Emotions Are A Gift
If you’re a parent, no one needs to remind you that your child has feelings. You might sometimes feel like your child IS feelings. But just like your own feelings reveal your idols, hurts, and frustrations, children’s feelings are a gift, unearthing new depths of their hearts, minds, and experiences.
Emotions are an indispensable tool for learning about and engaging with the world.
Our kids are small, immature, and mostly untrained. They experience enormous waves of emotion and haven’t had much time to learn how to navigate those experiences well. Furthermore, their physiological and neurological development is incomplete, meaning emotions can easily overwhelm them.
As parents, we are naturally motivated to see our kids learn how to handle their feelings well. As Christian parents, we understand that God has given us the role of disciple-maker, and we know that discipleship encompasses how we handle our feelings. But we’re also motivated in a third way: we want to be seen as good parents. That sometimes translated into expecting our kids to make us look good, or, at least, avoid making us look bad.
This means, depending on the circumstance, we can be rightly or wrongly motivated in our desire for our kids to handle their emotions in a healthy way.
How can we know the difference?
How can we know whether we are being faithful or idolatrous?
Here are 3 simple ways to help you discern:
1. Check Your Own Feelings
Do you find yourself more bothered by emotional outbursts when you’re in public than when you’re at home? Do you find that you are most often frustrated with your kids when someone can see their tantrum? If so, it may be that your underlying concern for your reputation is governing your response to your child. Step back, breathe, confess this sin, and address your child when you’re in a place of clarity and calmness.
2. Check Your Words
Is it possible that the way you address your child during a tantrum could be causing more problems than it solves? I know I REALLY like to be around happy kids. So it naturally irks me when people are sullen or grouchy. It frustrates me when people raise their voices or seem out of control of their feelings. If I am not walking in the Spirit, my natural response is to shut them down.
I have to be sure that I don’t allow my NATURAL response to become my default response with my kids. If I do, I’ll teach them that their emotions are bad. I’ll subtly insinuate that they must hide their feelings if they want to be accepted. When my kids are dysregulated, I need to start by addressing my own feelings and approach them in love, not simply frustration. Use words that affirm their feelings. Sit in the uncomfortable space with them. Don’t try to hustle them through whatever has upset them. Then, when they feel more calm, circle back and talk about how their emotions impacted their actions. Emotions are just another place we get to disciple our kids with the love and patience of Jesus.
3. Walk in Grace
Every parent in the world is sinful because all parents are born of Adam. This is the unanimous situation of human beings. So when you fail in handling your child’s emotions faithfully, treat it like any other sin. Confess it to God. Receive his forgiveness. Then, go to your kids and confess it to them as well. Ask for their forgiveness. Give thanks to God for the beauty of reconciliation. And as we acknowledge our imperfection, our sin, and our own mismanaged emotions, we teach our kids that they don’t have to have it all together either.
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