I’ve known for about 12 years that our greatest strength is our greatest weakness too.
My firstborn is strong. He has always been strong. His feelings are big, and he carries his intensity on his sleeve. The worst thing you can do for a personality like this is to ask him to hide or tame his big, big feelings. Instead of stuffing our feelings away, we have learned how to use them and articulate them. This word “articulate” is a big word for a little guy who is not even 7 years old. But we were all made differently, and this 6 year old
can handle needs these big conversations.
Tonight we went to go get a fish. What an exciting fun thing to do as a family! Getting a pet is always fun! When we got home it was reading time and time for our evening routine. I had told my kids earlier they could have ice cream for dessert, but by the time they remembered, it was almost 10pm. No ice cream is served that late at night in our home.
The tantrum ensued. Stomping feet, crying, slamming fists, and a grunting attitude. My 58 pound son had feelings so big he lost control. We have all been there.
In the midst of the mess, I told him to go try again, to go get his discipline from dad, and gave him a warning about his attitude. We adults do our best not to lose our own tempers. It is uncommon for us to raise our voices in our home. A stern look, a stern voice… yes. But more often, just the issue of some kind of discipline followed by prayer and a discussion about what happened.
Tonight’s discussion was long. He said some things that concerned me. Here’s how I handled it.
I gave him examples of when I’ve felt the same way as him and when my response stank too. I helped him form words about how he felt. I named the behavior that we don’t accept and have him some alternative options he could try in the future: a respectful appeal… something he learned about all last year – he knows what this looks like.
I reminded him that we don’t make decisions about our behavior based on our feelings – we ask the Lord what we should do about things.
I reminded him about the great power the Lord has given him, and how he needs to understand that power.
I told him what it meant to have the heart of a parent, and how that means I feel all his feelings twice as big as he feels them. When a child feels joy, we feel twice as much. When a child feels pain, we feel twice as much.
I counseled him to ask the Lord about his position in the family and what that means about his behavior. He asked the Lord and the Lord told him that his position in the family is to be kind and gentle: this is a reflection of a phrase we often repeat in our home. I told him the special position of a firstborn as the lead child, and the place that holds in a mother’s heart.
We discussed how the attitude of one person impacts the experience of those around him. I used myself as an example.
I enlightened him on the strength of a mother’s love, and that a mother’s love surpasses that of friends and even a child’s desires. We talked about the danger of always giving a child what he wants, and how children have a limited view of what’s right for them. We discussed how many adults have not learned these basic lessons, and so they go on making poor decisions in their lives. We imagined how I would feel and how he would feel if he didn’t know how to make good decisions as an adult and how limited I would be to help him if he didn’t seek council. I allowed him to recall how many times I call my own mother for council and understanding even though I’m an adult. We even talked about how parents are not always around all the time, and how I can no longer ask my dad questions because God took him to heaven. I reasoned with my son, that this is why it’s important to learn as much as possible now.
We discussed the signs of addiction to food, and that food does not control us. And how he will need to make decisions his whole life about how things of this world will not control him, and if he starts to see signs of that control on his life, that it’s a sign to make a change.
I talked with him about the decision set I used to provide him with the right answer. He wanted a detailed understanding. We even discussed negotiation skills, and how good negotiators make reasonable requests. We also discussed how the tantrum changes my decision set and how the tantrum changes my available choices.
I talk often about my duty as a parent to my children. I want them to understand they don’t live under an arbitrary system where we impose rules and boundaries for our convenience and preference alone. Even last night we discussed how God sets the standard and I need to make adjustments based on His standards. Likewise how children need to come into line with their parents, because hopefully their parents are getting their boundaries from the Lord.
We noticed together the ways in which his character is already developing well now even though he’s only six. And how through repentance, he is a real man of valor and victory, and can stand righteous and blameless before the Lord. He tried naming people who didn’t make mistakes. I had to remind him the best people from the Bible were full of mistakes. God loves them because they sought forgiveness and truly desired to be more like God.
He told me he was mad and sad at me. I said, I understood. I told him if he’s still mad at me then he needs to ask the Lord to help him tonight. He asked me to worship God. Since it was 10:30pm by then, I told him I would pray for him instead.
I prayed a prayer that addressed and blessed him in a special way. For the anointing of a firstborn, for supernatural strength for self control. We mentioned things we were grateful for, and prayed for help for hard things we are going through. He learned we have to put our dog to sleep today. It will be a tough weekend for us. We asked the Lord for help.
Today, praise the Lord, we learned about the character traits of determination. Determination is enduring hard things for future achievements. The Lord gave us an object lesson tonight.
The Lord is perfect in His timing.
I feel sad to have to work through something hard like this, but I feel fortunate that now we can use words to help understand each other.
This parenting gig is hard. If we are already having these conversations now, I just wonder what they will be when he is 15 and 16 years old! Or even when he’s working his way through a broken heart. Oh my stars!