Monday, August 10, 2009

Behavior issues

Jackson Edward Ellis.

You Sir, have been a handful for the last month. Most of your life you have been very sweet, loving and content, even considerate. The week you turned two, it was as if you knew. You knew it was time to be a "Terrible Two." That lasted six months or so, then you just came out of it.

Your new thing has been throwing fits. Really. Fits. Tantrums.

It's not pretty.

Up until now I thought that if I just disciplined you consistently enough that you would learn that it is better to just obey than to experience the pain that comes with a spanking.

But Jack, I've decided that most of the time you are not acting like this out of rebellion, but out of frustration. You are a little person. You experience all of the emotions that big people do (anger, sadness, disappointment, joy, acceptance.) The problem is, you cannot yet communicate your feelings very well. All of these negative emotions get expressed the same way, and it's not pleasant.

So here is what I've been doing for you, Jack. One day you may have a little one of your own who is having a hard time and I want you to know what worked with you.

I don't take you into the bathroom with the paint stick. I simply try to calm you down and do damage control. I speak softly, get down eye level with you, and gently hold your hand or rub your back. I want you to know that I am "for you." Just like God, your other Daddy, is for you.

I want to be able to understand what is making you so upset. It is amazing how well you respond to this. You almost always calm down immediately. I ask you questions like: "What happened? or "What made you so mad? or "Why are you crying?" You will give me a simple answer that tells me what act triggered the outburst. Now it is my job to look deep and find the root of the problem.

For example, I have company over, you have been playing inside. We walk out to the front porch to tell my friend "Goodbye." They drive off, I say, "Come inside boys." You flip out. I ask you what is wrong. You tell me, "I don't want to go inside."

Sounds like something you need to get over since I'm the mom and you are the child, right?

What I did in this situation was tell you again to come inside and remind you of what happens when you don't obey your parents. That did no good. You lost it. I carried you inside where you, me and the paint stick met in the bathroom.

What I am now learning I should have done: Asked you why you didn't want to go inside. I should have stopped and tried to think about all the circumstances that might give me some clue as to why you reacted the way you did. I could have thought about how you had been asking several times that day if you could play outside (and hadn't gotten to). I could have considered the time of day, (4:30) --standard meltdown time at our house. I could have thought about how you had been anticipating playing outside and thought the time had FINALLY come. I should have seen your disappointment.

I am now trying to teach you how to deal with and express your emotions. Jack, the Bible teaches us that: "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." Proverbs 29:11.

I want you to be wise. I want you know learn how to control yourself.

When I find out what is bothering you, I tell you back what I think I've understood. I want you to know that I know and care about your feelings. Now I usually have a child who is willing to listen to me. I'm ready to explain to you the proper way to handle the situation.

Most of the time you understand and decide to comply with whatever I have asked. Sometimes you don't.

Usually, when you still don't obey, I consider other factors: Are you hungry? Are you tired? Have you had an unusually stimulating day? Are you sick? Too hot? Have you just eaten a TON of sugar?

When the answer to any of those questions is, "Yes." then I do everything I can to help you to obey.

My job is to lead you to Jesus, not to stick a gun in your back and force you to march. I want you to be gently led by your parents the same way that God gently leads us.

But Jack, this doesn't always work. Sometimes your heart is rebellious and in need of some serious changing. There are also times when your dad and I speak sternly and seriously to you. There are times when you need to be left out of family activities so that you can learn that it is important to get along with people.

Eventually, you will be old enough that I will no longer have to teach you these things. At that point you will be held to a higher standard than you are now. At that point I will probably discipline you for throwing a fit. Or maybe... I hope... you will no longer act like this.

Jack, I am doing all of this work to prepare you for your adult years. I know you will one day be on your own and you alone will be responsible for your actions. But I want you to have practiced patience and giving and thoughtfulness and humility so many times that now it comes natural to you. I don't want you to struggle to make the right choice. Your Dad and I want you to be well equipped for the life of a Jesus-follower.

Just so you know...

It's a stinkin' lot of work.


Cinda Boshart said...

Becca, I love this track you're on with Jack. LOVE IT.

Anonymous said...

Very wise, Becca. It must be so much harder this way, but surely it will be worth it in the long run. Keep it up!

Laura Beene said...

Becca, I just wanted to say thank you for being so transparent on here. I come and read just somewhat for enjoyment and many times I have tears in my eyes and I begin examining my life as I sign off the computer. Of course, I only know as much as you put on here, but you seem to really be seeking after the Lord in all that you do, and you are blessed because of it. I guess I just want to say thanks for the wake up call for me as it seems I go selfishly about my day. You're awesome and I enjoy reading about what is going on with you!