Tonight as we were putting the kids in bed, I was struggling with Koa, (2) who was not feeling well. He was fussy and having trouble calming down. Scott began reading stories in the bedroom and I was walking with Koa in the living room. Unfortunately Jude attached himself to my leg. He wouldn’t go lie down until I came. I became very frustrated and asked him a little too harshly to please go lay down and I would be there just as soon as I was able. Nope. He would just wait for me. He wanted to be with me.
I felt such an overwhelming frustration. I felt out of control. It had already been a long hard day with a sick baby and I was all too ready for everyone to go to sleep. Then the fears came. They will never fall asleep. I won’t get any time for myself this evening. I need time to myself. If I don’t get it I won’t be able to handle it. In the midst of those emotions I was harsh and unkind to Jude (4) whose only crime was wanting to be near me.
Finally I just went into the bedroom with Koa and Jude climbed in next to me on the bed. After continuing to fuss, Koa finally settled down to listen to the story. Jude snuggled into me. “I’m sorry, Jude,” I said, gazing into those beautiful brown eyes. “I was mean to you. Do you forgive me?”
“Of course,” he replied with a smile and no hesitation. He snuggled even closer. Then he looked up at me and said, “I wanted to hit you. But I did self control.” He beamed this giant smile at me.
I had no idea that was how strongly he felt in that moment.
Sometimes our kids are exhibiting self control in a moment of frustration, and we’re not even aware that they are doing it or how hard it is for them. That statement Jude made filled my heart with overwhelming compassion. Our children are on the road to learning full self control, and on the way we need to celebrate each success. It wouldn’t have hurt me, or hurt my feelings if Jude had hit me. But it would have hurt his heart. Instead he had self control and that’s something he can feel really good about. Child development experts tell us that every time a child is able to exhibit self control it builds his self esteem.
It’s just something to think about. In any given moment, there’s so much going on beneath the surface in the emotions of our children. We have no idea how much self control a child is actually exhibiting in contrast with what he really feels inside. It may very well be that in moments where we feel the child needs “discipline,” he really needs to celebrate the measure of self control he was able to achieve.
But how will we know what’s really going on under the exterior? If we truly want to know and understand our children’s hearts, we have to do what it takes to create an atmosphere of safety and trust. When we do that, our children begin to open up and show us what’s inside. From what I’ve experienced so far on this journey of gentle discipline, there is truly nothing more amazing or beautiful than that.