Let your children take that long shower!!!
Parents, it will come as no surprise to you when I say that children are under an enormous amount of pressure in today’s world. Making the choice to not rush your children through everything they are doing probably feels like the dreaded, “but things just won’t get done” scenario. Any, you may be right if you completely go hands off with this perspective.
But, I encourage you to keep an open perspective and think more in the middle. Children today face pressures that many of us didn’t have when we were young. Take technology for instance. We didn’t have a constant source of distraction right at our fingertips. Our nervous system and soul had time to just be. We also didn’t have the level of competition that now exists in everything from sports, to music to academics. Nothing is purely fun anymore or purely a source of enjoyment. So much of what our children do is laced with competition. What we aren’t realizing is that whether you say it or not, children feel the pressure and expectation to live up to it all. And when they don’t, many feel less than. And the human design wasn’t meant to sustain such consistent, high levels of stress. So, we are seeing mood disorders at an all time high in our young people today. They are simply not recognizing the signs of stress and intervening early enough and regularly enough to prevent meltdowns, withdrawal, a disrespectful attitude and in worse cases, depression and anxiety.
On the flip side, as parents our own drive for our children can blind us to seeing the need they all have to rest and recharge. Our homes do not regularly enough feel like a sanctuary for our children to recharge and restore, instead, the home ends up reminding them of added expectations, demands and pressure to perform. “Come on, you need to get started on things.” “Stop playing around.” “What homework do you have?” “Can you feed the dog?” “When are you going to take the trash out?” “How many times have I asked you to pick up your room? It’s a complete disaster.” “Watch your tone.” It’s just so easy to remain in a constant state of providing directions, corrections, and expectations. And instead of seeing our children, we are seeing the sequence of behaviors they are needing to follow.
And No! It’s not wrong to have these standards! Its not wrong to want your child to have a clean room or keep a respectful tone when they talk. However, when we don’t teach them how to manage their stress, the expectation that they will continue to perform without “attitude” is unlikely. After all, irritability, agitation and withdrawal are signs of stress that is not being managed well.
So, how do we do that? One, try to pay attention to what they feel in the midst of your asking for things. Take their perspective, get into their shoes for a moment. “What would I feel if I were them in this moment?” Then, check in to see if you are right. “How was the day?” “Are you stressed with everything you need to get done?” “Are you hungry?” “Are you overwhelmed?”
Number two, ask what would help. Maybe they need a break. Maybe they need a snack. Maybe they need to feel good about who they are. Pay them a compliment about something randomly throughout the day. Trust me, it matters.
You see, part of shaping your children’s behavior is paying attention to the variables involved in both shaping it and maintaining it. If your children can begin to recognize signs of stress, fatigue, hunger and worry, they can better manage the behaviors that come along with these need states by responding to their needs instead of lashing out at others. Children can’t learn to regulate their own emotions if we don’t give them the tools to connect what they feel with what they need.
As much as you may enjoy spending time with your child try giving them some space to “just be” in their own room. Listening to music is a powerful form of relaxation. Although seemingly a waste of time, even playing mindless games on their phone for a short period of time can be relaxing. Children need down time to allow their true need states to surface and their souls to be free of the demands of the world around them. It is in the stillness that we connect to our souls, where we can truly hear God attempting to working through us for His glory. Learning to respond to our inner world, begins with being given the space to feel it, hear it and respond to it.
“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’”