that the kind of love our Savior shows to us?
An Opportunity for Self-Control – We should be quick to comfort, but also seize the opportunity to teach self-control. Even if the reason for our child’s tears is understandable, we must not allow them to lose all control over their emotions. For example, we might tell our child that it is OK to cry when they fall down and scrape their knee, but not to scream. And, if necessary we should gently help them bring their crying to a close at an appropriate time. This will teach them the difference between appropriate and excessive grief.
An Opportunity for Discernment – If a child becomes unusually weepy or more tempted to outbursts than usual, this may be an indicator to us as parents that they need rest, or a break from activity. As we’ve already said, a wise parent will minimize temptation wherever possible.
An Opportunity for Discipline –If a child’s outburst is angry or rebellious, then the intelligence we are receiving is of a serious nature and must be dealt with firmly and biblically. We do not serve our children by ignoring or overlooking angry outbursts or by getting angry in return. An angry outburst calls for a loving heart and firm discipline. And if the child is no longer a toddler and yet angry outbursts are still frequent in nature, we may need to consider whether or not we are exercising biblical authority in the home.
An Opportunity for Focused Training – Frequent outbursts can be abated by a season of focused training. Consider rearranging your schedule, eliminating unnecessary events, focusing your teaching and your discipline on this one area and often you will see good results in a couple of days or weeks.
So the next time we are that parent, exiting the crowded room with the emotional child, we should smile, and even laugh a little. We’ve just been handed a golden parenting opportunity.
2014 at 8:44 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
“It is scarcely surprising, then, that so many people imagine housekeeping to be boring, frustrating, repetitive, unintelligent drudgery. I cannot agree. (In fact, having kept house, practiced law, taught, and done many other sorts of work, low- and high-paid, I can assure you that it is actually lawyers who are most familiar with the experience of unintelligent drudgery.)”
Cheerfulness doesn’t come cheap. We have to intentionally teach our children how to cultivate feelings of joy and happiness, so they can learn what it means to rejoice in the Lord. Here are a few simple, every day ideas for reinforcing cheerfulness with your children:
1.Memorize a verse about cheerfulness. Print it, color it, post it, practice it, make it the family motto of the month. “Serve the Lord with gladness” Ps. 100:2.
“Do all things without grumbling” Phil. 2:14.
“A joyful heart is good medicine” Prov. 17:22.
“A glad heart makes a cheerful face” Prov. 15:13.
“God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Cor. 9:7.
2.Back up cheerful commands with cheerful reminders about cheerful verses. For example, “Jeremy, I would like you to clean up the toys now, with a cheerful heart! Remember our verse? We are to serve the Lord with gladness!”
3.Require a smile when they come to the table or ask you a question or want something to eat. A smile is the ticket to any treat.
4.Make cheerfulness competitive. Who can out-cheerful every one in the family? Make a chart, offer a prize, and fire the starting pistol! Crown the winner as the most cheerful child of the day.
5.Cheer on cheerfulness. Encouragement is the easiest and most effective tool in our mommy tool belt. Take notice and praise every cheerful response or attitude that you can.
6.Read Bible stories. Spending time in the wilderness with Israelites will highlight the seriousness of complaining, as well as the mercy and grace of God and of their parents.
7.Be a cheerful mom. There is nothing more important than to get our own souls happy in God each morning (Mueller). We can’t offer our children a perfect example of cheerfulness, but we can point them to our Savior who did. And we can offer them a repenting, growing, example of a woman who is constantly striving after happiness in God.
8.Cheerfulness or Consequences. We must give clear commands and be faithful to correct our children when they complain.
9.Minimize temptation. We covered this in the previous post. Look for ways to remove regular temptations to grumpiness and discontent. An added tip: the simpler a child’s life, the happier they often become.
10.Persevere. Progress may be slow and some days kids and mommy will be anything but happy. But let’s get up and try again tomorrow. “Labor is light to a…cheerful spirit, and success waits upon cheerfulness. The man who toils, rejoicing with all his heart, has success guaranteed” (Spurgeon).
By the time my oldest daughter was ready for preschool, I was desperate for help to deal with all the fussing and fighting that seemed to fill up my girls’ days. How could they possibly find so many things to complain and disagree about in one twelve hour block of time?
I was working harder than ever to train and teach them to obey cheerfully, but the steady drip, drip, drip of grumpiness was constant and I could not possibly deal with every whiney voice or sister spat. After all, I had to take a shower every once and a while.
But as I have always found in my mothering, when we seek God for wisdom, He is faithful to provide. In this case, wisdom for me came one day when I was serving as teacher’s helper in my oldest daughter’s pre-school class.
Here was a group of about 10-15 five year olds, spending several hours together each day, and they were happy! There were very few fights or frowns. What is the teacher’s secret? I asked myself How does he keep so many children happy? As I watched, I noticed that the teacher was consistently moving the children from one thing to another in an organized fashion. There was Bible time, but before the kids had time to get too antsy they were moving to alphabet time and before they got bored it was craft time. The children didn’t have time to be grumpy or discontent.
So that summer I made out a little “summer schedule” for my girls. It wasn’t fancy; I just divided their day up into chunks in order to give it a little more structure. There was Bible time and chore time, and then playtime followed by rest time and more playtime and cleanup before dinner.
My children needed a little more structure. In their case, idleness was contributing to grumpiness. The routine served my girls by eliminating some of the temptations as they played together every day, all day long. They simply had fewer opportunities to be grumpy or discontent.
The point of this post is not that moms must put their children on a schedule if they want them to be cheerful. One of my daughters was telling me recently how her daughter is thriving without as much structure as her boys needed when they were younger. A routine is just one bit of wisdom that served me with my children at that time.
The point is to encourage all moms to seek God for wisdom as to how to create a family culture that minimizes temptation. In teaching our children to handle their emotions, we want to create an environment that reinforces the habit of cheerfulness.
“Believer, here is encouragement. Are you praying for some beloved one? Oh, do not give up praying, for Christ is ‘mighty to save.’ You are powerless to reclaim the rebel, but your Lord is Almighty….Jesus is ‘mighty to save,’ the best proof of which lies in the fact that He has saved you.”