I want to underline just how badly children need our love and how we must constantly be decoding them and the situation, even when we may feel disrespected by what is happening.
We must always guard against getting so angry or irritated that we cause our children to deflate in defeat—to lose heart. Their tender hearts can feel perplexed—confused about how to please us. As their spirits are quenched, eventually they close off to us. As they lose heart, we lose their hearts.
Incidents that can deflate or provoke our kids happen all the time. They wind up feeling unloved; we wind up feeling disrespected and like failures because we blew it again. Disappointingly, a small issue seems to grow into something much larger.
When the Family Crazy Cycle begins to spin, the issue—whatever you are disagreeing about—is becoming The Issue.
The first step in decoding is to discern what is happening at two levels:
1. What is going on in my child’s heart?
2. What is going on in my heart, really?
When a child’s spirit deflates or erupts, a parent must ask, “Is my child feeling unloved?” When the parent’s spirit deflates or erupts, that parent must ask, “Am I feeling disrespected?”
As a parent, do not be embarrassed to admit, “Yes, I am indeed feeling disrespected.” Some parents believe that because they are the adults, they must be in total control and never admit anything is wrong. Far better that you recognize what is happening (decode) and admit it.
If a child’s behavior has irritated or angered his parent to any degree, the parent must try to step back, look at the situation, and ask himself, “Why does this upset me, and why is my child upset? Why has a seemingly simple issue turned into a much bigger deal?”
It may start out seeming to be about making a mess, refusing to go to bed, or getting in past curfew, but it soon escalates into something else that strikes deep into the heart of the child or parent or both.
Once we recognize we are on the Family Crazy Cycle, then what?
As you decode what is happening inside your child, do not immediately conclude he is being deliberately disrespectful when the bed is not made, the baseball is flying around the living room, or you get no cooperation on taking a nap. Whatever the age level, if you erroneously conclude this, you are certain to feel offended and outraged.
In all likelihood, an angry reaction will be an overreaction. Your child will then feel unloved and react in a way that can feel even more disrespectful to you. It is at this point that the issue—being messy, tossing baseballs carelessly, not going to sleep—degenerates into The Issue, and the Family Crazy Cycle kicks into gear.
Your unloving reaction and your child’s deflated or angry response are the two tickets to riding the Family Crazy Cycle.
Talk about drama! Yes, a better approach, as your first reaction, is to assume your child is—unfortunately—being immature and self-centered, but not necessarily disrespectful.
As best we can, we must not . . .
• yell at our kids for yelling
• explode in anger at our children even when they throw themselves on the floor in anger
• say, “You are the worst child in the world!” in response to being told we are the worst parents in the world
• lie to them about the discipline they will receive for lying
• exasperate them to the point that they lose heart (even though we feel exasperated and seem to be losing heart)
• feel sorry for ourselves in the face of their pouting and feeling sorry for themselves
• be unreasonable in the face of their unreasonableness
• match their foolish words and actions by our own lack of wisdom and patience
Here is my point: if you personalize every immature, self-centered, irresponsible action from your child as disrespect, you will be misjudging more often than not, and your rigidity will foster the Family Crazy Cycle. Out of the blue, the household seems filled with madness.
The solution is found in love and respect.
We must not deprive our children of love when we feel that they deprive us of respect. Additionally, we must not be unloving to motivate them to be respectful any more than they can be disrespectful to motivate us to be loving. Parenting is definitely for adults only. We must bring our maturity to bear on the daily skirmishes in the family.
What helpful ways have you found for stopping the family crazy cycle in your home? Leave your comments below. We’d love to hear from you!