Big sister Bella bounces and crashes her way through life with Tigger-like abandon, unaware of the impact of her big movements and energy on those around her. When it came to pushing her new little brother in his baby swing, WHEE! The higher the better, of course!
Her mom Cassie sometimes felt like a broken record. “Be gentle Bella.” “You might hurt him.” “Slow down.” “Blah, blah, blah…” Cassie was concerned about her infant son’s safety, but didn’t want to micromanage Bella’s interaction with Elijah or fill their budding relationship with a tone of criticism and anxiety. She felt stuck.
As we problem-solved this dilemma in a coaching session, we turned to Jesus’ example (always a good idea!) and came up with a few ideas:
1. Stop the broken record/lecture.
Provide only the information the child truly needs. Jesus did not lecture people with the same thing they already knew. Mark 1:22 – “The people were amazed at his teaching…” (not bored or resentful).
Bella needed to learn how babies’ brains and bodies work. Cassie offered new and “amazing” information. “Elijah’s muscles aren’t strong enough to keep his head steady when he moves fast. And his brain doesn’t understand how he’s moving. A little bit of movement to a baby feels like he’s flying out of control. Kind of like if you were on a swing attached to a helicopter blade. Yikes!”
2. Ask thoughtful questions.
Jesus asked lots of questions to help people focus on what’s true, and then respond to that truth. (See Luke 12:24-26 for an example.) For Bella that meant, “What kind of swinging do you think Elijah likes best? If he could talk, what do you think he would say to you, when you swing him with really big pushes? How do you want to swing him to make sure he feels safe and loved?”
3. Address the gift gone awry.
Doesn’t this strike you as how Jesus would deal with an exuberant child? Or any struggling child?
Cassie shared the impact of this encouraging, questioning approach on Bella: “Except for times when Bella is having a particularly rough day, she’s doing much better. Sometimes she’ll catch herself being too loud or pushing too fast with brother and she’ll correct herself on her own! But if she doesn’t notice, when we stay positive with statements like, ‘We know you love your brother and want to do what makes him feel good,’ she’s much more receptive to correction.”
Respond with these principles and you will communicate some important messages – “You are loved even when you’re having a hard time. You are capable of making wise decisions with a little help. What’s important to you is important, because you are important.” Those are heart-connecting, empowering messages for any child – or adult!
Want to learn more about these concepts? Download our one hour recording of a Discipline That Connects workshop.