There are certain time when kids seem especially prone to “pushing our buttons”: after Christmas, after birthdays, summertime, and the list goes on. Kids have trouble figuring out “sharing patterns” for their stuff, everyone’s jazzed on sugar and tired from disrupted sleep patterns… It’s easy to lose patience.
Many parents bemoan their lack of patience for their kids’ sometimes exasperating behavior. But simply trying to be more patient can sometimes just feed an underlying attitude of “poor me, I endure so much because of this child.” Have you ever “patiently” stifled resentment until you lose it over a small infraction later in the day? The problem is that patience alone doesn’t inherently build understanding or give any insight toward solving the problem.
Certainly patience is necessary, but we encourage parents to focus instead on compassion and ask themselves, “What is it really like to be my child?”
We find that compassion often has important, helpful results. Here’s why:
1) Compassion models the love of the God.
Psalm 103:13-14 – “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus is a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses because he has been tempted just like us.
2) Compassion calms your child.
If your child senses you truly understand their frustration, they feel like you are “for them, not against them.” If you articulate your child’s emotions and perspective for them in slightly more appropriate words than they might be able to come up, you’ll usually see them calm down and get more rational. It also helps them speak in that slightly-more-appropriate way the next time the situation occurs.
3) Compassion gives helpful insight.
Kids do things for very “rational” reasons based on their internal world. They are often consumed by the feelings of the moment, and don’t really make a connection to how things might work out in the future. If we want to help our children problem-solve their way out of a jam, we have to understand their perspective!
I (Lynne) remember being absolutely locked in a power struggle with Bethany. Despite the fact that we had plenty of supplies for her school diorama, she was determined to go to the exact store where a high-achieving classmate had purchased supplies. I was determined not to give into this demand, which I judged to be extravagant and based in competition and insecurity. As our argument dragged on, she grew even more demanding and I began to lose patience!
Then I decided to look at it from her perspective and try to understand what she was thinking and feeling. I realized that Bethany really wanted to do a good job at school and was frustrated because I was working against her. As soon as I shared this insight and affirmed her for being a diligent student she visibly relaxed. We worked out a solution to start with the supplies we had and go to the store if she wasn’t satisfied with her project. She felt understood and made a great diorama out of our supplies.
Do you know what it feels like to want something like it was the most important thing ever, and have someone with more power than you tell you you can’t have it? It can be really frustrating! As we frequently say, “a misbehaving child is often a discouraged child.” Your child probably does not want to misbehave and displease you, but they may just be struggling to handle emotions or a tough day.
So the next time your child misbehaves, instead of just gritting your teeth and trying to be patient seek compassion instead. Pray that God will help you to understand the feelings and frustrations of your child. Pray that God will give you the compassion to see your children as He sees them (and you): beloved people who are – despite your weaknesses – created for God’s good purposes.
Frustrated by constant discipline challenges? Take 15 minutes to read our free ebook 4 Messages All Children Long to Hear: A Discipline That Connects Overview.