My oldest daughter had horrible temper tantrums when she was 2 and 3. She'd start crying and she'd be unable to stop, even if she wanted to. She wouldn't even remember what she was crying about.
When she was older, and had friends over, if something bad happened she'd start to cry, and the same thing would occur. She'd be unable to stop the sobs, even when she knew she could.
She did grow out of that, but she still has difficulty when she's in a funk getting herself out of a negative spiral. Yesterday we were exhausted, and we'd had a busy weekend, but she had to perform in a piano festival and she really didn't want to. She was grumpy about it, she was angry, she was resentful. But she pulled herself out of it, put on a great performance, and was happy for the rest of the day. She's learning to rise above her feelings.
My daughter does not really have a character issue. She has a personality one, but like most personality issues, there are two sides to it. The reason she has difficulty controlling her emotions is because she does feel deeply. And this can be a positive thing, not just a negative thing. When she makes a decision that she is going to believe something, she does with all her heart. She doesn't do anything halfway.
I think most of the things we battle with inside ourselves have those two sides: one is positive, and one is negative. And what we need to do is learn how to channel the positive side of it, while overcoming the negative tendencies of our own personalities.
Rebecca is really learning this lesson, though I know it's hard for her, and I'm proud.
But I'm also learning it, too. Because I realized that as a parent we need to be a student of our children's personalities. We need to not only react to them, but also be proactive. Decide what it is that you want to teach them. Decide how to bring important life lessons into your everyday life.
For instance, yesterday it actually wasn't that important to me whether or not she played at the piano festival. She's done it for years; I know she can perform well in public, and when she practices she does well. But we had had a bad weekend. However, once she got into that negative spiral I knew I couldn't let her off the hook because this was something she needed to control in herself.
We need to be on the lookout for these life lessons. It may seem cruel to make someone go through something they don't want to, but learning how to control our negative impulses is such an important life lesson. And it's something God lays at parents' feet. The idea that we are to "train up our children in the way they should go" means that we must be a student of our kids. We must figure out the way they should go, and then we must make a path to help them get there.
Being reactive won't cut it. Training is deliberate. If you know that your child needs to work on an area, you need to create opportunities to stretch them, in a loving and patient way. If they're incredibly shy, it's easy to let them hold back and just be with you. But you need to slowly introduce them to safe, small peer groups, even if they don't want to go.
If they're not willing to try new things, you need to slowly introduce them to a new hobby, or new lesson.
You may not have to do these things with every child, because every child is different. Parenting is a different job with each child. But we must take the time, and pray specifically for those roads that we're taking our kids on, so that they can channel their natural personalities in the right direction.
I'm finding it a challenge right now, what with all the hormones in the house. My husband and I are praying more than usual, and he's realizing he needs to take a more proactive role, too. But it is rewarding. We only have a few years left before the kids are gone, and I want to make the most of these years. So I'll be watching, and studying, and nudging, and training, and praying.
Want to join me?
Labels: parenting, personality