Whether you are teaching a Sunday school class, parenting a toddler, or working with at-risk children, the principles are the same.
Do that which will bring more connection.
Do you kick a child out or issue a punishment to “teach a lesson?” If so what lesson are you really teaching? What message is really getting through to that child?
We need to think long and hard about that. What kind of messages are we sending children? That our favor is contingent on their good behavior? That if they behave they will be included, but if not, we will push them away?
Is that how God is with us? I’m so glad He’s not like that with me. Oh, His love is amazing.
He accepts me just as I am – the good, the bad, the ugly. He loves me when I’m angry and irrational and throwing my own little tantrum. He stays right by my side, He doesn’t withdraw His love, He doesn’t put me in a corner, He doesn’t kick me out of His presence.
For the children in my life, they are learning about what love is and who God is and how life works through me and my interactions with them. That is mind-blowing when you think about it.
But it makes every interaction so very important.
Today my son called me stupid and told me he hates me. He thrashed and kicked and tried to bite me. It was really embarrassing, especially because friends were over. There is an unspoken expectation in moments like that. A certain response is expected. But I won’t let that pressure change what message I want to send to my son.
I pulled him into my room and sat with him through his anger. I told him I loved him. I’m not so concerned about his behavior as what lies beneath it and what’s driving it. I want to help get to the root of it. The only way to do that is through a strong connection.
There is also a very important message that I want to communicate, that I want him to know deep down and hold onto for all of his life. This is a golden opportunity to send this message to him.
I told him very clearly, right in his eyes,
“Even when you’re angry, and you call me stupid, it doesn’t change the way I feel about you. I love you no matter what – not for what you do but for who you are. My love doesn’t change and I will stay close to you. I am a safe place for you. Your anger is not too strong for me. We can get through it to the other side and feel better together.”
With a message like that it doesn’t take long for the anger to melt away and the healing tears to pour forth – the sadness that’s beneath the anger. And after that, we both feel better, more connected, stronger, full of love and ready to face the day.
Those are just my thoughts. Written quickly tonight before climbing into bed. How about you? What messages are you sending the children in your life? I’d love to hear.