A Back Door to Your Child’s Heart
Have you ever watched your children do something and thought, “What in the world are they thinking?” I have—like the time my daughter wrote herself a note to get out of gym class…in first grade…with a crayon…and signed her own name. For the sake of full disclosure, my parents likely thought the same thing of me. Like the time I drilled a hole in the bottom of their washtub and cut the bristles off a broom to make a washtub bass (it did work, by the way). If you have ever had an experience like these and thought, “What in the world…” then you can benefit from this back door to your child’s heart.
The back door to your child’s heart begins with your emotional response to his actions and words. When you feel frustrated, annoyed, angry, or proud of your child, you have just located the back door. Now don’t throw the door open and start to vent, gush, or lecture. Enter with caution and love. On the other side of your emotion (the back door) lies your child’s heart; so step back a moment, take a breath, and consider the door. Look beyond your emotion to what that emotion may be telling you. Let me give you a few examples of what your emotion may be telling you about your child.
- If you feel annoyed with your child’s irritating behavior, he may be craving your loving attention. Give him a little time and attention.
- If you feel frustrated with your child because he does not appear to listen, he may need to be heard himself. Take time to listen carefully and assure he feels understood by you. After he knows you understand him, he may listen more carefully to you.
- If you feel defensive or if you feel a deep desire to justify your decision, your child may need you to appreciate his point of view. Try reflecting on his explanation of the current situation. Discuss it before offering your own.
- If you feel provoked by your child, as though he is questioning your authority, he may need you to let him practice some independent decision making and experience the consequences of his own mistakes.
- If you feel helpless in the face of your child’s behavior, he may need to feel empowered. Take time to discuss what he believes will result from his actions and review his responsibility for his choices.
In other words, your emotion may actually tell you what your child is experiencing in his heart and mind. Your emotion can teach you what your child needs. It is the back door to his heart. As you begin to show empathy for the deeper emotions that lie beneath his actions and help him explore what seems to be happening in his heart, he may open up. You may find yourself discussing the “why’s,” intentions, and motivations of his behavior as well as his deeper desires. When all is said and done, you will have a better understanding of “what in the world was he thinking.” More importantly, your child will feel heard, valued, and appreciated by you. He will have a greater understanding of his own inner world, which will help him practice self-control and make wiser decisions in the future. Your intimacy with your child will increase. And, he is more likely to listen to you. All these benefits begin when you pause a moment at the back door to his heart and consider what is on the other side (his heart) before rushing in. Rather than burst through with lectures, explanations, and yelling, open the door with gentle curiosity and begin to explore what is on the other side. From your emotional experience to his, you will share an intimate moment…and everyone will grow.