Throwing Veggies and Tantrums (and the Heart of Parenting)
I’m pretty sure one of the battles most parents face is the Vegetable War. When I was growing up I refused to eat vegetables. Mum and Dad didn’t think this was funny and we had many late night stand offs.
I did however find a number of ways to deal with this… And no it wasn’t to eat the 6 peas and 2 pieces of carrot…
I would chop up my veggies into little pieces, and dig a small hole in my bread roll and fill it with these awful greens. (Thanks for the inspiration Mr Bean!) I would flick veggies under the table. One time we had a pot plant on the end of the table that was a great place to bury veggies – if only I could distract mum and dad long enough…
Needless to say, we had a few stressful dinner times!
Earlier this year our family moved into a new house. Through all the chaos of packing, cleaning, parenting and so forth we dropped the ball on a couple of routines. We eventually settled in and got back into an important routine of having dinner together at the table.
A few nights in and all was going well. However this one particular night Jed was agro. He wouldn’t eat even though he liked the food, he wasn’t listening to us, and he was grumpy as anything.
I was tired and frustrated and was getting angry… My initial thought was to tell him off, put him in time out and deal with this poor attitude. But because we had established this dinner routine it was obvious that something was wrong This was not his normal behaviour. Something was up.
The behaviour I was seeing was not who he is.
So instead of letting my frustration out I paused, gathered myself and asked, “Jed, how was Day Care today?”
Straight away he answered that one of his friends hurt him and said something mean to him. His heart was broken. He was sad.
I couldn’t believe how close to the surface this thing was. How fast had he answered that?
I called him over and popped him up on my lap. I gave him a cuddle and told him how much we loved him. Straight away his whole countenance began to change. As he experienced my love for him, his heart was being healed… and he started eating his food!
I was amazed! I couldn’t believe that worked.
It rammed home a simple truth that Jesus taught, that out of the heart the mouth speaks. Our choices and our behaviour is affected by what is going on in our hearts.
If we have tough stuff going on in our lives and don’t know how to deal with it, our hearts will get bruised and our behaviour will go nuts. This is true for all people, not just kids.
Parenting is all about nurturing hearts. It’s about creating a safe environment in the family where we can share in the joys and pains of life. Where people know us and notice us. They see us at our best and can tell when we’re not. They believe in us, encourage us, and call us up into who we were made to be.
At the same time, this also concerned me. How many times have I not stopped to look at my kids hearts? How many times have I missed something that was going on in their world that was causing distress? How many times have I punished their behaviour and missed what was actually going on in their heart?
I heard Bill Johnson speaking about parenting on a recent podcast. At on stage he said that if you really want to discipline your kids, and parent well you need to take your time. I wholeheartedly agree. I am learning to pause, and look. And the more I do it, the better I’m getting at it.
I’m not saying there is no place for punishment. And I am definitely not saying that all our problems will vanish into thin air. But I truly believe that as we slow down, look at our kids, and nurture their hearts, our kids will be empowered to take control of their own lives and make some great decisions…
And maybe, just maybe, they’ll start eating those veggies.
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