You’re supposed to be my safe place!” My six year old screamed, as she ran away from me. She had been holding something in her hands and I asked her to give it to me. She refused. In that moment I thought, “oh no not today! You are not going to win this one little girl!” Instead of allowing her the time and space she needed to simply change her mind, I pried her little fingers open to snatch whatever it was that she was clinging to so desperately.
Her words hit my heart with the force of a sledgehammer and stopped me dead in my tracks. It caused me to wonder how many times my own heart had echoed those same sentiments? I have often shaken my clenched fists to the Heavens and screamed those same hurt-filled words, “you are supposed to be my safe place! Why aren’t you helping me?”
I study and learn from my children, since the kingdom of Heaven is said to belong to them. I am beginning to notice that the Creator Himself placed within us the most insatiable desire to have a choice, to choose.
From the time a child turns two they instinctively begin to understand that they have a voice and a choice. This phase is otherwise known as the terrible twos, but I see it so differently now. She sees me with a diaper in hand, and runs the other direction. Her favorite word is NO of course. If ever she senses that I am about to impose my will upon her own a battle is sure to follow.
It honestly depends on the day in how I respond to her newfound ability to make a choice. If I have the time, energy, and recourses I can patiently wait her out. There doesn’t have to be a battle as we learn to work with a child’s will rather than against it.
Just as with my six year old, I could have waited her out as well and she would have changed her mind in time. Instead, my need to control the situation, to be in control, and my sense of authority felt threatened. I had made up my mind that she was not going to win, and guess what…
She didn’t win but neither did I. In the center of the battle lay her broken little heart. Thank God she chose to still be vulnerable in the moments that followed, by saying what she did, because my heart immediately softened toward her. There was no longer a battle to be won, just a heart that needed to be mended.
These are the questions I often ask myself now as I deal with choice-making little humans… and in my effort to be “the safe place” for my children.
- Is she being defiant and disrespectful, or is something else going on? I often find that she is either tired, overwhelmed, hungry, or needing some positive attention. We often give a child time out for acting out when what they desperately need is a time in with us.
- Am I the one who is irritated? Our kids pick up on the slightest hint of our own emotions, and often reflect those same emotions back to us. This is where I dig deep to find out why I am really irritated. Once I uncover my own heart I can apologize to them and explain what is going on. Almost immediately we experience a shift in the atmosphere of our home and our hearts.
- Am I trying to externally change or control them?? Let’s admit it, some of the things our children do can be outright annoying, but is what they are doing wrong? If we are honest, most the time we are just annoyed, tired, or overwhelmed ourselves.
- How can I allow them to choose in any given situation? This requires letting go of the reigns. We need our kids to learn how to make choices. Then we allow them the freedom to experience the consequences of their choice. I give them options. If you choose this then such and such will happen. Here is beauty in allowing them to choose… they grow in their confidence to make the right choice!
- Punishment and discipline are often retributive. Consequences are the natural and organic way we learn. For example: I can fight with my child to put her shoes on before she goes out to play, or I can allow her the natural consequence of what could happen if she doesn’t. If she steps on a sticker bush because she has no shoes on, she will naturally learn that its a good idea to wear shoes outside. The best part about this is that I remain the good guy, her source of comfort after she has learned the hard lesson. Here’s the catch… some of us become angry with our child for not listening to us in the first place. “Had you listened you would not have gotten hurt.” we not so gently remind them. Sound familiar? I know this, because I have done it a million times!!
This is what Perfect Love does, and by that I mean God. Our human ability to love is far from perfect. It’s not supposed to be. We are learning right along with our children. If we make a mistake or make a wrong choice, Love is always waiting to comfort, not condemn. Unlike me prying that object out of my child’s hands, Love never forces or coerces. Love allows us to choose. The God of Love never shakes His head in disappointment when we choose unwisely, so let’s follow His example towards ourselves and towards our kiddos.
If you are struggling in motherhood you can click here to find out more. I would love to connect with you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Much Love, Angela