Do you ever just totally lose it? Gone and done something that is totally out of character for you? You might burst into a fit of rage and yell at your housemate, or your kids, and look back at yourself and think, “Where the heck did that come from!?!” Or maybe you devour an extraordinary amount of chocolate while binge-watching some random show on Netflix that you’re not really that into and you look at yourself the next day and think, “That wasn’t even me!”
My beautiful children, to differing degrees, have gone through seasons where they threw the most incredible tantrums, sometimes every day! During the toddlers years yes, on and off, but also very much into childhood. This was especially challenging! They knew how to talk and tell us what was going on, and it was not the first time they had heard “no” and not received what they wanted. But still, they would fall on the floor and cry and scream and kick to the point that one of them, when put in their room to calm down, broke the door frame.
I have one child who is quite strong; they would run at me, with the intention of hugging, but would (instead!) barrel their head into my stomach and knock the wind right out of me! Even if I’ve seen this sort of behavior before, I always feel at a loss as to how to parent it.
It’s so hard to watch someone you love be completely out-of-control.
I would just do my best. I would speak patiently to them and explain the situation. I would try to reason with them. I threatened them and bribed them. I would hold them, while they flailed and cried, as long as I could until it felt unsafe for me physically and emotionally. I would find myself avoiding any and every situation that I thought might cause them to spiral into one of these dismal episodes; but with five children that was never going to work.
In these low moments and long seasons it felt like there was no answer. It felt like it was never going to end.
The problem was not just the tantrum, itself, but the coming down from it that left their little hearts with such a great sense of remorse and dark, dark shame and I simply could not talk them out of it. Are you seeing any resemblance to your own experience? You don’t have to have be a child, have children, or have these out-of-control moments, to know what I’m talking about.
We have big feelings that we often don’t understand and can’t control.
I don’t like who I become when I’m in that place, when I know that my behavior is harming myself and those around me.
A wise friend suggested that, when a given child was in that dark place of self-reflection, I should sit with them and just listen. I shouldn’t try to teach them something or talk them out of what they were feeling, but just ask questions and give them a safe place to be with themselves.
I did this. At first it was really hard. Some of the things that came out of their mouths pierced my heart. (“You don’t love me!” I would ask, “Why do you think that?”) As we talked over and over and round and round, many small and seemingly insignificant situations, in which I didn't help with their shoes, or I was harsh, or a missed dessert, were perceived as an unfair consequence. On one occasion my daughter even quoted a scripture that I had shared with her as a hopeful source of resolution, but it had turned into a total hopeless source of accusation.
OH MY GOSH!!! I DO THAT!
I have been reading the kindness and promises of the Lord in the scriptures since I was 10 years old and I still find a way to turn it into a accusation, or make an exception for myself that somehow that hopeful promise could never be for me!
In the beginning, I couldn’t see how the process my wise friend suggested was going to help anything or anyone but, surprisingly, we saw a very rapid turn-around. We started having "Special talks” almost every night before we went to bed. We’d talk about their birthday party, (that wasn’t for another 8 months), and what happened that day that was hard or sad. And I would affirm them, even if it was in a small way. I’d let them know how proud I was of them and how happy I am that I get to be their mom!
It was incomprehensible how I saw their little hearts and emotional capacity grow and grow! It astounded me how something so simple could make such a big difference. My children, like me, are passionate and complicated little people, intelligent, and desperately in need of tools to process their emotions.
The absence of them was toppling every part of their world.
So what about you? It’s so important to have safe people in our lives that can just sit with us in any and every situation. But often times there isn’t, or it takes us a couple of days to be in a place that we feel that we can share our dark places, even with a trusted friend.
This Lent I have felt a strong pull from my heart, and a clear call from Jesus, to sit down and have ‘special talks’ with Him everyday. To listen and ask the Holy Spirit to help me do this thing called my life.
My plan is to get up half an hour earlier (and go to bed half an hour earlier), and just sit and talk with Him. I want to tell him about all the little things that are going on and how hard and sad some things are. I also want to wait…to linger and listen to what He thinks of me and how He loves me and is so proud to be my Dad! (I know this is true because He put it in writing so I would never forget it!)
I want to encourage you to have a listen to the upcoming podcast Episodes 23 & 24 for a different way to engage the Lord in listening prayer; it’s called Immanuel Journaling. It’s a simple but beautiful process that has changed my heart and given me tools to return to joy and contented emotional places, remain myself and stay emotionally connected in those Tantrum causing, triggering moments!
Luke 11:13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.