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Most kids worship their parents. Not as in a parents are God sense, but in that delightful kind of cartoon hero-worship. Its easy to forget that when kids reach the tweens and pre-teens.
…or when they are potty training.
When I was potty training Yeah!, I was exasperated that despite the fact that she KNEW what to do…she didn’t do it. My aunt said “She’s not doing it to make you mad. She loves you. She thinks you are wonderful. She doesn’t want to disappoint you”. She raised the most loving sensitive son that I have ever met, despite the fact that I remember how frustrated that she was when she was potty training. (Which, is why I was so affected by her advice). That perspective may have saved my daughter’s life….figuratively.
One client of mine had a daughter that she was struggling with. Everything was a battle. But they came to me about school work, specifically reading. When we worked together she was a joyful little girl. When her mom came, she was full of angst. What came out is that she was being scolded for her performance, despite the fact that she was honestly working as hard as she could with the tools she had. I had complete empathy for the situation. I gave the advice of my aunt: “She’s not doing it to make you mad. She loves you. She thinks you are wonderful. She doesn’t want to disappoint you.” Then I added, “She feels that you are so wonderful, that she could never be like you. She’s afraid that you think she’s dumb.” While I worked on increasing the tools she had at her disposal, her mom worked at being her partner: offering books on tape as a stop gap until her reading skills caught up with her intelligence.
Think about your favorite hero. Mine was Ender Wiggins from Ender’s Game. (I know…I’m a nerd) I wanted to be like him….or at least be his friend. And if Ender Wiggins thought that I was stupid, or mean — or horror of horrors — disappointed in me, I would just about fall apart. Of course, he’s just a character in a book. If he was here on earth, like my DAD…well that would be paramount to saying that I’m not worthy to be alive. So this sweet little tween felt her mother didn’t think she was worthy to be alive. Mom quickly adjusted, and worked out parent-child contracts about her behavior, and became her big fan regarding her school work. This was paramount to having your hero come down from his or her pedestal to say that you were their best friend. The change was fundamental, and led to increased success in school and better relationship with her mom.
So consider using your child’s worship of you to turn around and pat them on the back. Be the superhero that says that you are there to be their defender in times of need. And step into the shadows when they become a teen and *may* not want you to show up at school.
So he won’t stop. He still screams and pounds the floor when he’s upset. What I was considering doing was logical. But it was Christian right? Spare the rod and spoil the child, right? It is my job as parent to act as the “Good Shepherd” and chasten my son.
Except that I never saw Jesus spanking anyone.
Furthermore, as a young child, when I was spanked, I remember feeling out of control. (Yes, I remember being 3. I remember being two. I know that this is not unusual in intelligent children) Not because I was spanked….but having this horrible rage that I didn’t know what to do with. Spanking didn’t seem to help it. It just fueled the fire until it died out. Moreover, as an older child (9, as compared to the above 3 year old rampage), I clearly remember being spanked and thinking simultaneously “What does this man think he will accomplish by spanking me. I am so angry that I don’t even feel it. Why doesn’t he talk to me? Does he think I’m stupid?”
Back to Jesus. I know, through factual research, that a good shepherd doesn’t hurt his sheep in order to bring them into line. But what does a shepherd to do? He is outfitted with a staff and a rod. We have all heard THE COMFORT of thy rod and thy staff (Psalm 23). The staff, as used by shepherds had the straight end to guide the sheep and to press gently against them, for them to know his immediate presences, and to direct them. The crook of the staff was to catch the sheep (you ever noticed or wondered upon how big that crook was) and pull them back if they were wayward. And the rod, the rod was to carefully aim at predators and would be persecutors. It was also occasionally used to startle a sheep back into the fold….not by a direct hit, but by a hit to its path. So what does a good shepherd do? John 10:11 says, and I paraphrase. The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.
I would give my life for that crazy tantruming out of control son of mine. And he just MIGHT remember me spanking him when he needed my help. And he just MIGHT resent me for it.
