Everywhere we look nowadays, children are being diagnosed and labeled with disorders based on their behavior, with acronyms being placed near their names. “Johnny has ADD, that’s why he can’t sit still.” “Sherry has RAD and that’s why she can’t attach to us.” “Vinny is on the (autism) spectrum.” But how does it help to label our children?
America seems full of finger-pointing and, in general, we like to blame someone else for our problems. People sued McDonald’s when their coffee was too hot and won. It wasn’t their fault that the coffee was hot, after all, and they burned themselves. If the problem exists outside of ourselves, then it really isn’t about us. We don’t need to make a change. But if we can recognize that there is probably a small part that is our responsibility, that means that we can make it different.
I kept pulling and yanking against him like those darned Chinese Handcuffs, for nearly half an hour. And my fingers were clearly still stuck inside. The child wasn’t dressed, lunches weren’t packed, and we were at a stalemate.
Finally, I had a moment of clarity. I let go of the outcome in that second- let go of all that needed to be done. I stopped struggling. We were probably going to be late anyway. I shifted from what I needed to something that was important and fun for him, connecting with him rather than my own agenda.
May you find deep healing for yourself through the challenges of your life, rather than in spite of them. The gifts will rise out of the ashes of your old life, your old worldview, and you will find a new and deeper wholeness. Just know it is there for you to claim after the flames have subsided.
When we start to connect with our children’s stories- both through the telling and by listening in a different way to what they’re sharing about their stories- we open up to a new kind of relationship with our children. Sometimes the storytelling really helps a child to sleep more soundly. Sometimes transitions during the daytime get easier. But, new possibilities for understanding and changing behavior patterns almost always begin to emerge.
One hundred years ago, I wrote a poem entitled “I Am.” You know the one, where you start listing all the things that make up you in a list to create personal poetry. It’s a great exercise to get people out of their preconceived poetry notions, but it is also a great exercise in perspective.
When our children are little, we know we must model for them, so we show them how to pick up their toys and sing clean-up songs to make it more enjoyable. We sit with them and do it together, showing that teamwork makes the job go faster and that we can help each other. But for some reason, when they are older, we seem to expect them to just do things on their own, without direction or help. And often parents aren’t even kind about it. “Go clean your room!” “If you can’t take care of your things, maybe you don’t deserve to have them!”
She paused for a moment. This pause was for her. She centered herself around the realization that her child was distressed and this was how he was expressing it in this moment. She wasn’t going to do what he was demanding. That would not be healthy for either of them. But she stopped what she was doing and gave him her full attention. She ignored his behavior in this moment and focused on him, her child, who was clearly having a rough time.
In addition to learning how to show love, knowing a person’s love language is also extremely helpful to keep from hurting them. We have taken to calling this, the opposite of your love language, your “Hurt Language” (or “Hate Language” as my son likes to say, since he thinks that describes it better). Basically, if you criticize a person whose love language is Words of Affirmation, reject physical contact from a person whose love language is Physical Touch, or refuse to help someone whose love language is Acts of Service, they will probably feel completely rejected and unloved.
We read during easy times when things are going smoothly and everyone is happy. But more and more, as he gets older, we have moments of misunderstanding, disagreement, and frustration. We feel disconnected and it can be hard to come back together. So often it’s those times where he asks me to read because he knows it will recenter us both.