So what am I to do? I use my staff of my matronly hand to touch my darling noisy sad boy. I know he is wayward simply because he is three..and at three he lives in his emotion. I sit by my crazy tantruming son, my face at his level…or I pick him up…bringing his face level. Still tantruming, I forgive his kicks…as I’m sure the good shepherd ignores the head butts of a stubborn male, or the sharp hooves of a imprecise adolescent. I use my rod against the naysayers…those who would wish that I spank my child in line. Occasionally I throw my verbal rod into the street using my voice to scream terror if my little boy wishes to run into a street. But mostly I use the crook of my arm to hug him, bringing him back into the fold….because once there, he knows me, I am his shepherd (John 10:14).
Rage is par for the the course with gifted children. Gifted children often have the mental ability to comprehend the inane, the insane, the beyond level…but their emotions are still rooted in their planetary age.
My eldest (tested gifted) child cries. She collapses into herself with a crying rage. When she was younger, she would break things, hit walls, stomp, slam doors. Now, she cries, apparently uncontrollably, while saying things like “what’s wrong with me, and God! Help Me!”.
My middle child (suspected gifted) also cries, and throws himself on the floor, kicking and screaming. Before he gets worked up, he will hold his stomach and cringe, like he’s in pain. He probably is in pain.
My youngest (musically gifted, vision impaired) throws himself at people. When he’s upset, he’s tantruming on you, pulling your hair, pulling on your clothes; whoever the target of his frustration might be.
I want to yell at them to stop. Convince them to talk to “use their words”. In the midst of this, I just want to walk away. People say that I should love these years, that I’ll miss them. I doubt that… I personally long for the teenage years. I long for the age when they don’t depend on me for comfort…they turn to their peers. They will challenge me, but I can talk to them. They won’t listen…but they might hear me…but most of all, they won’t be invading my space, I’ll be invading theirs. I can then search for connection…I can be a consistent friend, empathize with their need to fit in, challenge their value system, appeal to logic. In theory. But these little monsters in my house? They defy simple theory. They require love.
My daughter, age 6, can’t call her best friend when she’s upset. She can’t deal with self failure, criticism, and can’t understand why. She knows rules, but has no control over them. She loves her mother..her family, but loves herself more. Her mother can’t reason with that. Who am I? I am to be the hugger, when she and I both hate hugs. I am the voice of control when we are both free spirits. I long for her to stomp to her room, and slam the door. That I can deal with. Yet, it is much more important to remain connected so that when she is older, I’ll be allowed to open the door. So, I’ve learned to offer to read a story, to send her to another world where her feelings can spill over, and be lost in imagination. It helps me, and so it helps her.
My middle son, almost 4 knows…feels earnestly that I SHOULD LOVE HIM. Why can’t I love him the way he wants, only he knows. Praise is unheard, everything is unheard. He is in a rage that sound cannot penetrate. This rage is normal…so I have learned. Preschoolers are in their emotional center. I need to pick him up, hold him tight. Kiss him until he giggles. Then…because he is 3, we can talk. But, I need to leave now…for work, for school, for church….i don’t have time for hugs and giggles so we can talk….and he hears the unsaid….the untrue “You DON’T LOVE ME!”. So I’m a little late…so I can kiss to giggle to talk in the car. It makes me tired. But this too shall pass. He will be 6 one day, and then 16, and then I will want to be able to tell him not to smoke because I love him, and want him around.
But who can understand a 2 year old? Especially a two year old who can’t see 2 feet in front of him? So he brings the tantrum to me….because only then can he know that I “see” him. That I “see” his pain. That he is independent of me…and he needs me to know that he is upset. So I am the platform for his tantrum. And there is no conversation afterwards….just “that hurt mommy”, “mommy sad”, “mommy wants outside, okay? can we get shoes to go outside, in the car?”, “yes, J. can bring dadoo”. Sooo tired.
I’m allowed to be tired right? Mommies are allowed to be tired. And that is why we sleep, lest we tantrum too.